Unspeakable Things: Indigenous Research and Social Science. Révolutions, Contestations, Indignations

Socio (2): 121-134. ISSN: 2266-3134

12 Pages Posted: 26 Aug 2016 Last revised: 3 Aug 2018

Date Written: 2013


Indigenous peoples have always done research. That is, they have always asked questions that mattered to them and they have always sought to answer them, mobilizing all relevant sources of knowledge. Only recently, however, has Indigenous research moved from Indigenous communities into the academy, challenging colonial institutional relations and practices that have constituted Indigenous peoples as objects of research rather than as authorities about their own ways of knowing, being and doing. In this article, we make the case for Indigenous research as made up of vital, transformative practices that emerge from and for Indigenous peoples, but that have at the same time profound implications for ‘ordinary’ social science. Moreover, we write with the avowedly political aim of participating in struggles to decolonize the social sciences. Yet despite the emergence of strong Indigenous voices within contemporary research there are both old and new threats to these voices in the academy. This is because Indigenous research is about knowledge production and application and both the philosophical and practical tenets of such knowledge subvert dominant social research. Too often, as Aileen Moreton-Robinson (2002:189) has argued, Indigenous knowledges are ‘unspeakable things’, not least because they challenge taken-for-granted assumptions that undergird the ongoing dominance of colonial practices of social science. Here we offer one account of Indigenous research in the academy, explaining the ways that Indigenous research acts as a form of resistance against centuries-old relations of colonization. At the same time, we explain shape shifting yet familiar threats to Indigenous resurgence, including specific attacks on Indigenous research.

Suggested Citation

Coburn, Elaine and Stewart-Harawira, Makere and Moreton-Robinson, Aileen and Sefa Dei, George, Unspeakable Things: Indigenous Research and Social Science. Révolutions, Contestations, Indignations (2013). Socio (2): 121-134. ISSN: 2266-3134, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2618775

Elaine Coburn


Makere Stewart-Harawira (Contact Author)

University of Alberta ( email )

Faculty of Education
Edmonton, Alberta T6G2G5

HOME PAGE: http://https://apps.ualberta.ca/directory/person/makere/edit

Aileen Moreton-Robinson

University of Queensland ( email )

St Lucia
Brisbane, Queensland 4072

George Sefa Dei


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