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“Imperative for an Activist Stance: Complications in Cross-Cultural Research” Linda Miller Cleary, Professor Emerita, University of Minnesota, Duluth,

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Presentation on theme: "“Imperative for an Activist Stance: Complications in Cross-Cultural Research” Linda Miller Cleary, Professor Emerita, University of Minnesota, Duluth,"— Presentation transcript:

1 “Imperative for an Activist Stance: Complications in Cross-Cultural Research” Linda Miller Cleary, Professor Emerita, University of Minnesota, Duluth, USA (

2 Research Informing this presentation : collected wisdom from in-depth interviews of 70 researchers from Australia, Belize, Canada, England, New Zealand, and USA. Published in: ( $86; Kindle $72) Cross Cultural Research with Integrity: Collected Wisdom from Researchers in Social Settings Linda Miller Cleary ( Palgrave Macmillan,2013 )

3 Cross-cultural research is steeped in methodological and ethical quandaries. One needs both care and constant reflexivity when planning action : “Researchers trying to think through how to do their own work with distant cultures often make their most useful insights from mistakes. Sometimes they are useful and illuminating, so if you do make a mistake you can apologize and sort your way through it. [In the end] you’re probably going to learn more than if everything was going along just fine.” (Susan Rodgers, Anthropologist, College of Holy Cross, USA)

4 Reciprocity in an activist stance is an imperative as is the need for both sides to have cultural knowledge of the other. You can pick up books where sacred, restricted information made available to everyone, one of the most hurtful things for Aboriginal people. Knowledge for knowledge’s sake had its origins in academic pursuit. Social Darwinism supported that stance: “We’re superior, gathering knowledge about lesser people.” Information was given to others with little concern for Aboriginal people. The damage is done. There’s no going back. Ken Ralph, Aboriginal at Australian Catholic University

5 But there is a going forth: collaborations As Lugones ( 1983) said: “The argument that only members of a community have access to the real meaning of events in that community, so outsiders’ opinions should be discarded, runs into difficulty when one notes the great variations in opinions among members of a community and the difficulties in determining who is qualified to represent the group. In addition, members of a community often have difficulty noticing their own practices because they take their own ways for granted…” (571). My research dealt mostly with collaborations.

6 Recognize the power in others: Somebody might have expertise in one area, another in other areas. We recognize each other’s strengths, and you can explain that again in terms of Māori metaphors because that goes back to that powhiri when what you do is you get up and say, “I recognize you, tena koe,” a formal way of saying hello, literally meaning: “There you are. I recognize you, I acknowledge you.” And everything else that’s done in a hui is all about that: I recognize your particular strengths and your particular power. I am not saying I “empower”, “empowering” is not an activity I am interested in. I am saying, “Recognize the power they have already.” You don’t have to give them power; they already have the power. You are just going to recognize and implement it. Russell Bishop

7 Planning with an activist stance. Martin Nakata: “A study may be small in focus, but your own lens needs to be wide enough to be aware of the political and power influences upon what you are studying.” “We Torres Strait Islanders have very distinct background from Aboriginals but similar histories, ours not as devastating as Aboriginals’. The conservative governments have been very clever, deploying resources in a way that invoke division between our different indigenous groups, and we haven’t pulled the lens back far enough to see what is really happening.” Wide enough, but narrow enough to act on problems. N

8 Proposals and funding with action in mind. “A review of ESL for schools in the whole of Australia involved talking with students. We tried talking with parents, but the cost of interpreters, research assistants, and/or colleagues from the 94 different language groups was prohibitive. Data was untapped for reasons of finance. There was a sense of dissatisfaction in having to accept that and publish a report that lost the perspectives and insights and perhaps more useful action. We would be naïve if we thought that funding agencies didn’t have their own ends in sight.” Jenny Barnet,

9 Problem of Speaking for Others Ted Glynn: “Sometimes I still get caught thinking in the old ways. Somebody would ring up from one of the educational newspapers: ‘We hear there's this study going on; would you like to say something about it?’ My first reaction is, ‘OK, I'll give you 5 minutes about it.’ And then I start thinking and saying, ‘I can't give you that. I have to go back to the group, and if they are willing for me to talk about it, that's fine.’ It's collective ownership. And then, with publications, you get driven by APA style guides; you are not allowed to have eight authors. And so we've had to fight our way through that.” (Un. Of Waikato, NZ)

10 Representation- legitimate in the eyes of the person speaking. Stephen Muecke: “Your responsibility is to clear with them just how they want to make that public and if they want it to go into print or not. If they say, “Yes,” and seem to know where it's going and who's going to read it, then that's what they've decided.” ( Un. Of Technology, Sydney )

11 Reporting back Include participants/ collaborators. Meld reports with participant brainstorming of action that might come out of the research, self-determination. Value multi-modal presentations and/or narrative in report (for instance, images that affect people’s views without forcing them to say what side they are on. Report to elders with sensitivity (not all elders think the same or agree), but Sarah Jane Tiakiwai said, “If I couldn’t take it back to the old people and explain it to them, then it didn’t mean anything; it was just an academic piece of work.”

12 Strategic publishing as an action: To researchers, adding to the knowledge base, spreading emergent methodologies. To agencies who can act (housing authorities, for instance), beyond the actions of those collaborating. To popular audiences. ee-=

13 Buried Results “They tried to change our conclusions and our recommendations. That’s why I’m already starting to write other papers. And, they wanted it all to be good news—and it was only partly good news—they never did release it, so we did a two document report and website. We made sure that people doing related research had copies, with restraints on citations. Finding audiences for reports that have not been released or implemented can still have an effect though not the policy changing effect initially desired.” ( Barbara Comber, Queensland Un. Of Technology) Does one honor the funding organization or the people researched?

14 Weaving dissemination into Staff Development Tap the strengths of practitioners. Involve practitioners in the research. Recognize the power of narratives, Gather for in- service materials. Develop materials with practitioners. Publish: practitioner reports now taken seriously in professional journals

15 Power of Narrative native student narratives challenge teachers to think differently, disrupt stereotypes, and binaries of identity. demonstrations and case studies challenge traditional classroom scenarios and give teachers new models for multi- cultural work, without judging what they are doing. the perspectives of others push practitioners behind their own perspectives. This is the humanizing characteristic of literary narrative, of co-constructed participant narratives, of case studies and demonstrations. Narratives or visuals allow less resistant discussion of uncomfortable subjects, alternative views of real lived world experience, as Vicki Crowley said, raising questions without pushing the question: “Whose side are you on?”

16 Should you do this or not? “In South Africa just after Mandela was released, I worked on the streets with children. When I saw their glue and petrol sniffing and witnessed the effects, I marched right into the office of the head medical policy makers. That's where I think that senior anthropologists who have reputation and some acceptance may feel compelled to ask hard questions. I said, “Where is the research in your medical journals about the brain effects of petrol and glue sniffing? And to what extent do you have research funds dedicated to finding substitutes that will not cause the extent of brain damage that we know to be real? You're not going to make the problem go away.” Well, they looked at me as though I'd lost my mind because of course it hadn't occurred to them. They were working on all of the “rich people's diseases.” My own view is that it is wrong for researchers to inspire local people to see themselves as change agents in a vulnerable environment. Instead, academics should to go to the source of the difficulty for those with whom you may have been working, personally, politically, and strategically, and certainly legally. This is the route many archeologists, geologists, and environmental scientists are taking. They go in through what they call the policy route. You work to get greater knowledge spread at the power level.” (Shirley Brice Heath, Brown Un./ Stanford Un., USA) /

17 Where do we put our energy? The imperative of dissemination continues beyond initially published articles to leveraging for the implementation: “Continuing to publicize the work that is making a difference. A researcher who was working in the largely Aboriginal school in Western Australia found things that he couldn't do anything about. What can you do about the fact that teachers don't want to stay there? You can try and explain the complexity of teachers' work in these situations and explain how Aboriginal children are progressively disadvantaged by the education system, but you have to write it again and again.” (Barbara Comber, Queensland University of Technology)

18 In Summary: There are unforeseen consequences when a researcher is not at home in a culture and can’t fully understand participants’ articulations and realizations. Premises of activist research: Participants and those collaborating know what they want/need, and it is an imperative that you use your strengths in knowing how to leverage action on their behalf, and to allow their strengths to direct it happening. Allowing humans to respect each others’ strengths and different ways of being, and looking into history to explain things that might be troubling. In cross cultural research, researchers are responsible, beyond the discipline or institution to which they belong, but perhaps more importantly to a team and to those who are other-cultured participants. Lugones (1987) talks about this responsibility as love “…not seen as fusion and erasure of difference but as incompatible with them. Love reveals plurality. Unity—not to be confused with solidarity—is understood as conceptually tied to domination” (390). Responsibility honors difference and strength. Given our multiple identities, our plurality of selves, and the resultant and possible connections with people from different cultures, cross-cultural teams and participants can implement that kind of love.

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