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Applying an Indigenous methodology to a North–South, cross-cultural collaboration: successes and remaining challenges

Olivia Sylvester, Alí García Segura, Sara Ashencaen Crabtree, Zanisah Man, Jonathan Parker

2020 Malaysia, Costa Rica, Asia, South America

This article represents our collective reflexivity in the process of applying an Indigenous methodology in a North–South, cross-cultural collaboration, funded through the British Government’s Global Challenges Research Fund. The projects’ aim was to bring together Bribri and Jakun leaders (from Costa Rica and Malaysia) for constructive dialogues about sustainable development. Specifically, we applied ulàpeitök (traditional form of Bribri collaboration and translates to lend [peitök] a hand), a concept of collaboration that honours family and community; we also used S-kṍpàkö, the Bribri word for conversation, a concept that translates to feeling the space around each other together. We analyse successes and challenges and elaborate on lessons learned including (a) how and why Indigenous collaboration and reciprocity should be understood before a project is planned or financed, (b) why western academic concepts of reciprocity (such as one-to-one exchanges) need to be decolonized to include Indigenous ways of relating to others, and (c) paying special attention to language in the co-writing of publications to avoid cultural misrepresentation. Our research can inform other North/South, Indigenous/non-Indigenous collaborations that aim to contribute to decolonizing research.

decolonizing methodologies, Indigenous research, Costa Rica, Malaysia