Seeking Bridges between Anthropology and Indigenous/Native Studies Participants

International Workshop 14–18 June 2009

The aim of the workshop is to seek bridges between scholars such as anthropologists engaged in the study of the arts and cultures of Indigenous/Native/ Aboriginal peoples, and Indigenous scholars who specialise in the reclamation and study of their own traditional knowledge and world views within the context of contemporary life.

What all of us need at this time is a mutually beneficial bridge and dialogue between Indigenous and Western scientists and communities.

Gregory Cajete, Native Science, Santa Fe, 2000

Our outcomes are not dissimilar because we are all concerned with recognising, understanding and respecting cultural difference, but for historical and political reasons that vary in different parts of the world, departments which house these scholars often have uneasy relationships, even within the same university.

On the one hand, members of communities that regard themselves as Indigenous have developed a strong global discourse of resistance, though some, like our convenors, Fitznor and Cajete, are ready to seek reconciliation with the anthropologists whom many still resent. On the other, anthropologists, who retain diverse views in different countries, are still sometimes nervous about how to work with local Indigenous scholars.

The organisers felt that the time was ripe to discuss ways to build cooperation and collaboration that would benefit all parties, and, after two planning meetings involving members of both groups, a programme was drawn up for the conference, and a selection of scholars invited to come along.

A practical aim is to offer flexibility in style, weighted towards panels encouraging open discussion between participants from the different disciplines, in order to make assessments of the reasons for the continuing gap, as well as proposals for future cooperation and collaboration.

Seven sessions (see programme) will address questions about:

  • the universality of science
  • the senses as a way of knowing
  • the postcolonial situation of Indigenous peoples with respect to museology and reconciliation

The last session will examine forms of writing and dissemination that might best transcend previous divisions and increase mutual awareness.

We hope to create space - in a university that has no history of the divisions - to discuss these issues in some detail, and to bring the fruits of our deliberations to a readership that will include both anthropologists and scholars of Native, Aboriginal and Indigenous Studies. We expect the workshop to bring out lively debate pertaining to grievances held for a couple of generations, but we hope they will also make an important contribution to growing ideas of 'collaborative research'.

We are grateful for financial support provided through the Brookes Student Learning Experience Strategy and its commitment to enhancement of student learning opportunities through effective links between research and the curriculum; and for generous grants from the Wenner Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research and the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation.

Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation Wenner Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research