Art and Indigenous Research

Categories: Action Research, Creative Methods, Focus Series

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All month you can read original posts, interviews with authors and experts, and open access resources. Sign up for the Indigenous and Intercultural Research: Issues, Ethics, and Methods webinar, February 27.

We are exploring Indigenous and Intercultural Research on MethodSpace this month. (See the entire series here.)  As part of our February focus on Indigenous and Intercultural Research, we are offering a series of articles from SAGE Journals.

These four articles describe visual and creative methods, using music, photography, painting and collage in studies with #Indigenous communities.

Decolonizing music education research and the (im)possibility of methodological responsibility

Abstract. Whilst increasing attention is paid to decolonizing music education practice in the classroom, the research processes by which scholars identify, understand, and evaluate anti-colonial or decolonizing work are often entrenched in colonial logics themselves. The politics of knowledge and knowledge production between indigenous epistemes and the Academy thus raise questions as to the methodological responsibility of music education research in indigenous settings, particularly when conducted by non-indigenous researchers. Drawing upon a recent music education study conducted together with indigenous Sámi peoples in Finland, this article argues that despite the good intentions of music education scholars methodological responsibility may well be an unachievable goal. However, if we understand research ethics as more than the procedural accountability to institutional review boards or funding committees, methodological responsibility may better be understood as a condition of possibility found in relation with others. Thus, in order to decolonize music education practice, researchers are challenged to step outside of their epistemic and methodological comfort zones, and to consider how we may also decolonize music education research.

Read the article here.

The Gaataa’aabing Visual Research Method: A Culturally Safe Anishinaabek Transformation of Photovoice

Abstract. Photovoice is a community-based participatory visual research method often described as accessible to vulnerable or marginalized groups and culturally appropriate for research with Indigenous peoples. Academic researchers report adapting the photovoice method to the sociocultural context of Indigenous participants and communities with whom they are working. However, detailed descriptions on cultural frameworks for transforming photovoice in order for it to better reflect Indigenous methodologies are lacking, and descriptions of outcomes that occur as a result of photovoice are rare. We address the paucity of published methodological details on the participant-directed Indigenization of photovoice. We conducted 13 visual research group sessions with participants from three First Nations communities in Northern Ontario, Canada. Our intent was to privilege the voice of participants in a mindful exploration aimed at cocreating a transformation of the photovoice method, in order to meet participants’ cultural values. Gaataa’aabing is the Indigenized, culturally safe visual research method created through this process. Gaataa’aabing represents an Indigenous approach to visual research methods and a renewed commitment to engage Indigenous participants in meaningful and productive ways, from the design of research questions and the Indigenization of research methods, to knowledge translation and relevant policy change. Although Gaataa’aabing was developed in collaboration with Anishinaabek people in Ontario, Canada, its principles will, we hope, resonate with many Indigenous groups due to the method’s focus on (1) integration of cultural values of the respective Indigenous community(ies) with whom researchers are collaborating and (2) placing focus on concrete community outcomes as a requirement of the research process.

Read the article here.

Abstract. Through artistic, spiritual, and ceremonial practices, and cultural bridging between Indigenous communities, our project sought to create a social environment that fostered an exchange of cultural traditions, created opportunities for internationalized decolonization, and fostered pride in Indigenous identities. This arts-based research project used and invoked symbols and images from Haudenosaunee culture, making them relevant to young people through graffiti art created by and for young Indigenous people. This article reflects on the ways in which our project relied on art to engage young people in research, but, perhaps more importantly, to communicate complex symbolism, cultural values, Indigenous solidarity, and community healing through artistic expression. Using art as research was an endeavor to aspire to Kayanere’kowa [the Great Law of Peace] by manifesting sken:nen [peace], ka’hsatstenshera [power], and ka’nikonhri:yo [the Good Mind].

Read the article here. Note: This article is available for open access download until March 15. Access is only available through this link.

Biographical Collage as a Tool in Inuit Community-Based Participatory Research and Capacity Development

Inuk coauthor Michelle Malla explaining her biographical collage as part of the pilot exercise for the biographical collage workshop.

As a method in arts-based qualitative research, the collage technique has been previously utilized for data generation, elicitation, analysis, and presentation of results. Collage has also been used as a self-reflective, development exercise within community-based research due to its abstract and creative self-exploratory style. Although previously used in research with a variety of populations, there is limited evidence of applying the collage technique with First Nation, Inuit, or Métis peoples, even though many other arts-based methods, such as photovoice, have been used. This article describes the use of biographical collage as part of a community-based research project in a northern Canadian Inuit community. The technique was used as an exercise for building leadership capacity, as an elicitation technique in cross-cultural qualitative interviews, and as a decolonizing process in community-based participatory research. With the description of an in-depth example, this article showcases many benefits of using the collage technique when engaging in cross-cultural community-based research with Inuit.

Read the article here.

Learn more!

Order books on topics related to Indigenous research from SAGE using the SAGE2020 discount code and get a 30% discount! 

Relevant MethodSpace Posts


    Bennett, B., Maar, M., Manitowabi, D., Moeke-Pickering, T., Trudeau-Peltier, D., & Trudeau, S. (2019). The Gaataa’aabing Visual Research Method: A Culturally Safe Anishinaabek Transformation of Photovoice. International Journal of Qualitative Methods

    Dutton, S., Davison, C. M., Malla, M., Bartels, S., Collier, K., Plamondon, K., & Purkey, E. (2019). Biographical Collage as a Tool in Inuit Community-Based Participatory Research and Capacity Development. International Journal of Qualitative Methods

    Kallio, A. A. (2019). Decolonizing music education research and the (im)possibility of methodological responsibility. Research Studies in Music Education.

    Whitlow, K. B., Oliver, V., Anderson, K., Brozowski, K., Tschirhart, S., Charles, D., & Ransom, K. (2019). Taonsayontenhroseri:ye’ne: the power of art in Indigenous research with youth. AlterNative: An International Journal of Indigenous Peoples.

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