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Negotiating Ethical Spaces for Indigenous Knowledge Production. Global Forum on Bioethics and Research 3-5 December 2008. Outline of Presentation. Te Hau Mihi Ata Indigenous knowledge production Negotiating ethical spaces Guidelines on Pacific Health Research.

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negotiating ethical spaces for indigenous knowledge production

Negotiating Ethical Spaces for Indigenous Knowledge Production

Global Forum on Bioethics and Research

3-5 December 2008

outline of presentation
Outline of Presentation

Te Hau Mihi Ata

Indigenous knowledge production

Negotiating ethical spaces

Guidelines on Pacific Health Research

te hau mihi ata matauranga maori science
Te Hau Mihi AtaMatauranga Maori & Science

Explores the connections between matauranga Maori and science through progressive dialogue

Aims are to understand the interface between knowledge systems AND

Develop tools to facilitate dialogue, and promote transformational thinking and innovation

indigenous knowledge production
Indigenous Knowledge Production
  • Draws on the indigenous reference
  • Lived knowledge – maintained through use
  • Greater awareness of transmission rather than production
  • Evolves in response to changing environments
  • Timeless appearance despite generational interpretation
beyond dialogue
Beyond Dialogue
  • “The truth revealed in dialogue is an impetus to action; a true idea is a principle of action. This is why genuine dialogue leads to a change of attitude” (Mitias & Al Jasmi 2004)
  • Knowledge exchange is an emotional as well as cognitive process
  • It must foster interpathic as well as intellectual understanding
principles for engagement
Principles for engagement
  • Mana enhancing
  • Meaningful relationship so that there’s no negative reaction. Pro-action
    • manaakitanga, whakawhanaungatanga, makohakoha, houkura, ensuring safety
  • Respect (tootooaa) for knowledge, practice and individual -
    • He pukepuke moana e eketia, he tihi maunga e pikitia, he tihi tangata e kore e pikitia , he tapu.
    • He pa tikapu e eketia, he paharakeke e kore, he tapu
guidelines on pacific health research 2004
Guidelines on Pacific Health Research (2004)
  • Aimed to use Pacific world-views as primary reference points
  • The term ‘Pacific’ refers in this context to the shared cultural heritage of a diverse range of Pacific peoples resident in New Zealand, which is predominantly Polynesian (94%).
  • The largest Pacific ethnic groups in New Zealand are (in order of size): Samoan, Cook Islands Maori, Tongan, Niue, Fijian, Tokelauan and Tuvaluan. However, the term Pacific also tends to be inclusive of Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Tahiti, Hawai’i, Palau, Solomon Islands, Bougainville, Palau, Papua New Guinea and other Pacific populations who are from the wider Pacific region, also known as Oceania.
Imagine, if you will, a worldview that understands the environment, humans, the animate and the inanimate – all natural life - as sourced from the same divine origin, imbued with life force, interrelated and genealogically connected.

In this worldview, the interrelationship between all things between people, the land, sea, sky, rocks, plants, surrounds is sacred and cosmologically determined.

Equation and alignment with other people and parts of life is integral to an ordered system of interconnection

(Tamasese Efi 2007).

reconstruction negotiation
Reconstruction / Negotiation
  • Pacific research will be underpinned by Pacific cultural values and beliefs and will be conducted in accordance with Pacific ethical standards values and aspirations

Obviously we cannot recreate our traditional Pacific communities in New Zealand but we can reclaim a sense of community through the identification of ‘core values’ that are consistent with the rebuilding and reconstruction of relationships that promote health and well-being and for all our people

(Dr ‘Ana Maui Taufe’ulungaki 2004)

“An exploration into Oceania’s library, the knowledge its people possess.”

SUBRAMANI 2001, p. 150

“The process of appropriation by cultures of their own rich genius.”



Such work begins from ethnic-specific starting points of










which provide rich sources of analytical, theoretical and conceptual knowledge and tools, as well as an abundant mine of Pacific core values and ethics

“What good is political independence if we remain colonized epistemologically?”

GEGEO, 2001, p278

the nature of an ethical relationship
Relationship as the spatial site of all ethical conduct

Va, the space between, not empty space but the space that relates

“The nature of an ethical relationship”

Va is the space between,

the between-ness, not empty space, not space that separates but space that relates, that holds separate entities and things together

in the unity-in-all,

the space that is context,

giving meaning to things.

A well known Samoan expression is ‘la teu le va’, cherish/nurse/care for the va, the relationships. This is crucial in communal cultures that value group, unity, more than the individual person / creature / thing in terms of group, in terms of va, relationships.”

Wendt, 2002

overarching principle
Overarching Principle


To develop, cultivate & maintain ethical relationships is integral to all ethical practice

10 principles



Meaningful engagement

Cultural competency





Capacity Building

10 principles


With the aim of articulating the features of ethical research relationships with Pacific peoples living in Aotearoa New Zealand



Neutral “negotiated space” for






Vitalisation and restoration of indigenous knowledge systems

Other knowledge paradigms as source of alternative ideas, values

Expansion, innovation, change and exchange maintain the relevance, and therefore survival, of a cultural knowledge, ethics and value system.



If research targets the Pacific population,

Pacific peoples should participate

at all levels of the research



Recognising that Pacific research relationships are often based on structural societal inequalities, care must always be taken to protect those less powerful



Research should not be detrimental to research participants, as individuals, or as members of an identified ethnic group



All research relationships are implicated with both rights and responsibilities to the other

deliberation negotiation
Deliberation / Negotiation
  • What should have continuing energy from traditional paradigms?
  • What are our contemporary concerns regarding social justice, participation in society?
  • What are the epistemic sources of the values we are upholding as “Pacific”?
  • Do we have the power to redefine, re-imagine and re-shape ourselves?
negotiated space the relief of spatial metaphors
Negotiated Space: The relief of spatial metaphors
  • “The use of space is a necessary accompaniment of encounters, providing not only physical territory but also the psychological space to rehearse identity and to confirm the relationship between self and others” (Durie 2002:20).
hrc guidelines
  • Despite sourcing and seeking to learn from in-depth and coherent understandings of the indigenous knowledge paradigms of the Pacific, it was not constrained by what could be found there
  • A negotiation between two divergent and sometimes incongruent knowledge and ethics systems
  • Within a neutral but purposeful space, the expert panel was able to locate shared ideas and ethical values, as well as identify and confront contradictions.
  • The ‘negotiated space’ between Pacific and western ethical principles provided the conceptual room and terms of engagement that allowed for epistemic and cultural exchange, expansion and the development of new philosophies.