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Cultural discernment as an ethics framework: An Indigenous Fijian approach

Litea Meo-Sewabu

2014 Fiji, Pasifika

The praxis of an Indigenous Fijian researcher who is both an insider/outsider offers some valuable lessons for ethnographic work. This paper introduces ‘cultural discernment’ as a concept used to ensure that the research process is culturally ethical within the research setting. An insider will always require a sense of cultural discernment, recognising that actions taken have implications that are critical and remain with the researcher for life. The paper contextualises the concept of cultural discernment in relation to Fijian epistemology. Although there are risks within any research project with regard to ethics processes and the conduct of research, this paper will illustrate how Western paradigms associated with ‘expert knowledge’ and the ‘lay knowledges’ of an Indigenous population group produce competing understandings about ethical practice. The paper draws on a doctoral research project exploring the cultural conceptualisation of health and well-being, conducted in Fiji and New Zealand. The research process and steps carried out in this study ensured those actions were culturally appropriate and ethically sound from an Indigenous Fijian perspective.

cultural discernment, ethnography, Indigenous epistemology, Indigenous research ethics, insider/outsider research