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A Māori Approach to Starting Research from Where You Are

Tina Ngata, Max Liboiron

2021 Aotearoa New Zealand

 In the summer of 2020, a plastic pollution advocacy group in Aotearoa (New Zealand) emailed me (Max) to inquire about anticolonial methods for working with plastic pollution. They said the approach was new to them. I thought that was odd, since Aotearoa-based researcher Tina Ngata (Ngāti Porou) was leading investigations and approaches to plastic pollution from an Indigenous, specifically Māori, perspective. It was clear that the NGO did not know Ngata’s work, so was not learning from it or building alongside it. This special series in Catalyst about citational politics and the power relations was an ideal time to showcase Ngata’s work. 

But to be clear, Ngata’s erasure as an expert does not stem from a lack of citable work—ignorance of local, Indigenous people and their expertise is because of colonial relationships to place, knowledge, and genocide. In the Journal of Radical Librarianship, settler authors Jane Anderson and Kimberly Christen write that, “authorship [is] both a site of colonial power and as one of settler colonialism’s flexible legal devices for maintaining control and possession of knowledge upon Indigenous lands, even as those lands are subjected to projects of expropriation” (2019, 123). They urge readers to “pay closer attention to the property that research [and attribution of that research] makes, who benefits from this property, and how colonial proprietary relations are normalized through the various lives that this property goes on to have in social memory, as well as in libraries and archives,” and Google scholar (2019, 136). 

From these open access pages in Catalyst, we hope this interview: 1) is cited; 2) helps dissolve alibis for ignorance by being findable, attributed, and citable in dominant academic spaces; 3) steers conversations about epistemological pathways towards place-based, right relations; 4) clearly shows that knowing things and citing things is lovely, but the real work is in the doing.