Stirring up Silence

What does decolonising anthropology in Aotearoa New Zealand really mean?

  • Lily George


In 1999, Linda Tuhiwai Smith wrote that ‘The word ... ‘research’ is probably one of the dirtiest words in the indigenous world’s vocabulary. When mentioned in many indigenous contexts, it stirs up silence, it conjures up bad memories, it raises a smile that is knowing and distrustful.’ (1). Despite the efforts of many, anthropology in Aotearoa/New Zealand has a history of silence, possibly based on the memories of practitioners who, from the 1980s, lived through times of deep mistrust of anthropologists by Māori. As a student, then practitioner, of anthropology, I received many challenges to my status as an anthropologist and an indigenous academic from both indigenous and non-indigenous academics. Perhaps in order for anthropology to continue to have meaning for Māori and other indigenous peoples in Aotearoa, we need to thoroughly stir up that silence to see what lies beneath in order to fully engage in a truly meaningful relationship.


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How to Cite
GEORGE, Lily. Stirring up Silence. Commoning Ethnography, [S.l.], v. 1, n. 1, p. 107-112, dec. 2017. ISSN 2537-9879. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 27 may 2020. doi:
Special Section: Debating the Commons in Aotearoa