Why Now?

This week’s readings seem to focus on how people are represented in research.  The study by Rodaldo questioned, “Why does the highly serious classic ethnographic idiom almost inevitably become parodic when used as self-description?” (Rosaldo, 200 , p. 48) Our descriptive language in ethnography used to describe things was distancing and “dehumanizing” (Rosaldo, 200 , p. 54).  We learned that, “There is no single recipe for representing other cultures” (Rosaldo, 200 , p. 61)    Similarly, there was a study done on the “peer effects to make classrooms more efficient and equal” (Pivovarova, 2014, p.2) We learned that,  parents will pay for their children to be with better performing peers but it may not really matter as much as they think (Pivovarova, 2014, p.2).  The research has shown that “Peer effect is achievement specific, the diversity of abilities in the classroom does not seem to be a factor that determines own achievement gain of a student.” (Pivovarova, 2014, p.3) In this example parents are attempting to distance their children from under achieving students.

Indigenous peoples are defined as people that still maintain and practice some of the culture and society of the people that once inhabited the country before colonization.  Evidently, researcher’s are realizing that the population of indigenous people is shrinking and with it human history.  For example, notice “the underlying processes of cultural, economic, social, and political displacement that lead to language loss- what some scholars have labeled linguistic genocide” (McCarty, 2005,p.2)  Preservation appears to be the motivation for the research and support of indigenous people.  Why else ask the question, “What does self-determination mean for the world’s 300 million Indigenous peoples?”(McCarty, 2005,p.1)  And why do we wait until now to ask this question? This is an example were people are attempting to distance themselves from the rest of society to preserve their culture.

Is there a renewed possibility for change in human activity where the dominant culture will give up on its demands for conformity?  “The coincidence of the change of circumstances and of human activity can be conceived and rationally understood only as revolutionizing practice.”(Lave, 2012, p.158)  People and civilizations have been making attempts to divide and conquer since history began.  Maybe it is primal instinct of self preservation/survival of the fittest that is the cause for the number of laws written and broken by people every year.  It seems that when something new or different is revealed, people must learn about it, master it and control it.  Only now are we realizing “that anthropology and anthropologists have historically been complicit in colonizing projects that have undermined Indigenous epistemologies and human rights” (McCarty, 2005,p.1).  In other ways, research has divided and sought domination by its observations where the “researched is the object/other/subject whose existence is described /prescribed by members of the dominant culture model of knowing.” (Denzin, Lincoln and Smith, 2008,  p.86) The challenge will be to find a method of change that will avoid revolution and seek cohabitation.

The International Society for Culture & Activity Research (ISCAR) is asking “what is needed for engagement in a political struggle for a different, more inclusive, just and habitable world.” (Lave, 2012, p.156) First, we must recognize “that the conduct of research is an engagement in political practice.”(Lave, 2012, p.169)  Second, “Each of us has much to learn, but together we can help ourselves and one another to understand more adequately our own political situations and struggles and those of the people whose lives we study.”(Lave, 2012, p.169)


Denzin, N., Lincoln, Y. & Tuhiwai Smith, L. (2008). Handbook of Critical and Indigenous

Methodologies. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.

Lave, J. (2012). Changing Practice. Mind, Culture and Activity, 19(2), 156171.

McCarty, T. L. (2005). Indigenous Epistemologies and Education SelfDetermination,

Anthropology, and Human Rights. Anthropology and Education Quarterly, 36(1), 17.


Pivovarova, M. (2014). Should We Track or Should We Mix Them? Mary Lou Fulton

Teachers College. Tempe: Arizona State University.


Rosaldo, R. (1994). Culture and Truth: The remaking of social analysis. Boston, MA: Beacon

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