Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Walking and Mapping 2: Walking as Indigenous Methodology

I'm reading two different books while making revisions to my forthcoming book, Maps and Memes.  I've long argued that reading and writing are two sides of the same coin, and that what you are reading during the writing process affects the outcome.  The ideas from those 'other' books infiltrate, filter down into the new words and the re-worked phrases and paragraphs.  Those other books are for me, right now, Indigenous Methodologies (recommended by one of two anonymous reviewers of Maps and Memes who recommended the manuscript for publication) by Margaret Kovach; and Walking and Mapping by Karen O'Rourke.  My big insight is to combine insights from these two books in a way that will productively inform the ongoing content and shape of Maps and Memes.  The writing of a book stretches over years and, at the same time, it seems a relevant and worthwhile new book is published at least every other week.  So, there is the ongoing lit review to stay on top of, and that is in itself a process of carefully selecting what is worth reading and what is not, then selecting from that cut what gets read in more depth and which titles in less depth, etc. (not to mention staying on top of academic papers).

Kovach talks about using tribal epistemologies and knowledge systems when working with Indigenous groups and this is, of course, the way to go.  It is time consuming, but it produces better results that reflect better the values of those being researched.  With participatory research design and time the community will come to lead the research process.  This is in fact the way my doctoral work was set up at McGill University.  I was lucky to come into a program working with George Wenzel and Colin Scott (and others), two experienced researchers with long standing arctic and sub-arctic community relationships.  But beyond PAR and oral transmission of knowledge, I have noticed in my own research that in indigenous communities in Canada, it is the walkers who often do the talking.  Those who spend time on the land like to talk about their journeys, often in front of a map.  Now, perhaps, as a non-indigenous scholar, I just don't have the epistemological tools to know that walking as metaphor is woven into all indigenous methods.  Maybe I'm being too literal.  But at the same time, as I describe, in Maps and Memes, my long walk with some Cree and non-Cree friends to Old Factory Bay near Wemindji seemed to be a literal locating of self and community that I haven't really seen discussed much since Brody's Maps and Dreams.

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