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)

Inbetween V

 
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

 

  Inbetween V

We aren't supposed to be humiliated--especially we women, who are struggling to emerge from 3,000 years of servitude, ignominy, and identification with dirt. But what will work to get it through to us that we're also abusing, murdering spirits and bodies, blind to our own violence? What would work to get men to see they go on killing us with their learned blindness to fear, grief, and non-violent sweet rage, to nurturing, vulnerability, weakness? If they'd accept humiliation--humbling, a better word maybe--gladly, it could open their eyes.

"Open my eyes," I said, and I have had to accept what feels like humiliation to this white-raised Inbetween kid. It wasn't a choice at first. I grew up in so many different places, it was adapt or die, and adapting if you're a child means keeping quiet, watching, learning without thinking. Realizing first as a teenager that lifelong traveling means I am homeless in a profound sense made me deeply unhappy for a long time. Eternal outsider among the Cornish whose land gave me birth, more so among Americans even though they have no roots of their own, in a class with Paula Gunn Allen and a group of dykes who took me in joyfully, in Hawai'i whose first people know they are of the land and keep it close as the source of their uniqueness. Here I have learned much.

"Nobody's listening to me." "It's because you're white." Accept that. Let it in. "I've been reading The Primal Mind by Jamake Highwater. What an amazing book! I'm going to use it in the dissertation." "Wasn't he shown to be a fake a couple of years ago? I seem to remember reading something. I'll look it up for you." A fake? What does that mean about me? I thought he was so wonderful. Thought he was saying things all in one place that I believed were true but hadn't seen gathered together before. I am dashed to the ground. Indeed. Am I a fake? Am I pretending to knowledge I don't really have? Am I a wannabe? The shame is too much. I can't write for a couple of months but I've learned more: what I think I know is suspect. My knowing is suspect when it comes to cultures that are not mine. My sureness and joy at finding someone indigenous who echoes what I know... What pain to find out that my sureness and joy have betrayed me. How thankful I am for kind friends who don't hate me for my blind stupidness.

I write a 30-page introduction to my dissertation on Inbetween writers from indigenous cultures who can be seen as doorways to understanding both sides they come from, whether by blood, or, in Joyce's case, by language alone: Mary TallMountain, Joe Balaz, and James Joyce. I hand the chapter to my Samoan friend Epi Enari, who I know will be scrupulously honest with me. She writes at the beginning of her four-page response:

Why write about others?

As far as I'm concerned, western scholars have reaped so much off the backs of indigenous peoples, as if their (western) forebears had/have not done enough damage to their former colonial "subjects" physically, politically, mindsetly, languagely, and otherwise.

Stunned again, I know I can't write what I was going to write. Why do I have to listen? Maybe it's because I know what it feels like to be an outsider to the mainstream of a culture. I know what it's like not to fit in, to be picked on because it's obvious I'm different. As a friend, Epi spent quite a lot of time telling me experiences as a brown person among white people. Some of them lie shockingly close to the bone among us white scholars. Why would I not listen? Lynette has told me experiences of hers and of her son, of her husband. I've listened. Why would I not? These are my friends. They are the ones who've been there for me when I needed an arm round me, who've opened the doors and pulled me in to their circles, who've risked my rejecting them for their honesty.

So, after a couple more months, I pick myself up and begin again. Now what? I decide to examine that question Epi has asked: Why do western scholars keep writing about indigenous people, keep on recuperating the study under different names? Why aren't we satisfied with studying ourselves? And what about me?

     
   

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)