Decolonising the concept of knowledge

Hart, Victor G. & Whatman, Susan L. (1998) Decolonising the concept of knowledge. In HERDSA : Annual International Conference, July 1998, 7-10 July, 1998, Auckland, NZ.

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Controlling the definition of what was essentially a subjugated culture, the colonisers reserve the power to distinguish authentic aspects of the living traditions of the colonised. If the colonised argue political demands by reference to their culture, the colonisers are quick to adjudicate what is genuine in such claims. (Fannon, 1967)

Since colonial invasions, Australia’s Indigenous people have weathered rapid change. While the origins of Australia’s Indigenous peoples continues to be an archaeological interest for many, how Indigenous cultures have survived, transformed and retained a sense of ‘difference’ is fundamental to understanding the diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures within this continent as both contemporaneous and historical.

It is important that teachers, students and researchers within Indigenous studies remind themselves that much of the literature on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders can be ideologically traced back to the emergence of ‘knowledge’ about native peoples in the context of European imperialism and expansion from the fifteenth century. Care must therefore be taken in not conveying ‘scientific’ rational knowledge as perhaps the hidden agenda or notion of assumptions of European ‘superiority’ and non-European inferiority.

The recognition by the High Court of Australia (1992) abandoned the legal myth of terra nullius which based the dispossession of Indigenous land on the basis of it being considered an empty land. It could also be argued that this decision recognised that distinct customs and traditions continue to exist within the social and cultural ‘knowledge’ of Indigenous peoples of Australia.

General issues and concerns relating to research design, methodology and articulation within QUT are not just confined to this university and the research project presented as a case study but are important in dealing with how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and academics participate or are employed within the university. We feel that the design and methodology of research that either covertly or overtly focuses on Indigenous Australians can no longer presume that all research will naturally follow protocols that are culturally appropriate as this appropriateness is usually defined by the institution.

By no means do we feel that research should be debilitated as a result of raising these issues, but that collaborative approaches within the ‘process’ of research will address Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities as much as the intended outcomes of research itself.

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ID Code: 27531
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: No
Additional URLs:
Keywords: decolonising, Indigenous, knowledge, Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander, research, protocols, HERN
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > EDUCATION (130000) > EDUCATION SYSTEMS (130100) > Higher Education (130103)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > EDUCATION (130000) > SPECIALIST STUDIES IN EDUCATION (130300) > Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education (130301)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Chancellery
Copyright Owner: Copyright 1998 [please consult the author].
Deposited On: 24 Sep 2009 02:30
Last Modified: 22 Jun 2017 14:41

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