I am a late adopter of Twitter (r3x0r — feel free to follow me), and one of the nice things about being late to the party is that all of your old friends have already arrived and had a few drinks by the time you find a place to park. I’ve been trading tweets lately with Tad McIlwraith about some books on methods — particularly books on anthropological-y methods by indigenous scholars and activists who have better things to do than be anthropologists.
For many years the gold standard for those of us living and working in the Pacific has been Linda Tuhawai Smith’s Decolonizing Methodologies. Smith’s book has been trailblazing, but it is also in many ways a first step — like Lassiter’s volume on collaborative anthropology, a lot of the book is taken up not so much with a discussion of methods per se as groundclearing: building a genealogy for your study (Lassiter) or thinking through what it means to decolonize one’s self (Smith) (although more recently she has hooked up with the Denzin/Lincoln crowd to produce a Handbook on Critical and Indigenous Methodologies I’d like to read if ever appears at a non-ridiculous price).
In comparison, Research Is Ceremony seems focused on how, concretely, one could do ethnographic research with a distinctive indigenous twist. At times, this sort of thing can become too New Agey for my taste, but as far as I can tell (having not read the whole thing yet) Wilson does a good job of wearing his heart on his sleeve and providing good insights on how to do research.
The other volume — which Tad is promoting heavily — is Living Proof: The Essential Data Collection Guide for Use-And-Occupancy Map Surveys. This volume, published by the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, basically outlines a method for people map their land and make their claims to it ‘legible’ on their own terms. Again, I haven’t had a chance to look at it, but it looks really interesting and useful.
Even though most anthropologists are not indigenous, I think it is really important that we keep up date with work being done on indigenous methods for several reasons: to make sure our discipline is a place indigenous people want to come study, to make sure we understand what is going on with other people who are committed to ethnographic and qualitative methods, and finally (of course) to learn something new. It would be great if in the future anthropologists working in indigenous communities (or pretty much anywhere) could learn to use and spread these methods, not as yet another case of appropriating indigenous culture for our own ends, but as a way of learning from people who are our equals and perhaps even, methodologically, our superiors.