The Arrogance of Ethnnography: Managing Anthropological Research Knowledge
Holcombe, S. 2010. 'The Arrogance of Ethnography: Managing Anthropological Research Knowledge'. In [eds.] S. Holcombe and M Davis, Contemporary Ethical Issues in Australian Indigenous Research, Special Edition Australian Aboriginal Studies, 2010/No 2. pp. 22-32
11 Pages Posted: 26 Mar 2013
Date Written: 2010
The ethnographic method is a core feature of anthropological practice. This locally intensive research enables insight into local praxis and culturally relative practices that would otherwise not be possible. Indeed, empathetic engagement is only possible in this close and intimate encounter. However, this paper argues that this method can also provide the practitioner with a false sense of his or her own knowing and expertise and, indeed, with arrogance. And the boundaries between the anthropologist as knowledge sink — cultural translator and interpreter — and the knowledge of the local knowledge owners can become opaque. Globalisation and the knowledge ‘commons’, exemplified by Google, also highlight the increasing complexities in this area of the governance and ownership of knowledge. Our stronghold of working in remote areas and/or with marginalised groups places us at the forefront of negotiating the multiple new technological knowledge spaces that are opening up in the form of Indigenous websites and knowledge centres in these areas. Anthropology is not immune from the increasing awareness of the limitations and risks of the intellectual property regime for protecting or managing Indigenous knowledge. The relevance of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in opening up a ‘rights-based’ discourse, especially in the area of knowledge ownership, brings these issues to the fore. For anthropology to remain relevant, we have to engage locally with these global discourses. This paper begins to traverse some of this ground.
Keywords: research ethics, Indigenous Australia
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