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Indigenous Methodologies: Suggestions for Junior Researchers

Naohiro Nakamura

2010 Japan, Asia

Indigenous methodologies in geography have been recently developed to decolonise Western dominated paradigm and it has been argued that research which does not benefit the Indigenous community should not be done. However, Indigenous methodologies are still not systematically taught in post-secondary institutions and junior researchers have to learn such methodologies by themselves when they pursue Indigenous topics. Indigenous methodologies cannot be defined in a single way and are also too diverse to learn in a short span. In the particular context of Japan, where the existence of Indigenous peoples is not widely recognised and there is not enough research accumulation on contemporary Indigenous issues, the concept itself is rarely discussed; therefore researchers hardly identify that their research really adopts Indigenous methodologies and benefits the community and students are even discouraged to purse the topic. Furthermore, a methodology or a thesis statement which researchers presume reflecting Indigenous perspectives often does not get support from Indigenous peoples. The experience of my master’s research on the Ainu was one of such cases. Indigenous methodologies are still not easy to learn; however, junior researchers should not be discouraged to engage with them. Practical suggestions are therefore necessary. Based on my experience, I suggest: approaching to an Indigenous community as a learner is effective since researchers can be open-minded and sensitive; researchers also should be ready to refine research questions and conduct the second literature review after fieldwork. Misinterpretation and exploitation of Indigenous knowledge could be avoided by these strategies.

Indigenous methodologies, Fieldwork, Cross-cultural Research, Qualitative Methods, Research questions, Ainu, Japan