Chipping Away At Transparency As A Critical Ally

Year: 2015

Author: Carnes, Roslyn (Rose)

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The guides for non-Indigenous academics on how to respectfully utilise learning from Indigenous people are far and few between because it is difficult for dominant culture researchers to grasp the reality of Indigenous oppression. It is not enough to add Indigenous ways of thinking, being and doing to mainstream paradigms or to add Indigenous researchers to the academy. What is required is a way of working that synergises both academic and cultural rigor to co-create something that is respectful of each way without one subsuming the other. The standpoint of a critical takes a step towards such a space, starting with privileging and learning from Indigenous voices and acknowledging shortfalls in western epistemologies.
There are challenges to be faced in researching and working as a critical ally. Based on the author’s experiences during her research with Aboriginal Western Australians who had been incarcerated, this paper outlines some of those challenges. They include ingrained privilege, the risk of re-centring whiteness through self-reflective practice, systemic racism and concern for a traditional focus on academic culture without an attendant concern for cultural rigor. The paper delves deeper, identifying tools to address such challenges and ensure transparency of potential pitfalls, making them an overt part of research rather than an unacknowledged and hidden influence. The tools explored here include learning humility, the 5 R’s, co-creation, listening, articulating privilege and learned racist tendencies.
Why is this transparency important and what can a critical ally do that makes a difference? The invisible, yet palpable challenges identified require a critical approach to break through and chip away at the rigid and dominant status quo that continues to oppress. The strength of a critical ally is their questioning and their awareness of representation at the level of individual, organisation, movement or state. There is a degree of liberation in accepting that which leaves a critical ally able to work freely and meaningfully alongside others, yipping and yapping, knocking and tapping to ensure no one’s needs become less important than anyone else’s.