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Confronting the contradictions between Western and Indigenous science: a critical perspective on Two-Eyed Seeing

Lee-Anne Broadhead, Sean Howard

2021 Canada

In the mid-2000s, the term Two-Eyed Seeing was introduced by Mi’kmaw Elder Albert Marshall to suggest the complementarity of Western and Indigenous sciences. The concept has since been adopted and applied in a diverse range of research. This article examines the latent tension in Two-Eyed Seeing between a desire to foster dialogue—in order, ideally, to generate a trans-cultural “third space” of understanding—and the denial or suppression of major contradictions between predominantly wholistic Indigenous and predominantly reductionist Eurocentric worldviews. Examples are considered of both fruitful Two-Eyed Seeing collaborations and areas where antithetical approaches cannot be combined, for reasons that a more critical application of the Two-Eyed Seeing concept could help make clear. Conversely, revisioned in this way, Two-Eyed Seeing can deepen appreciation of those areas of Western science, such as the delicate empiricism of Goethean science, authentically resonant with Indigenous approaches.

Indigenous science, Western science, Two-Eyed Seeing, complementarity, Eurocentrism, Goethean science