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Saturday, March 1, 2014

Who's Writing Your (His)story?

For my senior project two years ago, I began researching inwardly and reflecting on the question, “how do you create balance in your life?” This question came to me through the process of journaling, and conversing with close friends. I came to find that listening to the community of friends and acquaintances around me, they were also experiencing similar situations and questions in their lives. This made researching more potent as I journeyed to find the multitudinous answers that comprise this query.
As I began to focus more intently on the question at hand, I found myself gathering friends to walk with me on this expedition into investigating our own, individual livelihoods and how they comprised myriads of ways to pondering and implementing a practice to bring more balance into our lives. We met four hours a week as I facilitated them through improvisational theater and dance scores which we used to open up our minds, hearts and bodies to further explore and deepen our group dynamic as well as our personal journey...alone, together.
What we came to find as a group were different stories relating back to what we find fulfilling and how we get the fulfillment we need from friends, lovers, family, nature and ourselves. Through meeting twice a week, as a group we started to discover the dynamics between us, and characters began to emerge. A story based on personal life experiences was reinterpreted through dance, music and dialogue. The story came out of a calling for finding my center, my agency, my voice, and developing a performance around our personal and collective struggles as a group. Though I cannot say the original question was answered, it was explored through movement and dialogue, while opening up spaces that are not necessarily open for investigation in the meandering of everyday living.
The process was a fulfilling experience, encompassing dark, sad, humorous and mundane moments in a human’s life. The art of balance is a pendulum in constant swing, and researching this question through my and other peoples lived experiences was a profound connecting piece of exploring myself more thoroughly and looking at the world around me in different perspectives.  
Now I am currently in the Social Justice and Human Rights Masters Program. This program seeks to educate students on why environmental, economic, political, and social inequalities exist and and how ordinary people can make change. Learning histories of globalization is a major component to understanding how the United States, as well as the continuing globalization of the world, creates and recreates our society and how it is presently situated. I've been re-learning and re-imagining research as other scholars enlighten me in their respective disciplines. One author, Linda Tuhiwai Smith is an indigenous scholar who positions herself around critically examining Western research. The idea that history has a starting point, which is to say the history I learned, “1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue” claims that peoples histories didn’t exist and weren’t important until other people ‘discovered’ them.
The notion of a linearly structured history, is a strategy for creating a dominant culture, the dominant therefore being Western, and the subordinate being indigenous peoples who see their own history reflected through a Westernized lens. From this vantage point, Tuhiwai Smith  describes and advocates for a process of decolonizing research, which is founded in the understanding that systems of western knowledge production are both product and instrument of imperialism. She explains that there are many methodologies to decolonize the typical Western framework where we see that the Western archives of research have predominantly come from colonizers observations, telling and sharing indigenous histories that aren’t theirs to share.
Instead of taking ultimate validity or truth from what has been shared (or I would argue, told) with us through Western paradigms, we can begin to question the claims that have been made, and ultimately ask ourselves, "who has been writing our history?"  "why have they chosen to write it this way?" We can then continue to think and act in ways that support ongoing movements for decolonization, rather than perpetuating imperialism.
From the examples above, I am learning how to critically examine, analyze question and reflect on stories around me while continuing to find threads of resonance in the knowledge I will shortly be producing. There are many methods for researching, and my hope is that we can learn to understand and participate in research methods that are born from and accountable to decolonizing movements, which then serves purposes for alternative knowledge, and therefore alternative ways of living and doing things (p.34). There isn’t just one perspective of history, and together we can help those whose stories have been silenced, and rewrite, I mean reright the histories that have been fragmented (Tuhiwai Smith, p.28, 1999).

Which method will inform my research?!

Jennifer Iadevaia

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