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Research Ethics in Decolonizing Research With Inuit Communities in Nunavut: The Challenge of Translating Knowledge Into Action

Mirjam B. E. Held

2020 Canada

Research failures are not readily disclosed in research representations. This exclusion is a missed opportunity to practice reflexivity, a practice otherwise crucially important to social science inquiry, and share the learning that was inspired by the failure. In this paper I present and reflect on a research failure that occurred during my doctoral research into alternative, Inuit-centered models of fisheries governance in Nunavut. While working on defining the research, I experienced a far-reaching impasse due to the lack of community response and academic guidance. Even- tually, despite the best intentions to engage in decolonizing research, I chose to forgo meaningful community consultation before embarking on my fieldwork. Decolonizing research centers collaboration and local research needs from the outset. At the same time, what it means to negotiate a research relationship is in itself negotiable. Further, the negotiating is often challenged by time constraints, institutional restrictions, and limited financial resources. Lessons learned from my case study include a) that a nonideal start does not mean that the entire research project will fail and b) that participating Indigenous communities have the sovereignty, irrespective of existing protocols, to set the terms under which research can take place. Above all, negotiating a research relationship is about relational work which requires commitment and continuous engagement.

cross-cultural research, decolonizing research, Indigenous research protocols, mutual learning, reflexivity, research ethics, research failure, research relationship, settler ally