Reflections on Collaborative Ethnography and Decolonization in Latin America, Aotearoa, and Beyond
As the ongoing legacies of colonialism are challenged, scholars and activists are increasingly carrying out collaborative research to respond to the asymmetrical privileges built into Western science by partnering with communities and explicitly orienting their research towards communities’ political aims. In this article, we trace the ways this shift intersects with other important trends in ethnographic research, especially attention to the politics of knowledge and decolonization. We discuss how collaborative research in Latin America is shaped by the context and political agendas of those involved to show what is produced. While in some circumstances collaboration can serve to level the colonial playing field by making Indigenous knowledge and practices visible, in other situations it can reinforce constructed dichotomies between Indigenous and Western knowledge and practices. As it increasingly the norm for government agencies, academic institutions, and non-governmental organizations to promote participatory methods to further their own agendas, we suggest that collaboration can be the site of governance as well as liberation. By bringing the dilemmas in our different research projects on Indigenous politics in Bolivia into dialogue with critical engagements from Indigenous scholars in Aotearoa and decolonial thinkers globally, we urge careful analysis of the multiple and changing standpoints of our collaborators in order not to re-construct essentialized notions of Indigeneity. Ultimately, we see the need to acknowledge the tight spaces of negotiation that we all find ourselves drawn into when we undertake collaborative endeavours.
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