Decolonization of Pacific research: Reconciliation, Inclusion and Diversity

Pacific islands have registered their voice in the Postcolonial period, but unfortunately, Pacific research and knowledge are not given equal importance in the eyes of the West.

The salient voice of Indian indentured workers (Girmitiyas: People who came from India to the Pacific Islands from 1879-1916) is emphasised by the research of Brij V. Lal.

Similar kind of voices from subaltern corners was forced to be salient during the colonial era in the Pacific Islands. Scholarly accepted that research had been used by the West as a method for oppression and dominance over other people during colonization, and its impact prevails.

‘The western gaze on the Other’ is countered by Linda Tuhiwai Smith’s book Decolonizing methodologies (1999 & 2012) to revive indigenous research and knowledge and provoking ‘some revolutionary thinking about the roles that knowledge, knowledge production, knowledge hierarchies, and knowledge institutions play in decolonization and social transformation’.

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Hegemony of Western Paradigms

Paradigms of research and knowledge from the position of an indigenous stance and raise a voice to the decolonization of methodologies. The ‘research’ is the ‘dirtiest word’ in indigenous vocabulary, as it is used by European imperialism and colonialism to regulate the others.
The research analyses how western epistemology, knowledge and value have an impact on indigenous research. The work attempts to understand the indigenous values and motivations through indigenous perspective and articulate a new indigenous research agenda. 
Primarily, it endeavours to decolonize and liberate indigenous culture, language and knowledge.

Maori Dance; Picture Source: Pixabay

Colonialization and Indigenous Knowledge

Let’s discuss the history of Western research & critiques and, the cultural assumptions behind research by the dominant colonial methodology. It shows the ‘imperial legacies of Western knowledge and the ways in which those legacies continue to influence knowledge institutions to the exclusion of indigenous peoples and their aspirations. This researcher examines indigenous research as placed in a broader context of imperialism and western research; and its impact on indigenous knowledge.

Purposeful deconstruction of Indigenous

Research is done through imperial eyes but not against knowledge or research. It discovering new ways to research with indigenous people.

“The West extract and claim ownership of our ways of knowing, the things we create and produce, and then simultaneously reject the people who created and developed those ideas and seek to deny them further opportunities to be creators of their own culture and own nations”

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The work stated western knowledge had placed itself in a higher position to explain the other people; the ways in which western knowledge has colonised the disciplines. Further, explaining how the coloniser has taught the colonised knowledge to indigenous intellectuals.

Her work explains how the west researchers came in different forms who took away many belongings of indigenous people and displayed them in from of the world as primitive through the art of research. This led to the dismissal of the idea that indigenous nations had established a system of orders.

The research contextualises this argument in relation to the Maori’s indigenous people of New Zealand. The researcher postulates that division between Western and indigenous ways, so the indigenous people movement should protect and restore indigenous traditions and totally reject the west.
Colonisation has a negative impact on indigenous people that has left a legacy of disease, dislocation, cultural and language loss. Later this was politicized on a massive scale for diverse concerns and their focus shifted from survival towards restoration and revitalization in various issues.

“So, within indigenous discourses, the term ‘peoples’ has become an important linguistic symbol of our identification as self-determining peoples…. We are united by common territories, cultures, traditions, histories, languages, institutions and beliefs. We share a sense of kinship and identity, a consciousness as distinct peoples and a political will to exist as distinct peoples”

(P. 115).

Reclaim spaces of Marginalization

The research thrives in setting a new agenda for indigenous research. The research advocates the value of research for indigenous peoples and the need to retrieve spaces of marginalisation as spaces.
It explores research practices that offer alternatives to Western paradigms and that give up racism, ethnocentrism, and exploitation. It examines the various approaches and methodologies to raise the importance of indigenous people’s research agendas.

Suggested the manner in which the indigenous researcher should do research within its own communities. The goal of self-determination of indigenous people and in research agenda becomes a political the processes of transformation, of decolonisation, of healing and of mobilisation as peoples (p. 116).

Maori Dance; Picture Source: Pixabay

The work stresses taking back the control of indigenous destines by becoming self-determining. In this pursuit, several ‘themes such as cultural survival, self-determination, healing, restoration, and social justice are engaging indigenous researchers and indigenous communities in a diverse array of projects (142).

Thus highlights 25 research projects pursued by indigenous people related to ethics of research and advocates means research could approach their work. The book introduces Kaupapa Maori research and framework a new way of understanding Maori indigenous research.
This research considered indigenous methodologies focus more to approach cultural values and behaviour as a part of the methodology.
Presents a strong anti-positive stance, especially a concern with social justice and relevance in the Maori community. The non-indigenous researchers to efficiently conduct indigenous research is reject or accepted under certain conditions.

The research highlighted the implication for indigenous researchers working with indigenous and marginalized communities as they work the borders, and ‘between institutions and communities, systems of power and systemic injustice, cultures of dominance and cultures in survival mode, politics and theory, theory and practice’ (p.199).

Lastly, it explores potential ways in which indigenous activists and indigenous researchers can collaborate to advance indigenous interests at local, national, and international levels.


Regarding academia, despite decolonization, the focus has shifted towards ‘reconciliation, inclusion and diversity.’ 
Critics blame it for being an ‘insider vision’ that is mostly focusing on helping indigenous researchers to study indigenous communities. The struggle between the world of indigenous people and the world of research continues, to make the voice of the voiceless heard and reviving indigenous knowledge.

Author: Dr Sakul Kundra, A.HOD Department of Social Science at Fiji National University.

Disclaimer: The views expressed are his own and not of The Australia Today or his employer. For comments or suggestions, email. dr.sakulkundra@gmail.com