Collaborative Methodology with Indigenous Communities: A Framework for Addressing Power Inequalities

Collaborative Methodology with Indigenous Communities: A Framework for Addressing Power Inequalities

By Mneesha Gellman, Emerson College

Collaborative methodology may take a range of forms across many different kinds of research projects. This article explores the importance of collaboration with indigenous communities who are key stakeholders in research, meaning that they ultimately are the ones living with the reality that is being researched and thus have a vested interest in the research process and findings. At the same time, there are real logistical challenges to collaboration that are worth discussion. How is trust built in relation to researcher positionality? How much control are researchers willing to relinquish to facilitate truly collaborative processes? Empirically, this article draws on a multi-year project on youth identity consolidation and resistance to culturecide – cultural genocide – with the Yurok Tribe of Northern California and a Zapotec community in Oaxaca, Mexico. Across two Indigenous communities and four public high schools, collaboration has been a vital identifying element of the research, but also sometimes posed challenges. The article discusses collaboration processes, particularly for multi-sited comparative researchers. It also identifies best practices in collaboration that can help researchers desist from neocolonial practices and move towards researching with, rather than on, Indigenous communities.