Category Archives: Research Methodology

‘Seeing’ the whole and the collective consciousness

I have been following the work of Otto Scharmer and Peter Senge (Theory U and the Presencing Institute) since I first started by PhD and have found many parallels between their work on shifting the collective consciousness and what is emerging in my own research. There are many aspects of the video below which I could highlight here, but the one I wish to give attention to in this post is that of ‘seeing’. In this conversation between Scharmer and Senge, they discuss the idea of ‘seeing’, both as a metaphor and literal experience, in relation to groups of people/collectives becoming aware of the collective – they talk about the system becoming aware of itself. The precursor to this ‘seeing’ is the presencing of the collective; otherwise stated, going into a space of silence and deep listening, which allows people to tune into what is seeking to emerge. Senge talks about how he is encountering communities all over the world who are having these emergent experiences. What I love about this conversation is the way it challenges the way of being in and with the world which has become so integrated, that it is now invisible. To be with the unknown and to let it precipitate and come into being, relies upon a very different cosmology to the one that most western societies operate by. The attention that Senge gives to feeling, not just thinking, is key. Many Indigenous societies hold fundamental the notion that feeling (liyan, intuition, gut feeling, somatic knowing, attunement… there are so many ways to describe it) is paramount to being in and with the world. The work by Scharmer and Senge makes a contribution towards making visible this way of being (ontology) for non-Indigenous people without appropriating Indigenous wisdom.

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The Land makes us

I have returned to the literature of Kombu-merri woman Mary Graham, who writes about storytelling as an Indigenous methodology that is grounded in place. Graham (2009) writes:

The inclusion of Place in a story provides an authentic explanation of how and why something comes into the world. This in turn provides a balance between agency, whether human or spiritual, and point of origin or Place. Balance and re­balance is achieved when Place is used like an ontological compass (p. 75).


Place, as an Aboriginal category, implies that there is no division between the observing mind and anything else: there is no “external world” to inhabit. There are distinctions between the physical and the spiritual, but these aspects of existence continually interpenetrate each other. There is never a barrier between the mind and the Creative; the whole repertoire of what is possible continually presents or is expressed as an infinite range of Dreamings (Graham 2009, p. 76).

I like the way that Graham addresses dualism and creates metaphors for a unified existence between people-place. She speaks beautifully about the agency of Land in her interview with Richard Fidler on ABC Radio.

The way Graham speaks about Land – as a great life force and the holder of knowledge – reminds me of Paddy Roe’s description of Living Country – land that is alive and has the agency to act upon us and reveal itself to us when we are ready to learn. In, Listen to the People, Listen to the Land, Frans Hoogland (1999) describes Living Country as:

… where the land is whole and complete; where the interaction between people and land is alive through law and culture; where the spirit of the land is ‘standing up’, and ‘vibrant’ (p. 30).

The dynamic relationship between people and place is most often depicted from the perspective of human direct experience by non-Indigenous writers. It is so important that Indigenous people’s perspectives rise to the surface to voice their perspectives and give voice to the Land. Graham talks about the recognition that Land has of its people in her interview:

…The Land knows its own people, because it hears the language of its own people and it’s, I know it sounds a bit odd, but it’s sweat, it recognises the sweat of people and they know, ‘Ah yes, that’s the sweat of the people, our people, my people, the people that belong to this area and that sweat, that other people’s sweat I don’t recognise that,’ that land is saying…

Her edict, I am located therefore I am, puts place at the heart of identity and belonging, and I am reminded again of what is slowly coming up and becoming visible, seeking to emerge; narratives of belonging for settler people and subsequent generations through a deep acknowledgement that we are becoming of this place and are becoming of this home, but based on a deep respect and reverence of Indigenous peoples who have always been at home because this country is theirs.

Graham, M 1999, ‘Some Thoughts about the Philosophical Underpinnings of Aboriginal Worldviews’, Worldviews: Global Religions, Culture & Ecology, vol. 3, no. 2, p. 105.

Roe, P & Hoogland, F 1999, ‘Black and white, a trail to understanding’, in J Sinatra & P Murphy (eds), Listen to the People, Listen to the Land, Melbourne University Press, Carlton, pp. 11-30.

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Intertextual resonance

I am writing about storytelling as research methodology and method at the moment and came across these words from Amy Ku’uleialoha Stillman and Jeannette Mageo:

‘Through generating new meaning structures, members of a group who share intragroup memories enjoy the potential for creating new ways of interpreting and acting upon relationships with each other and the world they share. Much of this generative work is done through what Mageo [2001] calls intertextual resonance: “When people hear a story or a story fragment, they also hear echoes of other stories.”‘

Instantly I was reminded of the time I shared with my friend Luke a story about an old feeling on country coming and paying me a visit. He too had felt something similar in the same place. As well as intertextual resonance, it makes me wonder whether there are actors (maybe entities in country) that appear in one story, disappear for a while and reappear somewhere completely different. Slipper and hard to describe things that we don’t always have the words to describe… barely perceptible.

Stillman, AKu 2001, ‘Re-membering the History of the Hawaiian Hula’, in JM Mageo (ed.), Cultural Memory: Reconfiguring History and Identity in the Postcolonial Pacific, University of Hawai’i Press, Honolulu.

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Trying to see through the methodological fog

Steps in the process… all of them matter, not just the initial direct experience of being with country. A chain of performances of story, a transmutation of experiences of being with through stories and their performances and re-performances, as actors appear, disappear and re-appear with other new and old actors. The stories do different work, they don’t just have a singular purpose or a singular audience or meaning. We become inscribed in stories and are ‘made’ through or emerge from stories. Our connections are articulated and are there on the ‘outside’ for us to see. It is a process of making things visible (and maybe other things invisible).

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