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Synergy of systems theory and symbolic interactionism: a passageway for non-Indigenous researchers that facilitates better understanding Indigenous worldviews and knowledges

Tahir Ali, Petra T. Buergelt, Elaine Lawurrpa Maypilama, Douglas Paton, James A. Smith, Noor Jehan

2022 Australia

Historically, non-Indigenous researchers have contributed to colonisation by research based on Western positivistic philosophical frameworks. This approach led to disembodying knowledge from Indigenous people’s histories, worldviews, and cultural and social practices, thus perpetuating a deficit-based discourse which situates the responsibility of problems within Indigenous peoples and ignores the larger socio-economic and historical contexts in which problems are rooted. Rectifying this position requires decolonising Western positivistic research by shifting to basing research on social constructionist paradigms that lead to strength-based approaches. Based on our experiences gained exploring disaster risk reduction perspectives with two remote Indigenous communities in Australia and Pakistan, we suggest in this conceptual paper that a synergy of systems theory and symbolic interactionism offers an appropriate philosophical lens to non-Indigenous researchers for gaining a more comprehensive and deeper understanding of Indigenous holistic and relational perspectives, experiences, interpretations and actions/ interaction. Research based on these philosophical worldviews promotes a strength-based approach that aligns with and empowers Indigenous ways of facilitating health and wellbeing. We offer our experiences of utilising these two frameworks and of how they could assist other non- Indigenous researchers to discover valuable insights into Indigenous perspectives and interpretations that might otherwise be ignored or neglected.

Indigenous research; philosophical paradigms; system theory; symbolic interactionism; non- Indigenous researchers