Guesthood as ethical decolonising research method

Harvey, G. (2003). Guesthood as ethical decolonising research method. Numen: International Review for the History of Religions, 50(2) pp. 125–146.



Debates about research methods have often been concerned with the situation of the researcher in relation to those they research among, about or "on." Reiterating the dualisms embedded in Western culture, many of these have privileged allegedly objective distance between researcher and researched, and worried about researchers "going native." This paper argues that researchers are always more than these dualities suggest, and that an acceptance and outworking of an alternative relational position would greatly enhance research and its outcomes. That alternative position is explored in dialogue with the protocols by which Maori convert strangers into guests, while allowing the possibility that strangers might be enemies. Similar protocols and relationships are available among other indigenous people, and more widely. Ethical and decolonising research might find rich resources for resolving some typically Western problems in the enhancement of dialogues and relationships that, reflection suggests, underpin the research experiences of many people (researchers and researched included). The paper argues that benefits will accrue not only to academic communities but also to those with whom they engage.

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