Too Many Deaths: Decolonizing Western Academic Research on Indigenous Cultures
By Gabrielle Welford
A dissertation submitted to the Graduate Division of the University of Hawaii in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in English, May 2003
© 2003 Gabrielle Welford (welford@hawaii.edu)

Chapter 4 - Objectivity

 
Main
 

Title Page, Acknowledgements, Abstract, Table of Contents, Preface

 
Chapter 1 - Introduction
 
Inbetween I
 
Chapter 2 -Approaching Scholarship
 
Inbetween II
 
Chapter 3 - The Western Academy Described: Purpose and Means
 
Inbetween III
 
Chapter 4 - Objectivity
 
Inbetween IV
 
Chapter 5 - Externalization of Viewpoint Unwillingness to be Affected
 
Inbetween V
 
Chapter 6 - Fact and Fiction Written vs. Oral Linear Argument
 
Inbetween VI
 
Chapter 7 - Modes of Thought Effects
 
Inbetween VII
 
Chapter 8 - Examples
 
Inbetween VIII
 
Chapter 9 - What Are Our Options?
 
Inbetween IX
 
Chapter 10 - Conclusion Responsibility
 
Bibliography

 

 

Chapter 4
Objectivity

This chapter continues exploration of a western academic world view that still upholds colonial values. As I have already been arguing via quotes from indigenous critics such as Linda Smith, Paula Gunn Allen, and Edward Said, Enlightenment concepts of objectivity lie at the center of colonial practices in the academy. Although the possibility of an objective standpoint has been questioned within many disciplines following conceptual revolutions such as relativity theory, Nietzche's death of God, Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, Thomas Kuhn's paradigm (endnote 1) shifts, and most recently chaos theory, that possibility continues in use, for objectivity is a paradigm in the sense Kuhn speaks of: an epistemological tradition "prior to the various concepts, laws, theories, and points of view that may be abstracted from [it]," and the study of which "is what mainly prepares the student for membership in the particular...community with which he will later practice. That commitment and the apparent consensus it produces are prerequisites for...the genesis and continuation of a particular research tradition" (11).

Paradigm shifts require radical revolutions in perception, the unraveling and replacement of central cultural myths. Because the ground of our world view is in process of changing, old usages of objectivity continue to hold sway in our actions even as they are questioned and overthrown intellectually. Peter Winch, in a Kings College London class on Kuhn, showed how difficult it is for a paradigm to move: although we live in a world revolutionized by Einsteinian physics, never mind the discoveries of Kepler, we continue to see the sun setting. Even though we know, post-Copernicus, that the earth is moving around the sun and not vice versa, we still see the sun rising and setting rather than the earth revolving. Paradigms take a long time and a great deal of earth shaking to be replaced.

By "western academic concept of objectivity (endnote 2)," I mean the assumption that one can make statements and use theories whose truths are unaffected by changes in point of view, time, place, and other contextual circumstances, presupposing Cartesian separation of thinking self from material world. Such objectivity is held to be universal, including universal across cultures. To achieve objectivity, scholars-to-be are taught they can emotionally, spiritually, and culturally disengage from what they are studying. Detachment is part of being objective, as Doug Sweet and Deborah Swanson argue in "Blinded by the Enlightenment": "If one fails to look at, and respond to, the opposing point of view, one's case is nothing more than a 'broadside' ...[T]hinking critically is engaging in 'pure,' 'impersonal,' 'objective' inquiry" (43).

However, emotional, physical, and spiritual detachment results in objectification (endnote 3) of what is being studied, human or otherwise, and objectification of oneself. Removing oneself from immersion in what one is reading, for instance shifting from "just reading" a novel to elucidating it in a scholarly way, results in the level of engagement changing from identification to separation/consideration of different points of view. I do not deny that we can be passionately involved in what we study, but passion does not necessarily imply compassion. Rather than a story engaging us, we engage with the story with a given set of tools and from a distance.

Certainly, there is ongoing concern among western scientists, philosophers, sociologists, anthropologists, and cultural studies scholars over what objectivity is. A current solution to problems with universalizing objectivity across cultures is for scholars to acknowledge and delineate their personal situations, including such things as strong feelings about the outcome of the study or the scholar's origin in a group of people who have a prejudicial relationship (such as colonialism) with the subject of study (before presenting an argument. However, steps such as these only make it clearer that the problem requires a deeper solution, since, in most cases, the study continues immediately following after the disclaimer. Conducting studies on cultures that are not our own and reporting on them are undertakings that reveal an underlying assumption that we can unproblematically speak usefully across cultural boundaries, in other words, that we can be universally objective. As Edward Shils comments in "Intellectuals and responsibility," "It is a view widely asserted that objectivity or 'evaluative neutrality' is impossible. Of course, this view is incompatible with the scientific aspirations of many social scientists but such has been the force of current opinion that they affirm the view to which they do not adhere in practice" (283-284).

Embedded assumptions of objectivity are part of the weave of western culture. In the academy these assumed possibilities become obligatory since reliability in scholarship rests on its objectivity, and objectivity within a specific cultural context easily slips into assumption of objectivity across cultures. Such mono-empirical (Manu Meyer's term) scholarship may be logically sound within specific western contexts, but when applied to cultures outside the west, serious distortions result. Cultures other than our own (increasingly in an era of postcolonial and cultural studies) are very often those which occupy researched areas. There continues to be, according to Linda Tuhiwai Smith,

constant interchange between the scholarly and the imaginative construction of ideas about the Orient. The scholarly construction...is supported by a corporate institution which "makes statements about it authorizing views of it, describing it, by teaching about it, settling it, ruling over it". In these acts both the formal scholarly pursuits of knowledge and the informal, imaginative, anecdotal constructions of the Other are intertwined with each other and with the activity of research. (Decolonizing 2)

Insistence that research go beyond the personal and (by assumption) cultural into a realm of universal objectivity continues to affect people in those cultures, who often experience what we consider objectivity as distorted definitions from a completely different world view. Our definitions, as Lila Abu-Lughod points out, if we are from colonial cultures, derive from colonial positions which assume the right to co-opt and replace the original forms of life with our own (141, 148, 149). We replace their stories with ours in our own minds and, too often, also in theirs (Wood 82).

In this chapter, I first examine a western-based popular-culture claim to objectivity concerning an indigenous culture. It might seem out of place to give such a prominent place to a piece by a popular travel writer, but the work of haole travel writer Paul Theroux also has an often unquestioned, respected place when he is used as a model for students in university creative non-fiction workshops. His style and methods are taught too often without taking into account the colonial nature of his undertaking and the disgust his work has generated in the Pacific and elsewhere. After considering Theroux' work, I move to look at an example of commentary from within the university. Consequences, both for western academics and for indigenous peoples, along with further examples, complete the chapter.

Paul Theroux published a 38-page article on Hawai'i in the December 2002 National Geographic. At the end of the intimate and beautifully photographed essay is a small box which declaims,

ONLINE EXTRAS: Enter the soul of Hawai'i through Sights & Sounds, a photo gallery and field notes. Find a full set of links. And say aloha to a friend with an island e-greeting at nationalgeographic.com/ngm/0212. NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELER: See "Insider's Hawai'i in the November/December issue--tips on the islands' best scenic and cultural attractions along with great places to eat and stay. (41)

Theroux's piece is written to bring tourists to Hawai'i. However, the article also makes claims that will be taken seriously by readers since the words issue from a well known and largely respected travel writer and appear in a reputable popular magazine. Most readers of National Geographic will not have read Andie Miller's essay, "What is Real?: Where Fact Ends and Fiction Begins," which questions the boundary between reality and imagination in Theroux's travel and other non-fiction writing.

As Kanaka Maoli journalist and film maker Anne Keala Kelly responds in the 200 words allowed her at the back of the Honolulu Weekly, "hey, it's the National Geographic! Waddaya want?" (39). But Theroux's work cannot be taken lightly. As Kelly says in the original manuscript she submitted for publication, he has a large following and influence among "a haole audience situated someplace thousands of miles away in the land of Dorothy and Toto, too" (2). Travelers and "consumer" anthropologists look to him for reliable facts about good places to go, unusual holiday ideas, and for curiosity piquing information on unknown locations, namely for empirical, firsthand information they can use in their travel decisions. Theroux is influential enough that the editor of the Weekly was seriously worried about the tenor of Kelly's tiny response, cut most of what she had written, and watered down the rest. What the haole writer chooses to say about the indigenous culture of Hawai'i, whom he chooses to foreground from among the community, how he decides to set the scene decides how a large audience will imagine the islands.

"Good travel writing is to be valued for the way it unearths a rich sense of otherness in a landscape, a people, a form of activity, a set of events," says Mark Cocker in a Guardian Unlimited book review, and unearthing a sense of otherness is a particular skill of Theroux' (par.2). He accomplishes it by offering to the reader his familiarity with particular brands of the normally unfamiliar, which he presents as facts gained through his own experience. He is not, however, very careful about the accuracy of his details. He has been roundly told off in several places for mixing fact and fiction, not doing his homework, getting his stories wrong (endnote 4). Indeed, according to Keala Kelly, Theroux has both facts and attitude wrong in the article on Hawai'i. She points out how he misrepresents several people he has interviewed by playing down the fierceness of Kanaka Maoli resistance to continued U.S. occupation of the islands. The only photograph of a sovereignty leader is of Mililani Trask, an NGO and fiercely intelligent activist, idyllically playing the nose flute, and his reference to Center for Hawaiian Studies Director Lilikala Kame'eleihiwaha is a few sentences long. Nowhere does he mention serious and ongoing work to show that the Hawaiian Kingdom still exists under international law.

He refers patronizingly to Sam Kaleleiki, kupuna and member of Na Kupuna O Hawai'i Nei, as "Sam," his freely shared talk about Hawaiian independence as "Uncle Sam's drill-sergeant perorations." He dismisses him as "apparently just a likeable agitator in a tent strung with banners by the side of the road outside Hilo" (34). Not everyone in the sovereignty movement agrees with Henry Noa's Nation of Hawai'i, but Theroux's words are an arrogant haole outsider's assuming familiarity. Respect Kanaka Maoli offer as a matter of course to elders is missing and, therefore, so is the proffered "in" Theroux extends to the reader. As P. Smethurst asserts in his on-line "20th Century Travel Writing" seminar at the University of Hong Kong, "you may detect...an authoritative and superior tone" in Theroux's writing (28). Such arrogance is easily missed by the non-indigenous reader unfamiliar with the context in which Theroux is writing.

Using carefully chosen words to appeal to the tourists he writes for, Theroux chooses "indignant" to explain why Kanaka Maoli killed Captain Cook, downplaying the enormous violence Cook unleashed on Kanaka Maoli from the day of his arrival. Downplaying Kanaka Maoli anger and determination to restore the Kingdom is understandable when the article is seen as designed to attract tourists to the islands. Presented as an objective study by a well-known travel writer in a magazine taken seriously by many, Theroux' piece is in fact an advertisement and uses the emotional language, appealing imagery, and lopsided factual arrangements of advertising.

Keala Kelly's criticisms of Theroux echo those of Paula Gunn Allen for Lyn Andrews (popular white author of Medicine Woman and other "shaman" books): Gunn Allen pointed out in a 1993 KPFA interview that Andrews' representation of Indian reality serves as a guide only to middle class white women's vision of Indian reality. In her original manuscript, Kelly wryly points out that the piece ends with a representation of Kanaka Maoli elders "seated under an awning, saying nothing, smiling benignly," the implication being that they are accepting and happy. The final word is given not to a Kanaka Maoli, but to Terry Shintani, an adoptee of Japanese ancestry. In the last pages, Theroux calls one man "Hawaiian by marriage" and says that Shintani is Hawaiian in attitude and belief and "seemed to me a perfect illustration of what could be accomplished in Hawai'i in a spirit of peacemaking," completely ignoring colonizer-imposed conflicts over what it is to be Hawaiian (endnote 5) (41). All these are purposeful representations to make prospective tourists feel more at ease with coming to a Hawai'i where, in fact, tourists may not be welcomed by Kanaka Maoli.

The article, with its beautiful photography, inset "Voices" from happy, productive Kanaka Maoli, and focus on lush scenery and dedicated return to traditional values, spreads to an armchair world a vision of a happy, friendly, peaceful people just waiting to welcome the stranger into a traditional way of life--into "the heart of Hawaiian culture," as Theroux says (16). The problems left by occupation--drug use, suicide, ill health, poverty, houselessness, high prison populations, and resentment of haole--are not mentioned or are underplayed. The respectably factual presentation expected by many from the Geographic falls far short when seen from the point of view of the people Theroux talks about. As Kelly says at the end of her original manuscript, "It's a great piece if you don't know anything about contemporary Hawaiian politics. It clumsily misses not only the most salient points in the contemporary political scene engaging Hawaiians today, but glosses over the military devastation and occupation of Hawai'i in true National Geographic style. (2)

While Theroux's article is a fairly obvious example of assumed objectivity by a well-known and respected representative of the occupying culture in a non-academic setting, there are less obvious cases of misrepresentation within academic publishing and teaching. The problem is not so easy to see and the intention often good hearted, but the result is still that a vocal representative of a colonizing culture publicly assumes objectivity about indigenous culture. The claim to objectivity may be denied, but findings are assumed--even required--to be objective in published academic work.

Houston Wood's Displacing Natives: The Rhetorical Production of Hawai'i is an admirable undertaking; I consider him an ally in the work I am attempting here since he thoroughly critiques continuing exploitation of Kanaka Maoli culture. He spends a chapter, for instance, discussing Euroamerican fascination with Cook as hero rather than as murderous exploiter. He points out that after the illegal declaration of statehood in Hawai'i, "Government and businesses supporting mass tourism combined to disseminate the conceit that even visitors could...'become Polynesian'" (48). He makes clear the depth and breadth of continuing theft of Hawaiian artefacts, physical, spiritual, and emotional. I believe the considerable worth of his undertaking lies in his detailed critique of continued haole colonialism in Hawai'i. He has generously invited me to use his 1999 work as an example.

Before returning to the university to complete a Ph.D. in English literature, Wood lived more than 20 years on the Big Island as, among other things, a macadamia nut farmer. He raised children there. He was familiar with and immersed in grassroots island culture for a long time. He clearly sees the need to "embrace some methods for subverting the colonizing work I was being educated to do" at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa and proceeds to do so in his study. He acknowledges that he cannot retreat to "'antiessentialism,' 'hybridity,' 'neutrality,' or 'objectivity'" (3).

Wood goes into detail to examine the colonial culture (his own) that continues to steal from Kanaka Maoli in Hawai'i while representing itself as innocent, including acknowledging his serious dilemma over whether to talk about Kanaka Maoli culture at all. He decides to do so only because he fears that leaving out mention of it will mislead people into thinking there is nothing to talk about. However, in response to Wood's assertion that he will not use academic claims to "objectivity," I repeat that the academic undertaking per se requires assumption of objectivity. He cannot escape the implication that accompanies publishing an academic work--that he is producing an objective analysis of the situation in Hawai'i and, because he does so, of Kanaka Maoli culture. Objectivity is one of the fundamental requirements of academic publications, although the individual academic may claim otherwise. Lila Abu-Lughod comments of ethnographic writing that the individual ethnographer gets caught up, "'regardless of his or her own attitudes to it," in "'the larger agenda of European expansion'," which can include distortions presented as fact (148-149).

Even though Wood's work, as a haole critiquing haole practice, is invaluable, he occasionally slips into urging what Kanaka Maoli and other indigenous people "must" or "should" do, representing, and romanticizing them in the voice of one who can be trusted to know. I single out Wood for this discussion particularly because his work has integrity and self-reflection. He is honest and forthcoming about the problems of a western academic writing yet again about a culture not his own. He discusses the problems he faces in doing so. Ironically, for these reasons, he presents himself as a more reliable source than someone who has less humility. However, what I wish to show here is that however good-hearted and searching a western academic is about a scholarly project on non-western cultures, s/he will almost surely slip up when interpreting and making recommendations about and for that culture. Perhaps this would be less of a problem if our arguments were not founded in assumed universal objectivity, and if continued publishing and teaching from overly represented western academics did not reduce the space for indigenous peoples to represent themselves as well as continuing to perpetrate mistaken representations.

Maori activist Hone Harawira, at a 1999 forum on "Decolonizing the Mind" in Honolulu, advised the mainly indigenous audience to focus more on continuing to imagine and construct indigenous realities from within than reacting to the constant barrage of colonial challenges. Continued non-indigenous representation of indigenous cultures, because it continues to draw reactions from indigenous scholars, may also drain energy and support from the kind of visioning Manu Meyer is currently engaging in within the education system of the University of Hawai'i at Hilo.

There are four slippages I point out in Wood's book. All involve assumption of objectivity, which he claims not to use, and discussing Kanaka Maoli reality though he wishes not to. The first is saying what Kanaka Maoli must or should do. The second is offering Kanaka Maoli culture as healing "alternatives to those constructed by outsiders and settlers" as though he could do so without the presentation filtering through his interpretive words (5). The third is using a theory of his own devising to explain Kanaka Maoli culture. The fourth is attributing this theory to them.

The first occurs throughout the text beginning on page 16, where Wood quotes Dirlik and Wilson in support of saying

Hawaiian writers, like other indigenous writers, must thus examine how 'the global deforms and molests the local' in order to repel this molestation. Such oppositional analyses require some engagement with the Euroamerican monorhetoric that dominates both corporate and cultural forms of globalization, for it seems likely that only through some adaptation of the dominant monorhetoric...will indigenous people find a 'point of entry into the dominant circuits of print culture.

Wood's making and supporting this kind of statement from outsiders presupposes the appropriateness and/or accuracy of a non-Kanaka Maoli writing about what Kanaka Maoli "must" do. There are many different ideas among Kanaka Maoli as to what to do either in response to or separately from such a global scene, and there is pressure from outside for Kanaka Maoli to follow this or that directive from non-indigenous observers. For instance, there is an almost constant call for them to "unify" or "come together" in the sovereignty movement and other areas, pressure which completely ignores the fact that healthy disagreement and argument that typify a free nation become a problem only in one fighting for independence from an occupier.

Prescriptive language appears again on pages 17 ("It is thus necessary..." and "Each of these alternatives must draw upon...); page 55 ("The efforts of Native scholars...are essential..." and "If the knowledge of kupuna becomes a corpus..."); 101 ("it may be helpful to increase the presence..."); 102 ("the more often Hawaiian echoes resound..."); 121 ("Indigenous films present other, non-Eurocentric realities..."); 153 ("What requires more demonstration is how..."); 157 ("Alternative, indigenous sites will have to be effectively constructed..."). Related to these is Wood's giving "my view" on whether Kanaka Maoli can claim a continued authentic culture from pre-contact days to the present (4). While it is admirable that he vocally supports Kanaka Maoli in their work for self-definition, it is unnecessary for him to do so by adding yet another outsider voice situated in the academy to the argument. Also related is his wording on page 18, where he sees problems for Euroamericans who "hope to encourage the growth of multiple, separate, critical localisms worldwide." Such statements are troubling in their suggestion of colonial patronage.

The second problem has Wood presenting his understandings of Kanaka Maoli traditional culture as though he is a clear glass and offering them to non-Kanaka Maoli as "reminders of practices of interacting with the earth and other humans different from those most Euroamericans embrace" (5). Tempting though this move is, it is also a source of further colonization in that it promulgates further haole interpretations and appropriation of traditional cultures for our own healing, as well as the financial and reputational gain of some. The places where he gives descriptions of Kanaka Maoli traditions in his own words are many: page 11 and 12 (inoa and place names); 13 (identity and relationship to place and people); 55-56 (oral performance); 119 and 120, where he interprets "Once Were Warriors" and 121, where he attempts to say what indigenous film might be; 129 ("I want to explore an alternative explanation that better incorporates how Kanaka Maoli explain themselves"); 130 ("Much of the history of postcontact Hawai'i can be interpreted..."); 132 ("Those sites on the island that Pele visited..."); 135 ("One's place was the home for the spirits..."); 137 ("Kanaloa appears as the island Kaho'olawe..."); 140 "Polyrhetoric and similar local alternatives..."), ("Those Euroamericans who seek radical alternatives must look outside their own cultures for possibilities..."); 144 ("For Hawaiians...the past is called ka wa mahope..."); 145 ("For deeper and effective interrogations, we must look outside of metropolitan societies..."); 150 ("Polyrhetoric constructs multiple forms, rather like the kino lau..."); 161 ("Hawaiian polyrhetoric is..."), ("Kanaka Maoli polyrhetoric..."), ("the example of Kanaka Maoli polyrhetoric may be helpful."), ("...the rhizomatic perspective."); 162 ("Kalo, of course..."), ("'ohana is a basic organizing principle..."), ("The 'ohana's rhizomatic network..."); 164 ("Those embracing a more traditional Native Hawaiian view...").

The third instance is a problem because rather than making space (as he himself suggests on page 18 and elsewhere) for Kanaka Maoli to explicate their culture themselves, Wood continues to devise his own theory for understanding. In doing so, he nulls the course I am advising, which is to step aside to make way for what indigenous peoples have to say about themselves rather than adding more of our own voice. Beginning on page 129, and continuing throughout the rest of the text, Wood suggests a use of what he calls "polyrhetoric," "which emphasizes the multiple, shifting, and context-specific meanings [Kanaka Maoli] discourse constructs. While monorhetoric builds a single, linear, visible reality, polyrhetoric forms overlapping, elastic realities that prominently include invisible forces monorhetoric cannot 'see' or accept as real" (129-130). While I appreciate the usefulness of pointing out for haole view the deep differences between a western academic way of understanding the world and indigenous ways, Wood's proffering of an umbrella theory to do this creates further problems, which include the problem for all theories, namely that they are enclosed spaces in which the theory determines how the world is to be described--a dangerous situation when the theory is haole-devised for comprehending indigenous reality. (See Chapter 7, "Modes of Thought," on attributes of theories.)

This solution becomes especially difficult when the fourth problem occurs and, after specifically addressing the danger, i.e.--

I want now to emphasize that my representations of Hawaiian practices should be understood as further instances of monorhetoric and not as a representation of polyrhetoric itself. Polyrhetoric is a concept that monorhetoric derives from a study of contemporary Kanaka Maoli, but this need not be associated with a claim that polyrhetoric exists apart from monorhetorical analysis. I conceive of polyrhetoric not as an accurate representation of Kanaka Maoli but as a conceptual tool to use in encouraging monorhetoric's transformation. (146)

--Wood continues by attributing polyrhetoric to Kanaka Maoli. On page 140, he refers to "Polyrhetoric and similar local alternatives." He writes that polyrhetoric pre-dates colonialism and that "it is also a central element in the Native project of maintaining and strengthening a viable, alternative Hawaiian way of life" (139). He calls it "Native Hawaiian" on pages 144, 145, 161, and "Kanaka Maoli" on page 161. This progress from constructing a way for haole to get a clearer grasp of Kanaka Maoli life to attributing his way to Kanaka Maoli is a danger of continuing to interpret, publish, and teach on cultures whose own people are representing themselves.

Western academics, however well-intentioned and familiar with indigenous cultures, are constantly susceptible to such slips when writing about those cultures. Since we are too often unable to see nuances that are obvious to people who grew up in the cultures we are studying, our "objectivity" about them is likely to reduce to projection onto them--as Paula Gunn Allen and others have shown (page 70 above). Making recommendations for what they should do to achieve greater independence or self vision or describing their culture in our own terms once again sets ourselves up as objective, educated and reliable experts. Although our expertise is being increasingly questioned, as is our assumed right to speak, the paradigm of universal objectivity shifts slowly. It continues to be fed by how we teach critical thinking and writing.

The Modern Language Association, in the United States, is the arbiter of how research papers are written by literary and language scholars. The MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, Fifth Edition, introduces research to those who would write a paper acceptable within the western academic community with these words:The MLA Handbook...is designed to introduce you to the customs of a community of writers who greatly value scrupulous scholarship and the careful documentation, or recording, of research........

Learning the rules the MLA Handbook outlines will help you become a writer whose work deserves serious consideration [within the western academic community]........

....As you learn to guide your research by the rules outlined in the MLA Handbook, you will take your place in a community of writers who are sure to influence the development of new rules. (xiii, xiv, xvii) (Italics added.)

Learning rules of presentation and structure acceptable to this "community of writers" puts western academics in the position to "deserve serious consideration." Learning the rules is as important as content in our work--seen in the energy presently focused on teaching western critical thinking throughout the educational process (endnote 6). Sometimes it seems to students and teachers alike that form is more important than content.

The MLA committees and membership give the following explanation of "scrupulous scholarship and the careful documentation, or recording, of research":

During your school career you have probably written many personal essays that presented your thoughts, feelings, and opinions and that did not refer to any other source of information or ideas. Some subjects and assignments, however, require us to go beyond our personal knowledge and experience. We undertake research when we wish to explore an idea, probe an issue, solve a problem, or make an argument that compels us to turn to outside help. (2)

Accepting science-based criteria for assessing truth in the academy, the MLA Handbook characterizes research as "going beyond" personal experience, making a distinction between objectively real in the world and subjective. It refers to what we can claim before research as "thoughts, feelings, and opinions" rather than knowledge. Presumably before conducting research, we only believe our information. We do not know it. The MLA version does not choose possible alternative visions of what research might be, such as enlarging personal or community knowledge and experience, where what we discover will also be our personal knowledge and experience, giving us the continuity of connection, rather than a disconnection between day-to-day experience and what we know through research.

The kinds of examples given of primary--"firsthand observation and investigation"--and secondary--"the examination of studies that other researchers have made"-- research are also restricted. "Firsthand observation and investigation" could conceivably include such informal things as conversations with family and friends or with elders/teachers, dreams, and hands-on experience, but the Handbook lists only "analyzing a literary or historical text, a film, or a performance; conducting a survey or an interview; or carrying out a laboratory experiment." Under "examination of studies that other researchers have made" it lists only "books and articles about political issues, historical events, scientific debates, or literary works." Primary and secondary research include only analyzing, surveying, interviewing, experimenting, and written materials produced by someone else, all procedures also defined and limited by academics and their students. The MLA's seemingly harmless prescriptions for producing acceptable research and writing acceptable papers perpetuate the idea of producing scholarship with universal objectivity, which has far-reaching consequences in the world outside the academy as well as within it.

These observations are supported by Sweet and Swanson in "Blinded by the Enlightenment," where the authors "suggest...the best-intentioned of [university composition] teachers often reinforce epistemologies they'd be hard pressed to accept at face value." The authors write that "messages we give our students about argument are often predicated on a western metaphysical dualism that implicitly proscribes and delimits the kinds of thinking we accredit or accept as valid," in fact, that "rhetoric seems condemned to be either so personal as to be submerged in subjectivity, unable to reach confidently beyond the self, or it is so luminously 'clear' that it couldn't possibly be contaminated by any particular person" (51). They report on teaching methods that rely "on a severely truncated conception of the suasive nature and use of rhetorical thought, and on a thoroughgoing commitment to Enlightenment epistemologies" (41). Ongoing valorization of Enlightenment ideology is not surprising in light of Thomas Kuhn's work on paradigms.

Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions documents the ground-moving (and therefore alarming) changes and consequently the amount of time necessary to shift a paradigm. He shows how difficult it is for a paradigm (such as the earth being the center of the universe or Newton's mechanical theories) to be shifted from its role as a lens through which we see the world. As literary scholars, our bedrock operating rules of disengagement and objectivity--paradigms in the humanities--cannot be questioned without beginning to pull apart the foundations of our practice. They are part of the operating system for conducting research. The western world is in the midst of a paradigm shift concerning such foundational concepts as objectivity, fact, truth, and reality, and at this point, western and western-trained academics may claim to know that objectivity is unattainable but the ways they conduct research still reveal the continuance of the paradigm. Kuhn says of the Copernican paradigm shift,

If the two-sphere universe, and particularly the conception of a central and stable earth, then seemed the indubitable starting point of all astronomical research, this was primarily because the astronomer could no longer upset the two-sphere universe without overturning physics and religion as well. Fundamental astronomical concepts had become strands in a far larger fabric of thought, and the nonastronomical strands could be as important as the astronomical in binding the imagination of astronomers. The story of the Copernican Revolution is not, therefore, simply a story of astronomers and skies. (The Copernican Revolution 77)

As Manu Meyer points out, we are in the midst of a paradigm shift that is as fundamental as the ones Kuhn explores ("Exploring" 38) (See page 95 below.).

Ludwig Wittgenstein (on whose larger work on certainty Kuhn relies to form his arguments) develops and picks his way through a method rather than constructing theories. He considers and plays with many specific ordinary life, mathematical, and scientific contexts to examine how western culture functions on a logical level. In On Certainty, he sees foundational concepts that underlie the ways we describe the world as an "axis" or "mythology" for a "world-picture" or "form of life" which is made up of innumerable "language games" (94-100, 152). Foundational concepts cannot be doubted within a language game or, more largely, within a form of life without shaking the stability of how we comprehend the world. In practical reality, we cannot not be claiming objectivity when we claim to know something, when we explicate and analyze. In specific circumstances, it makes sense to say "I cannot be objective about this," but there is no general sense to "I cannot be objective." Wittgenstein writes,

162. ...I did not get my picture of the world by satisfying myself of its correctness; nor do I have it because I am satisfied of its correctness. No: it is the...background against which I distinguish between true and false.
163.
164. I should like to say Moore does not know...that this is his hand...but it stands fast for him, as also for me; regarding it as absolutely solid is part of our method of doubt and enquiry.
165.
166. In general I take as true what is found in text-books....Why? I say: All these facts have been confirmed a hundred times over. But how do I know that?...I have a world picture. Is it true or false? Above all it is the substratum of all my enquiring and asserting. [italics added]
167.
167. ...I say world picture and not hypothesis, because it is the matter-of-course foundation for his research and as such also goes unmentioned.

445. ...if I say "I have two hands", what can I add to indicate reliability? At the most that the circumstances are the ordinary ones.

But why am I so certain that this is my hand? Doesn't the whole language-game rest on this kind of certainty?

Or: isn't this "certainty" already pre-supposed in the language-game? Namely by virtue of the fact that one is not playing the game, or is playing it wrong, if one does not recognize objects with certainty. (On Certainty)

Wittgenstein talks here about "language games" and "world picture," terms which describe distinct areas of human life within which certain grammatical/logical rules hold. Language games include such things as measuring and weighing, falling in love, mathematics, religion, and smaller sub-categories of these. Literary studies and its various subdivisions are language games within which there are also unspoken concepts, the logical ground rules that hold the language game steady and where certain terms have distinct meanings they do not have in other language games. To question objectivity in research, publishing, and teaching is to threaten the foundations of our criteria for judgement, and therefore, if really taken seriously and followed through, can feel sanity-threatening. We have to ask what it would mean to question the possibility of being objective (not in a particular circumstance but across the board) on the most practical level. What would be one's reaction to the scholarship of someone who states s/he is not being objective? This is why, as Kuhn makes clear, paradigm shifts are so very slow, laborious and have been so dangerous to those shaking the ground in science.

However, if the ground shaker is a colonizer and the ground belongs to the colonized, it is the colonized, even if a majority of the population, who are in danger. Whether we choose to pay attention or not, consequences to the colonized of forced paradigm shifts are severe. Gunn Allen, in her essay, documents devastating material outcomes after Laguna people shared their stories with anthropologist Elsie Clews Parsons, who took sacred stories and wrote objectively about them. Being objective, she objectified them along with the beings and the culture that held them sacred (383). Whether we choose to believe that the outcomes Gunn Allen attributes to analysis of sacred material were so caused depends on whether or not we can begin to question the universalizability of western objectivity. Other mistreatments of people we study also depend on whether we are willing and able to make such a paradigmatic change.

Surely, though, someone might say, if I am objective about what is going on, I am more likely to be humane than to objectify. If I insist on objectivity when talking, arguing, commenting, investigating, I will be more likely to be fair and just. Surely, objectification is more about not seeing someone than seeing them clearly. And doesn't being objective imply clarity? These arguments are convincing because they are mono-cultural. But objectivity is both multitudinous and context-driven. From one culture to another, what "objective" means shifts. If, as a haole, I read The True Story of Kaluaikoolau by Piilani His Wife (a Kanaka Maoli autobiographical work from the turn of the 20th century) as authoethnography in the manner of I, Rigoberta Menchu, for instance, what I say may very well be misleading because my commentary reflects haole conceptions of Kanaka Maoli and Guatemalan Indian culture. What could be useful, as Mary Churchill points out, is interaction between scholars and people in the communities we study (with scholars in the position of students) since our objectivity becomes subjectivity cross-culturally and our scholarship is self-reflexive. The only way to check whether there is any usefulness in what we are saying is to offer it to the people we are saying it about for feedback and correction.

Although objectivity is part of the conceptual ground of the western academic community and therefore almost impossible for us to see, from the points of view of people from cultures scrutinized and described by our own, the enclosed nature of our vision is easily seen and felt. Kanaka Maoli scholar and educator Manu Meyer is one of many indigenous scholars who strongly disagree with the assumption of many western academics that we can study their cultures appropriately or accurately. She supports the claims of Gunn Allen, Silva, Smith, Hereniko, and other indigenous scholars, who see theories of knowledge as culture-specific and insist on their own space to understand indigenous epistemologies after centuries of what they see as epistemological rape under colonial rule (endnote 7).

In a 1998 article, Meyer says,

The epistemology or "philosophy of knowledge" revolution escalates. Sides are being drawn, published words are fortifying entrenchments....The traditionalists defend a mono-empirical view of the world where empiricism is not culturally defined.... The largest dissent comes from indigenous peoples as we define ourselves through our values and the interpretation of our world via cosmology and epistemology....The very definition of objectivity is in question.... Signs of entrenchment are escalating, however, with verbal attacks, labeling the [indigenous scholarship] movement anti-intellectual, biased, emotional, feminist, and multicultural. ("Exploring" 38)

One of these signs of entrenchment is noted by Vili Hereniko. He quotes historian Eric Hobsbawm, who charges "those engaged with identity politics with 'attempts to replace history by myth and invention'." Hereniko continues, "Hobsbawm wrote that the responsibility of historians is to 'stand aside from the passions of identity politics' and to tell the truth even if it makes them unpopular. The problem with his advice is the false premise that there is only one truth. Like Epeli Hau'ofa, I believe truth to be 'flexible and negotiable (endnote 8)'" (85).

Such insistence on western concepts of objectivity continues to be driven by arguments like Hobsbawm's which work to establish a monopoly of vision on how the inhabitants of the colonized world see the colonizer, the rest of the world and themselves (Smith 2). Ironically, as the academy was brought face to face in the 1960s with the imperial nature of the culture within which it existed, and as many scholars admirably wished to remove themselves from association with colonialism, claims to objectivity (which would now begin to take the politically correct form of assertions that we cannot be objective) became important as signs of non-involvement with the imperial enterprise. However, as quotes from Enari, Sherman Alexie, and Spivak in Chapter 2 point out, projects that continue to describe and define the lives and creativities of colonized peoples as "other" from the points of view of colonizing cultures perpetuate the us-them, top-down assumptions of colonialism.

I mentioned on page 72 above that it has become the norm, especially within cultural studies, to disclaim belief in the possibility of objectivity while at the same time applying it. It is an instance of confusions arising from assumption of the universal objectivity of their authority that postcolonial and cultural studies scholars today concurrently vocally recognize ourselves as outside the cultures we are studying and therefore limited in our ability to be useful, while, at the same time, continuing to assume positions of authority on them. We do the former in order to be politically correct, acknowledging the fragility of our ability to speak sensibly at all, while at the same time continuing to explicate material from other cultures using theoretical models from within our own, as though the disclaimer will make the subsequent commentaries valid and/or acceptable. To continue thinking we are making critiques that are profitable to more than just our immediate circles of western colleagues, we must be assuming that we can be objective in a way that makes our commentary applicable across cultural boundaries. If we are being told by those within the cultures in question that our commentaries are not only often not useful but are even damaging, for whom do we claim our observations have validity?

In "Toward a Critical Solidarity: (Inter)change in Australian Aboriginal Writing," Lyn McCredden prefaces a study on Aboriginal writing by acknowledging,

it is necessary for the critic to declare to her readership the predominant boundaries within which the criticism is produced. In my case they are: white (Australian, and Scottish...), middle class, female, academic....Postcolonial writing, particularly that of the white postcolonial critic (if this is not an oxymoron) needs to find ways of acknowledging such boundaries without resorting to silencing self-abasement (though silence has its place). (14)

She goes on, having noted that the term "white postcolonial critic" may be an oxymoron and that "silence has its place," (endnote 9) to state her belief in "critically active criticism" at the same time acknowledging, "as a descendant of the white colonizing race in Australia seeking to question the rights and roles of white critics in regard to black writing, it is always questionable what place I have to play in 'redefinitions of marginality'" (14, n1). But, having made these serious and admirable disclaimers, McCredden goes on immediately not only to add hers to the white voice on Aboriginal writing but to claim a clearer view:

But it is to the texts by Aboriginal writers, erupting over the past ten years, that this paper turns. In reading the critical and theoretical climate that has both produced and received this outpouring, and in an investigation of the novels of Mudrooroo, it is hoped that the theoretical assumptions outlined above will be tested. Said's disdain for a mere "flight into method and system", whose practitioners risk "wall-to-wall discourses" (Said 1983, 26) at the expense of any real social change, rings in my ears, but so too does the need to offer critical debate in the field of Aboriginal writing that does not melt into mere multicultural celebration, devoid of real intellectual--aesthetic, political, theological--inquiry; or into simple, Manichean dogmatics, a solidarity totally devoid of criticism. (16)

Astonishingly, McCredden assumes not only that her viewpoint will be right, but that it will be better than that of indigenous commentators, that it will have more meaning and add greater value to the discussion of Aboriginal literature because she knows what "real scholarship" is. Such an obvious disjuncture in consciousness reveals the continued activity of the paradigm of universal objectivity in western academic epistemology. Even though a scholar seems to see clearly the limitations and continued colonialism of western scholarship in an indigenous setting, actually stopping speaking is too hard.

I repeat Paula Gunn Allen's characterization of western academics' treatment of knowledge from "Problems in Teaching":

But the white world has a different set of values, one which requires learning all and telling all in the interests of knowledge, objectivity and freedom. This ethos and its obverse--a nearly neurotic distress in the presence of secrets and mystery underlie much of modern American culture....Indeed, entire disciplines have been developed on exactly the penchant for knowing everything possible....

The dilemma in American culture is reflected in American institutions such as universities, where it is doubly dangerous to be short on particulars....In the field of Native American Studies, the drawing card is largely exactly those matters that we are not to divulge. My students, usually "wannabe's" to some degree, are voraciously interested in the exotic aspects of Indian ways--and they usually mean by that traditional spiritual practices, understandings and beliefs. Drawing their attention from the object of their longing to more mundane literary concerns and practices is troublesome. At every least opportunity, they vigorously wrest the discussion from theme, symbol, structure and plot to questions of "medicine," sacred language, rituals, and spiritual customs. (382)

A compulsive "penchant for knowing everything possible," publishing and teaching it, (even as one acknowledges, as McCredden does, that this knowing and saying may be mistaken and/or harmful) results, especially if one is earning one's living by this knowing and saying, in non-indigenous academics continuing to analyze, proffer theories and draw conclusions about cultural items not their own.

Since objectivity is a paradigm, it will take more than a personal disclaimer to act on the recognition that we cannot be objective. Academics in particular--even those who claim to know objectivity is limited, who say universal objectivity is a dangerous illusion--still come from an assumption of objectivity without realizing how deep a hold it has. Within academic culture, it is not objective, for instance, to focus on the inside, on an intuitive hit, to ask spirit guides or ancestors, do a ceremony, read cards, raise our eyes to the hills, and therefore we insist on what we see as material validation in proofs of our contentions. There are academics who are psychics, but they keep quiet about it, separate it from their academic life, because it might throw doubt on their validity as scholars. Our models of proof are western science-based universalizable objectivity in research and the primacy of the material, however much we claim to accept the difficulties inherent in those concepts. In our investigations, it is primary and/or secondary research which is used to verify claims because it can be seen to be in the same place over time and it takes us "beyond the personal."

As I have said, in the eyes of indigenous people like Paula Gunn Allen, our endeavors, claims, even our initial approaches to scholarship, separate out, arrange and isolate concepts, people, situations, places, and events from a context of lived experience and therefore remove meaning from them. Meaning within the practices of western academic culture is not the same as meaning within Pueblo culture, which, as Gunn Allen defines it--"by virtue...of its human context"--is removed from the ground that gives it sense ("Teaching" 382) (endnote 10). This is a serious problem if we are claiming to explicate works from different cultures with different epistemologies than our own.

Examples of assumed objectivity appear in an on-line discussion of "religious and academic imperialism." Religious scholar Ron Grimes, in a manner similar to the self-interrogation Houston Wood undertakes in Displacing Natives, has the integrity to ask, "Should or should not European Americans be teaching courses on Native American religions? If we should not, why not, and what would be the results of our deferral? If we should, how best can we proceed?" (1). Even though he recognizes the violence of teaching about cultures not our own, Grimes worries that "If we taught ONLY that which we embodied by virtue of our upbringing, gender, class, ethnicity, etc., we would all be reduced to autobiographical confession or mere reiteration of our traditions." An alternative he does not discuss is continuing to turn a critical eye on our own traditions, as he says he had done with his grandmother's frontier Methodism. He focused on his own tradition, however, only as a way of turning away from it, not as a route to studying and continuing to deconstruct a belief system that (as he admits) preaches "the superiority of 'my' kind" (3). He does acknowledge that at a university where Ward Churchill and Vine Deloria also teach, "there are good reasons for Euroamerican scholars not to rush in, fools, where angels fear to tread" (2).

He goes on to ask, "Does teaching about religions indigenous to the Americas desecrate them?" Grimes, although he seems to be thinking about these issues in a fairly open way, thinks he can decide the answer to this question rather than recognizing that if Indians are calling it desecration for non-Indians to teach their religions, then, in all honesty, what can academics do but listen to the Indians? It is not for non-Indian western academics to say what is or is not desecration for an Indian, but he continues to assume that he is the superior authority. This works, of course, in practice, because western academics continue to be the ones who have the power to make this decision. If we ignore pleas to stop or rationalize continuing, the implication is that we are as or more objective than the indigenous person is about the needs of his or her own culture.

Jace Weaver, in That the People Might Live, defines American Indian literature as the total written output by Indians who have written anything because "For too many non-Native scholars like Arnold Krupat and John Bierhorst, the only 'genuine' literature consists of oral myths." This kind of outsider definition rules out "the 'rant and roll' poetry of John Trudell...the religio-political writings of Vine Deloria, Jr....the untutored letters of Richard Fields...the postmodernist novels of Gerald Vizenor, or the Broadway theatricals of Lynn Riggs" (x). He also refuses to recognize Euroamerican judgements of literary worth, denying the usefulness of academic objectivity:

I discuss these literatures without regard to quality. This obviates the temptation to discuss what is worth reading, what is worthy of being in the canon. As will be noted, this Euroamerican trap in non-Native criticism has led, albeit perhaps by inadvertence and with honorable intentions, to a denial of Native personhood and damage to Native subjectivity. (x)

Ron Grimes, continuing the discussion mentioned above, takes images from Indian spirituality to call on fellow scholars to reduce what he sees as the necessary violence of scholarship. He recognizes that scholarship "necessarily incurs guilt."

We should not pretend otherwise....though it can be a kind of honoring, is also a kind of hunting....So we should do it with great care --identifying our fates with the fate of what we hunt, taking only what we really need for survival, and hedging our activities with considerable prayer.... Though we may not experience scholarship as violent, thus not a form of hunting, we are certainly being told that others experience our study as violation. We need to pause to consider this charge, because some of our colleagues, students, and friends are making it. So the question is not, "What is the nonviolent way to study religion?" but "What is the least violent way to do it?" (3).

The question I ask is "why do it at all if it violates?" But Grimes concludes that "we should do what we do with humility and open ears," suggesting that one way to continue is to focus on places where colonial cultures have had an impact on indigenous cultures, on "the encounter between religio-cultural traditions" and on controversies and problems that arise in those areas (4). And he has other ideas about how to go on studying and teaching Indian religions while trying to tread softly.

In a response posted in the same discussion, Vine Deloria says that

The fact that scholarly articles on racial and ethnic minority groups are frequently used for wholly partisan political purposes should not have escaped the attention of white scholars, and to pretend that what is happening in the academy has no impact on the lives of real people in the real world outside the academy is just nonsense....Then to read from some of the discussion feedback to Ron that some of you consider yourselves objective scholars who handle the subject of religion in a neutral and peer-approved manner seems to me disingenuous at best and perhaps even tongue-in-cheek dishonest.....

I see nothing wrong with [Euroamericans teaching courses on Indian religions] but personally wish they would not do so. The reason is that...unless EuroAmericans grow up about what it is they think they know, they will simply continue to perpetuate misconceptions and misperceptions--EVERY social science we have today needs to have a RESTATEMENT of basic concepts and intellectual framework that accepts humanity as it is and does not orient itself toward the proposition that western civilization is necessarily the highest expression of human striving. (7)

The point is driven home when non-indigenous professor Sam Gill reacts by deciding to withdraw from describing what he does as Native American studies where he is being attacked and to focus on "the study of religion and culture" where he will add in "Australian Aboriginals, Indonesians, and others." He states in doing so that what is at stake for him and why he will not give up his studies as he contemplates this deeply serious criticism of the European based academic tradition is "the whole humanistic enterprise, one of the most promising foundations on which to build peaceful understanding among the diverse peoples of the world" (10). Arlen Speights in the same debate and Paula Gunn Allen in conversation with me describe humanism as the intent of Euroamericans (scholars and non-scholars) to raise other peoples "up" to our level of civilization, an endeavor that assumes, as Deloria says, that western civilization is the "highest expression of human striving" (11).

As Mary Churchill points out, in the early 1990s when she was writing her dissertation, there was no dialogue between western scholars and the Cherokee community, let alone any earlier attempt to formulate a Cherokee-centric hermeneutic by Cherokee because the prevailing belief system still accepted western academic standards as the standards for objective reporting. For western academics, discussion based within non-western epistemologies still is often not experienced as theoretical enough to be academic; or it is seen as unreliable because it arises from belief systems that do not differentiate between religion and science (endnote 11); or it is taken not to be political enough (in cultures where politics and the social are inextricable (endnote 12)). As a result, they are in danger of only seeing relevant (or intelligent, or unromanticizing, or politically astute) discussion going on among members of the western academy. As Chris Tiffin says in his Introduction to De-Scribing Empire, it is not so much that the subaltern are not speaking as that those who categorize "the subaltern" are not hearing:

Whether or not the subaltern can ever speak is obviously a profound and perplexing question which justifies the lengthy and subtle discussion it has provoked. But the curious thing about the debate is that it is being conducted by non-subalterns, people with voice, institutional power, and unlimited access to the technologies of textuality. A second curious thing is that they seem largely not to have noticed that the subalterns, meanwhile, are speaking. Post-colonial writers are declaring their spaces, engaging with canonical texts, rewriting not just the tradition but the episteme which underpins it. It may not be a pure or unrefracted discourse, but it is a vigorous and inventive one which is far removed from the inescapable closure predicted (though surely not observed) by that debate. (10)

There can be no doubt that the subaltern speaks. For instance, in Hawai'i there is a large Kanaka Maoli literature of chants, comedy, talkstory, hula, stories and poetry, and political commentary published in early Hawaiian language newspapers, which largely go unregarded as literature in the English department at the university. Is this because they are not literary in a way that is easily recognizable in an academic context? Some of the material is oral, and much of it is not in English, but certainly a good part of it is written and literary, and translations have been published. The True Story of Kaluaikoolau as Told by His Wife, Piilani, for instance, and many newspaper articles have been translated by Kanaka Maoli into English.

Ku'ualoha Ho'omanawanui, a Ph.D. candidate in the U.H. Manoa English department, published a comparison of Piilani's story with Jack London's "Ko'olau the Leper," a colonial treatment distorted by stereotyping and sensationalism. When I asked her to talk to my class she expressed delight because, she said, she is not usually asked to talk about her study. Pi'ilani's story is fine literature, and Ho'omanawanui is a Kanaka Maoli scholar who can teach it, but she is not invited to do so by professors who could avoid colonizing pitfalls by inviting Kanaka Maoli to teach Kanaka Maoli texts in their classrooms. When I asked him why he does not often invite Kanaka Maoli to come to his classroom to teach Kanaka Maoli texts in translation, Houston Wood answered that he worries about imposing on others. My own experience has been that people I have asked on a regular basis to come help me teach texts I don't feel I have the right to expound on are completely delighted to be asked. Asking for help is a part of the relationship building I think can take us out of our colonial practices since reciprocal helping tends to develop and deepen friendships.

In a connected matter, it is disturbing that there are full-time Pacific, Local, and Asian literature positions at U.H. Manoa English department but no full-time Hawaiian Literature position. A proposed half-time position, shared with Hawaiian Language (an almost impossible position to fill), recently initiated, has been dropped. Kanaka Maoli are in a particularly suppressed position in Hawai'i--it is they who were the inhabitants at the time of contact with the west and they who have been most negatively affected by our presence here. Pacific and local Asian literature are secondary to Kanaka Maoli literature in Hawai'i (endnote 13). How can their primacy over Kanaka Maoli literature in the English Department be explained? It is Kanaka Maoli who have the most to gain if we recognize their first nation status in the islands and they who have the most to continue to lose if we do not. I can only make sense of their being the last to be represented within the department by reading it against the background of the continued colonial situation--in Hawai'i and in the university which was founded in that colonization. As Jon Osorio said in conversation, the situation is such that even when opportunities are presented, "Colonial suppression of Kanaka results in few Kanaka prepared to take [them] up." The problems are deeper and wider than an exploration of western academic practices will reveal. But direct, vulnerable, and honest engagement with communities impacted by the colonialism in which the university is implicated could go far in beginning to undo them.

The difficulties (and sometimes impossibilities) of the subaltern or of indigenous peoples being heard--being comprehended--by those in cultures different from theirs and in a position of power over them is addressed by Mary Louise Pratt in "Arts in the Contact Zone," where she coins the term "contact zone" to describe a space of "transculturation" between cultures where "[m]iscomprehension, incomprehension, dead letters, unread masterpieces, absolute heterogeneity of meaning" characterize the state of one culture dominating the other (37). She uses "contact zone" to "refer to social spaces where cultures meet, clash, and grapple with each other, often in contexts of highly asymmetrical relations of power, such as colonialism, slavery, or their aftermaths as they are lived out in many parts of the world today" and she adds that she intends to use the term eventually to "reconsider the models of community that many of us [academics] rely on in teaching and theorizing and that are under challenge today" (34). She takes a look at liberal humanist assumptions underlying the relationships between "communities" of teachers and students as an example: the teacher is in authority and defines what "satisfactory" responses from the pupil are or, indeed, what is a response at all:

When linguistic (or literate) interaction is described in terms of orderliness, games, moves, or scripts, usually only legitimate moves are actually named as part of the system, where legitimacy is defined from the point of view of the party in authority....Teacher-pupil language for example, tends to be described almost entirely from the point of view of the teacher and teaching, not from the point of view of pupils and pupiling (the word doesn't even exist, though the thing certainly does) (endnote 14). If a classroom is analyzed as a social world unified and homogenized with respect to the teacher, whatever students do other than what the teacher specifies is invisible or anomalous to the analysis. (38)

Pratt uses the classroom to delineate the contours of a problem that extends to scholarly interpretation and regulation of other cultures.

Western academic objectivity as the prime criterion in investigation rather than engagement is what makes Gunn Allen accuse academics (including herself when she is not being aware, as she acknowledges) of witchcraft. She defines witchcraft as the destruction of relationship and connection (see Leslie Marmon Silko's portrayal of witchcraft in Ceremony), the use of power over rather than engaged equal relationship, and therefore the destruction of meaning (381). As I have said, western scholars are constrained to supercede contextual lived meaning and the relationship each scholar actually has with what she is studying in order to gain a viewpoint removed from daily life. We do not pay attention to contextual lived meaning if we come at the culture in question as a "them" to be observed and measured, understood from the beginning as separate from us, a process we then call understanding. But though we may not have lived the context if we are not from the culture, we can approach from a point of view of friendship and engagement rather than distance. If we exist within a logic of western science-defined if-then connections, our actions show that we hold (even as we deny that we do so) that truths valid across cultures can be uncovered by separating wheat from chaff (and ourselves from connecting emotionally with what we are studying), by a process of disconnecting. If we do not, we will hopefully act on our acknowledgments that we are not able to contextualize our discussions because we do not have deep enough access to the context, and we will, for now, cease publishing and teaching about them from outside as though our positions are neutral. But, it may be argued, how can we differentiate what we do from ranting or politics or an inquisition if we do not take a place removed from emotional involvement? I will pursue possible answers to this in the final chapters.

Many of the essays in the volume, Cross-Addressing: Resistance Literature and Cultural Borders, where Lyn McCredden's article appears, are by non-indigenous academics--western specialists analyzing indigenous work. Some, like the author of "Telling Our Own Story," are sympathetic and visionary in that they recognize that "[w]hat emerges from this reflection on critical methodology and theory is doubt whether such culturally determined critiques are capable of responding appropriately to Maori writers" but even these sympathetic scholars continue to do what they decry from a perceived "necessary" scholarly distance (57). As Trevor James, the author of "Telling Our Own Story," acknowledges, it is not a matter of proper reading but of understanding what Maori (and other indigenous) writers are saying about, for instance, the way Maori experience the world spiritually, a vital ingredient in Maori writing and something accessible to any non-Maori only with a long-term commitment to engagement with Maori culture, achieved with great difficulty if at all. Such an understanding cannot exist without what Gunn Allen calls "meaning within the traditional, day to day context of the people who live within it" (382).

Ludwig Wittgenstein also insists meaning is constructed in this way. He worked to disassemble the notion (still prevalent) that our ability to mean anything with language depends on a one-to-one relationship between words and things rather than on relationships between the words themselves within a web of lived activity. For instance, what "dog" means can only be understood when a goodly number of contextual instances with "dog" in them have been taken in and the word can be used without too many mistakes. "Dog" does not mean what it means by indicating a dog but by being in use in our lives. How we tell whether we have used it right is not by testing the relationship between the word and a dog but by getting our meaning across in conversation, i.e., by the web of relationships we stand in to words, the stories that go with them, other people we talk to, our day-to-day lives.

Although some western academics are taking pains to position themselves when they publish works on other cultures, others continue to speak without a cursory bow to the problem--how to understanding another culture from the inside--an understanding we can only approach by living on an equal basis for a long time within the culture in question. We need the humility to do what Keala Kelly suggested at the end of the forum on "Indigenous Peoples, Research & Power" cited above: "When are you going to look inwards and ask yourselves, do I really need to go to someone else's country and look around in their stuff? Why don't I just stay at home?" Just as our words mean what they do within the web of relationships we live in, the meanings of what we say about other cultures will depend on our relationships with them and within them. It is continued colonialism to impose our meanings on the cultures we claim to elucidate with our western-centered research.

We assume we have the right to unlimited information, that it is always appropriate for us to speak because our training in the academy teaches us that academic culture precedes and supercedes other cultures (including our own birth culture) and gives us an overarching view unencumbered by origins and the details of life. The belief that we can separate in our acculturation to the academy appears in our fragmenting what we study. The importance of teaching critical thinking in the academy--so we believe--is that once we are masters of critical thought, of logical thinking, we are able to make objective judgements about the world separable from specific situations. What we go on failing to take into account in doing so is that "critical" and "logical" are culture-specific concepts whose parameters may be completely different depending on the society the terms are used in.

However, although we may suppose ourselves separate in the western academy, conceptual foundations of western academic culture arise from within the culture at large. The attitude that we are separate from the world and must be objective about it to be right also exists in the relationships the peoples of western culture presently have to our surroundings. We no longer attribute kinship, personal relationship, or even life to the rocks, water, air around us (although, as Sioux activist, poet, and A.I.M founder John Trudell points out, we all originate in tribes who did). Nor do we now attribute kinship to the other animals that inhabit the earth. Empirical explanations of meaning, in which meaning depends on a link (physical in the more primitive versions) between language and things, depends in turn on presumption of a gap between the "real world" and a supposedly immaterial language that describes it. If we saw our languages and ourselves as inextricable from the material world, as many indigenous peoples say they do (endnote 15), no problem would exist for empiricism, or its flip side, skepticism/relativism, to solve. Unquestioned paradigms like thinking of ourselves "in here" and the world "out there," as inhabiting our bodies, show no signs of going away. The worry that we can make mistakes and therefore (so it is posited) can never be sure we are not making a mistake (fallacious since it begs the question of how we know we have made a mistake in the first place) causes empiricists and sceptics or relativists who react against them alike to try to find a way either to fix language so it doesn't slip, or to fall back on the assumption that we have no control over meaning or that meaning is decided upon consensually.

As Houston Wood points out, this is partly because most of us are (Europeans have more than 1500 years of contact) deeply embedded in a Christian view of reality, whether or not we have personally been raised in a church (Displacing 136, "Cultural Studies" 28). Western culture and Old Testament Christian culture are at many points coexistent. Based on Biblical tenets which we imbibe with baby food, we believe ourselves to be separate from the world, separate from nature, never able to know we are within it, but at the same time lords over it, able to dispense with it, use it for profit, destroy it. We live in a culture where we are not part of the earth and therefore need not be affected by it, where we can and do cut off from empathy with it and, as is increasingly obvious from the political agenda of the U.S. government, see ourselves at war with it (endnote 16). We set up a distance and then either profit from it or struggle to bridge it, while much of the world does not perceive the distance in the first place. (endnote 17)

Christian expulsion from the Garden gives us the birthright of original sin and separation, which culturally powerful concepts shape the way we behave (endnote 18). We have the material might to impose these views on the rest of the world and we do so through various channels, one being the education system from kindergarten through graduate school. We are often unaware of how extremely alien our ways of experiencing reality are to many other cultures. Linda Smith says that in Christianity, "'human' and 'nature' are...seen to be in opposition to each other....[in a system where] the mind-body distinction was heavily Christianized by Aquinas" and contrasts this with an indigenous view that "A human person does not stand alone but shares with other animate and, in the Western sense, 'inanimate' beings, a relationship based on a shared 'essence' of life" (48, 74). We need to become aware of how colonial is the imposition of our unquestioned views about our relationship with the rest of the world and, for our own good, how harmful they are to us in the above as well as many other ways, as well as to other people.

At the forum on ?Indigenous Peoples, Research & Power: The Ethics and Politics of Knowledge,? Hawaiian Studies professor Kanalu Young commented that western researchers make pronouncements about aspects of indigenous cultures without being aware that it is our own cultures, much more than those of the peoples we are studying, that we reveal. As I mention above, Gunn Allen says the same of Lyn Andrews? ?shaman? books. Andrews is by no means a scholar, but, as she does, scholars and researchers represent, analyze, write about, make films about, profess knowledge of the cultures of other peoples. It is not only that western scholars, as Hereniko says, think we can be experts on other cultures without having a lived and living understanding of them, it is that, as Leslie Sponsel, Professor of Anthropology at U.H. Manoa, said in talking about anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon?s research on the Yanomami Indians of Venezuela at the same forum, ?Anthropology continues to invent representations of the peoples we study....The Yanomami were not fierce. Napoleon Chagnon was fierce. What he produced was actually a portrait of his own psychotic reality.? He added, ?This is about a society. This is about an institution. Why have generations of students sucked up this book? Why were we so fascinated by what we believed we were seeing?? Recognition of this projection in our own works on other cultures make possible a turnaround where we may begin understanding and hopefully change ourselves rather than other peoples. (endnote 19)

Psychologists Helene Shulman Lorenz and Mary Watkins propose ways to begin changing stories the western academy tells in a paper (?Silenced Knowings, Forgotten Springs: Paths to Healing in the Wake of Colonialism?) presented at a July 2001 National Training Laboratory conference. Shulman and Watkins support a preference for personal involvement and dialogue, clearly stating, ?Research conducted by an expert who keeps those he is learning from at a distance needs to be supplanted by participatory action approaches to research, where self and others collect together bits and pieces of knowing in order to transform shared situations in the light of mutual desires? (20). They argue for live dialogue because,

[The] colonial self must also split-off from its own inferior, underdeveloped, and vulnerable aspects. This binary splitting, whereby one pole is lauded and the other degraded, falls into the psyches of both colonizer and colonized, creating caricatures of identity, and mis-readings of history. Intelligence becomes severed from feelings, intuition, imagination. (18-19)

The concept of silenced knowings and investigations of processes for change of a colonial academic culture are essential as antidotes to what I am arguing against in this section. Lorenz and Watkins introduce the term ?silenced knowing? to mean--

cultural understandings that take refuge in silence, as it feels dangerous to speak them to ourselves and to others. The sanctions against them in the family, community or wider culture render them mute and increasingly inaccessible. Once silenced, these knowings are no longer available to inform our lives, to strengthen our moral discernment. Once pushed to the side, these knowings require our energy to sustain their dissociation, and our numbing to evade their pain.

Some silenced knowings require metabolizing over generations, so difficult are they to listen to and bear, to act in the light of. (1)

The academic and student fascination Sponsel comments on above and the fascination with Indian spiritual secrets Gunn Allen observed in her students are results of projecting such silenced awarenesses, needs, and histories into our studies (?Teaching? 382). What unacknowledged lack seeks to be satisfied through the spiritual secrets of other cultures? This is a serious question and one which needs answering if we are to change the current wave of colonization, which also holds us in its grip.

In her article, Linda Krumholz recognizes the pressing need to engage with problems raised by objectivity and objectification when she asks,

[I]s it possible for white or non-Indian literary critics, or any critics in white academic institutions, to resist a reading practice that appropriates and diffuses Native American literature and its potentially subversive differences? As [Johannes] Fabian argues, objectification through distancing in time is not just a part of anthropology; it is part of Western epistemology. So although moving the study of Native American literature from the domain of anthropology to departments of English may be an improvement--a recognition that Native American art exists as art--the study still remains in the domain of the colonizer (and here I mean institutions more than individuals). Wendy Rose, a Hopi poet and anthropologist, refers to the current ?literary-colonial canon? as another form of ?cultural imperialism.?

Krumholz ends her question, ?To revise Fabian?s subtitle [?How Anthropology Makes Its Object?], how does literary criticism make its object, and is it possible to avoid objectification in our practice?? She answers by asking scholars to consider how texts may change them as subjects: ?The [W.E.B. Dubois] concept of double consciousness could give those of us who are part of the white institutional structure a means of reconsidering our own subject positions, of viewing ourselves differently,? allowing ourselves to become aware of ??this sense of always looking at one?s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one?s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity?? (109). She ends, ?For the subject in the so-called ?dominant? social position or institution to take on the responsibility of double consciousness may make possible a less authoritative and more self-conscious approach to our own reading practice? (110).

We continue to believe our points of view can be valid across the board and should be heard, i.e., that we make objective and therefore true judgements about cultures whose criteria for objectivity and truth are different from ours and may not be completely knowable to us. Therefore, the question arises, ?To whom is our scholarship valuable?? and--more importantly--?to whom is it not harmful as definition from a supposedly neutral outside that may be absorbed and interiorized as hegemonic?? and be honest about the answer. ?Being objective? in this assumption is specific to our own culture, but we presume it to apply (perhaps hope it to be useful despite our limited view) because otherwise we would have to accept stepping back in our ?knowing? indigenous cultures. Giving up our status as experts about matters within their cultures is what is being demanded by an increasing number of indigenous scholars today, and it will benefit both them and us to pay attention. There are changes already happening in the western academy that can be a guide. I will address those in the final two chapters.

The next chapter looks at further outcomes of assuming universal objectivity.


1 The work of Thomas Kuhn on paradigm shifts and that of Ludwig Wittgenstein on certainty are particularly important to my arguments in this section. Kuhn shows that specific paradigms affect how the members of a particular culture see the world, what questions they ask, what procedures they choose, and therefore, what results they obtain. His conclusions can be lifted from the sciences and used as well in the humanities. Wittgenstein's investigations, in On Certainty and Philosophical Investigations, are among the bases on which Kuhn built his arguments. Wittgenstein establishes that certainty in any area of life rests on some propositions being not only unquestionable but below the horizon of consciousness when they are in use. They are "What we cannot speak about" (Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus 151.7).

2 Websters New World Dictionary has "objective" as "of or having to do with a known or perceived object as distinguished from something existing only in the mind of the subject, or person thinking; hence, 2. Being, or regarded as being, independent of the mind; real; actual. 3. determined by and emphasizing the features and characteristics of the object, or thing dealt with, rather than with thoughts, feelings, etc. of the artist, writer, or speaker: as an objective description, painting, etc.; hence, 4. Without bias or prejudice; detached; impersonal" (1012). At the "Hypertext Webster Gateway" is the following: "objective adj 1: undistorted by emotion or personal bias; based on observable phenomena; 'an objective appraisal'; 'objective evidence'...3: emphasizing or expressing things as perceived without distortion of personal feelings or interpretation; 'objective art' 4: belonging to immediate experience of actual things or events; 'concrete benefits'; 'a concrete example'; 'there is no objective evidence of anything of the kind'."

3 "Objectification," according to Websters Third New International Dictionary, is "an act or instance or the process of making objective"; "objectify" is "to cause to become or to assume the character of an object" or "to render objective; specif: to give the status of external or independent reality to (something in the mind)" (1555). Websters New World Dictionary has "objectify" as "to give objective form to; make objective; materialize" (1012).

4 See, for instance, Ryle-"It is a pity, though, that Theroux has not read more carefully about some of the places he visits. Even when he is not talking about aid workers there are a great many inaccuracies" (par.9); Miller-"[T]elling the truth is a central theme of his Fresh Air Fiend...[B]ut Theroux is quite clear that 'I have altered my memories in the way we all do-simplified them, improved them, made them more orderly" (2); Howe-"[T]he travel writer's vanity is to feign ignorance of all those who wrote before....This practice of bookless traveling seems especially common among contemporary Americans, who, true to our nation's fabled denial of history, write as if they were the first to have emerged from parts unknown with a story to tell. Paul Theroux unabashedly confesses this desire" (4).

5 See Haunani-Kay Trask, From a Native Daughter, for an incisive discussion of these and other problems.

6 A tendency noted by Sweet and Swanson in their paper, "Blinded by the Enlightenment":
Our argument follows in the wake of a broad and rippling educational turn toward pedagogy/curricula generically called "critical thinking" or the pursuit thereof. We find it interesting that such a mounting tide for what often gets called critical analysis would appear concomitantly with many universities' rather forced adjustment to a more multiple-cultured student population; institutional seams are bursting with so many different stories, so many different ways of telling, so many different ideologies. (40)

7 By "epistemological rape" I mean a forced shifting of the foundations or paradigms of one culture and their replacement with the foundations of the colonizing culture.

8 See Chapter 6 for further discussion.

9 In a note, McCredden quotes Gayatri Spivak and shows her understanding of the sometime necessity for non-indigenous commentators to keep silence: "'[H]anging out in wind and water, learning not to transcode too quickly', as Gayatri Spivak describes part of this process of silent learning, of being 'stripped of identity', in her provocative essay 'Acting Bits/Identity Talk' (1992, 785)" (32 n4). So, what to make of this seeming understanding but then immediate reversion (once she has made these acute observations) to more commentary on Aboriginal writing by a white colonial commentator who is going to make sure that "the need to offer critical debate" is filled by herself and others like her?

10 It may be that our theoretical models for objectivity (as opposed to how we actually go about things), however, do not hold for us either. Thomas Kuhn, in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, discusses how the view of history of science he is proposing has to account for "[a]n apparently arbitrary element, compounded of personal and historical accident" which is "always a formative ingredient in the beliefs espoused by a given scientific community at a given time" (4). Some current discussions of objectivity in science and other fields are Read and Sharrock's Kuhn: Philosopher of Scientific Revolution and Read's drafts for the book available on the web; E.T. Gendlin, "On Cultural Crossing"; Learning to Argue in Higher Education, ed. by Mitchell and Andrews; Satya Mohanty's Literary Theory and the Claims of History; Robert Stecker's "Objectivity and Interpretation," and many others.

11 A Bardi tribe member from Australia, Munya Andrews, visiting U.H. Manoa, pointed out that in her tradition spiritual beliefs are called "law" and "business." ("Being Sacred and Authentic in a Global Context," September 26, 2001. U.H. Manoa Center for Hawaiian Studies.)

12 See Chapter 7 of this dissertation for a discussion of the lack of boundaries between religion, law, business, science, and so on, in indigenous cultures (129).

13 See Richard Hamasaki's M.A. thesis, "Mountains in the Sea" (1993), Gary Pak dissertation, "E ala mai k¯akou e n¯a kini n¯a mamo = We, the multitudes of descendants, are waking up" : 19th century Hawaiian historiography and the historical novel in Hawai`i," and others for elaboration of this point.

14 A colleague points out that the words "student" and "studying" do, though I believe "studying" doesn't have the connotations of "being a student" that "studenting" or "pupiling" would. "Studying" is only one aspect of being a student.

15 See, e.g., Gunn Allen Hoop 59f; Manu Meyer quoting Rubellite Kawena Johnson: "Liver is where you digest the powers of perception. Digestion is not purely physical. I have 'fed' on knowledge. It is an internal digestion. I have digested a book, I've eaten it, digested it. This is where we separate epistemologies--in digestion and the vital organs" ("Reflections" 141); Linda Smith, e.g., "Children quite literally wear their history in their names" (Decolonizing 157).

16 See William Irwin Thompson's The American Replacement of Nature for an interesting discussion of this point of view.

17 Manu Meyer, Linda Smith, Paula Gunn Allen, Vili Hereniko are some indigenous scholars I am familiar with who go far toward establishing what such a non-western experience of the world looks like.

18 See Donna Cashell for examination of the linguistic signals that we continue to live with a foundational belief in original sin, especially original sin carried by women (21ff). She points out how much of the language used to refer to women (and though her study is over 20 years old, her observations carry to the present) is sexual, derogatory or both; how there are no words to describe a woman "who is strong or proud or is ambitious or has integrity" (23). The viewpoints of the Christian Bible, especially the Old Testament, deeply affect the way we view women as well as the way we relate ourselves to the world.

19 Edward Said?s use of the terms ?inventory? suggests such an internal scrutiny and shift.

     
   

From:
Too Many Deaths: Decolonizing Western Academic Research on Indigenous Cultures
By Gabrielle Welford
A dissertation submitted to the Graduate Division of the University of Hawaii in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in English, May 2003
© 2003 Gabrielle Welford (welford@hawaii.edu)