Ethics, hegemonic whiteness, and the contested imagination of 'Aboriginal community' in social science research in Canada

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Berg, LD, Evans, M, Fuller, D & The Okanagan Urban Aboriginal Health Research Collective, Canada 2007, 'Ethics, hegemonic whiteness, and the contested imagination of 'Aboriginal community' in social science research in Canada', ACME: An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies, vol. 6, no. 3, pp. 395-410.

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This paper examines bureaucratic structures and the interplay of race, place and institutional ethics involved in a process of establishing a multi-cultural research project with Aboriginal peoples in a Canadian urban context. The paper focuses on the way that one of Canada's national research councils (SSHRC) has attempted to respond positively to contest the marginalization of Aboriginal people in research settings. In revising its research ethics policies to better protect Aboriginal peoples involved in research projects that it funds, SSHRC policy has had the somewhat contradictory effect of further marginalizing urban Aboriginal people. The paper is thus an attempt to illustrate empirically some of the power laden character of the ethics of 'participation'. A key point we wish to illustrate is that especially in Participatory Action Research, the who and the how of participation is never innocent or purely process driven, but rather always already power- full. These power relations have significant implications for the way that we should understand ethics as relational processes in research with Aboriginal and other indigenous peoples.

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The Okanagan Urban Aboriginal Health Research Collective is made up of researchers from the Ki-Low-na Friendship Centre, the Ooknakane Friendship Centre, the Vernon First Nation Friendship Centre and UBC. Members include: Wendy Antoine, Marcel Aubin, Lawrence Berg, Molly Brewer, Mike Evans, Stephen Foster, Peter Hutchinson, Donna Kurtz, Sheila Lewis, Carmella Alexis, Cam Martin, Cynthia Mathieson, Buffy Mills, Mary-Anne Murphy, Jessie Nyberg, Colin Reid, Dixon Sookraj, and Edna Terbasket. Duncan Fuller has a more indirect connection to this project, and his participation arose out of a number of discussions about the problematic character of ‘participation’ in PAR. These discussions led to his contributions as a co-author of this paper.

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