Category Archives: Theory
I’ve been going back over Somerville’s writing in her Body / Landscape Journals (1999). My main question is why does Somerville frame her relationships as ‘body/place connections’? Is this the same as what others have framed as people-place? Is she responding to a dualism by not ‘perpetuating the Cartesian split between mind and body’? (Liz Ferrier, 1990: 182). S suggested that it might be a reaction to the dominant focus society has on the mind. A coming back to a different way of knowing that is not purely intellectual.
At one point Somerville (1999: 14) writes ‘I become so flat I am the rock, body blends into its surface, tufts of soft green moss around my edges and voices of children playing over me. I am the surface of the earth and they are playing on my edges.’ Not only does Somerville reflect on the experiences of her body, but she suggests through metaphor that body (her body) is landscape, drawing close the idea of expressing being through a non-Western metaphysics.
Somerville (1999: 5) draws on the work of Liz Ferrier (1990) who suggests that ‘Postcolonial transformations require new ways of understanding and representing ourselves in space… [these] involve, in part, inscribing the body in place.’ Ferrier (1990) seems to be pushing for the possibility of
‘body knowledge‘ which I interpret as a whole/integrated way of knowing which is intuitive.
Somerville raises some questions that have been dwelling in my mind space for a while:
‘What stories does mine make space for and which ones does it displace? There is still an overarching sense that all landscape is marked by Aboriginal stories and there has been no resolution to the questions whose land? and whose story can be told?… Does my story write out another story? Does it make room for multiple stories? Can your story be written in here? Is it a postcolonial space?’ (Somerville, 1999: 5).
There are some important questions that arise for me out of reading this, the first is about representation and the post-colonial politics/process of doing this with other people’s stories. Another centers on how I conceptualise the existence of multiple stories and how they interact; and/or whether I focus on stories that are created through collective acts. Also, I am not sure why Somerville has chosen to use the term landscape instead of country / place / land. I have a negative reaction to the use of the word landscape when talking about connection. Perhaps it is because I feel like the word itself detaches me from place – I look at landscapes, I am an observer, not necessarily a participant. I am aware that Somerville has tried to inscribe her body into the landscapes that she writes about, so she must have a more intimate relationship with this word/idea.
I’ve come back to a discussion about hope between Belgium philosopher Isabelle Stengers and Mary Zournazi. There are some key ideas in this conversation that I’d like to unpack and explore, as they might open up my thinking on generative acts of being with.
Stengers (2002: 245) refers to Alfred North Whitehead’s idea of interstices (spaces between…):
‘life is always lurking in the interstices, in what usually escapes description because our words refer to stabilised identities and functioning.’
I often feel like there are palpable connections in places, but that language of the material (body- country) doesn’t adequately describe what I am feeling/sensing. Maybe there are some special glasses out there that I can put on which will make all of these felt things visible!
I like that Stengers (2002: 247) validates feeling in this next quote. Integration of thought and feeling, an intuitive knowing perhaps, seems to be a way of being similar to what Scharmer (2007) speaks about when he uses the term presencing:
‘You cannot have true thinking without feeling – and what that means is that true thinking is about transforming yourself. But the very fact that we can be transformed by what we encounter, or what we participate in, is a matter of hope.’
I’m still not sure of what Stengers’ definition of hope is though and I’m not too sure on what mine is either; something to contemplate. I want to really explore the idea of transformation and how it emerges. If I were to look more specifically at the transformation of a worldview, my worldview, I guess this whole process of exploration through ‘research’ (along with the ideas, experiences, events, places, relationships, …. which I’m interacting with) is facilitating some kind of Nia Evolution!
I’ve just been reading through Singing the land, singing the land and came across some great stuff on metaphors. I’d put my reading on metaphor aside, but something keeps calling me back to it.
Verran (1987: 7) writes about the ‘transparency of metaphors’ in the English language and suggests that the significance of their use is more profound than realised:
‘The English word ‘metaphor’ is derived from ancient roots: meta meaning change or transformation; phor meaning to carry. By carrying meaning into a changed context, we may construct new knowledge, think new thoughts.’
I would really like to explore this idea of metaphor being a vehicle for transforming thought… and does this extend to transformation of worldview and ways of being in the world?
I wrote this a few weeks ago, but forgot to publish it…
A deep resonance felt in my bones since coming back home.
The Island is full of conversation,
the ocean invites me to sit and watch through the cycles of sun and moon.
The surrender I feel here in the place is deep,
a safety to unfold, unfurl and listen.
A beautiful ABC radio documentary on listening to country… deep listening.
Yorta Yorta woman Lou Bennett talks about, “Retrieving, reclaiming, regenerating,” Indigenous languages and what they represent, a unique cultural way of listening and speaking the world into being.
“When I speak in my language, it tastes like honey…” Lou Bennett
This all takes me back to earlier exploration into how language shapes our worldview our way of being in the world.
“Language is what connects us to country…” Doris Paton
‘… from semiotics is kept the crucial practice to grant texts and discourses the ability to define also their context, their authors -in the text-, their readers -in fabula- and even their own demarcation and metalangage. All the problems of the analyst are shifted to the “text itself” without ever being allowed to escape into the context.’
Help!!! I either need to sit and contemplate this state for a while longer and have someone translate it for me. Calling all those who view with an ANT perspective!!!
I’m at a point in which I am questioning more deeply what it is I want to do in terms of my work. Still (and by necessity) feeling uncomfortable about wanting to work with Indigenous research participants/co-researcher. I am very conscious about the ethics of working with Indigenous people and engaging with their knowledge and beliefs… fears of unwittingly appropriating ideas and perpetuating colonial practices. I want to find a way of collaborating with Indigenous people that comes from a place of shared possibility, respect and deep listening, where IP is maintained. I want to help conceive a narrative that is shared, that speaks about collective generative practices on being with country.
The more I read about the ‘space between’ Indigenous and non-Indigenous knowledge systems I realise that this concept may not be the space I need to be working within. As much as I initially resisted engaging with Addelson’s ideas on Collectivist Moral Theory, I am now gravitating toward her question of ‘how do we live?’ What are we or can we be co-creating that isn’t necessarily ‘a place that lies between’? I know that M would tell me to focus on the act itself, not the time and space that presuppose the acts themselves. When I put myself in this concept now I feel like I am on the crest of a wave about to break. I can feel the power of the wave and sense the possibilities of where the wave could take me – down the face, dive under, bomb out. But the essential thing is that there is momentum, something is happening and transformation is inevitable.
I’m not sure when I first heard about Dadirri (deep listening) as described by Miriam Rose Ungunmarr (1999), maybe it was in a conversation with B when we were talking about how to facilitate the kind of education for young people which creates a space for this experience. In the past few blogs I have tried to seek out and write about a space in which being with occurs… I think that my thoughts have been quite conceptual and have lacked the grounding that comes with actual experience. So I am back to revisiting deep listening and feel like I should dwell in this space, one which I have a tangible and lived experience of. In her exploration of deep listening, Brearley (2009: 43) refers to the work of Scharmer (2009) and talks about it as, ‘a generative form of listening, which opens a space for something new to be created.’
Are generative spaces like deep listening the fertile soil in which cultural transformations take shape? Something to explore… There are so many contexts in which deep listening could potentially influence process and the quality of relationships/dynamics.
Whilst I was reluctant at the beginning of my Masters to acknowledge deep listening as a research method, it seems like I can’t move forward without this critical practice:
‘Taking the time to invest in relationships lies at the heart of deep listening… [it] is underpinned by the concepts of community and reciprocity’ (Brearley, 2009: 44).
For me the relationships I cultivate and nurture with research collaborators/participants are paramount. In the past when I have spoken about remaining objective in my research, I have interpreted that to mean that I need to create a separation between myself and that which I am exploring. Brearley (2009) makes reference to Bishop (1996: 23-24) who attempts to address this issue of distance:
“As researchers ‘we need to acknowledge our participatory connectedness with the other research participants and promote a sense of knowing in a way, which denies distance and separation and promotes commitment and engagement.”
I would love to hear from people who have used the practice of dadirri/deep listening to create a collaborative research space.
For months now I have been struggling to define a research space, one that is challenging, ethical, culturally sensitive and transformative (both personally and socially). My initial thoughts of working only with Yolŋu women as participants felt very uncomfortable, as it should; questioning, would I be able to hear, comprehend, or even glimpse the philosophy that underpins concepts which are uniquely Yolŋu? Coming from a western world view, was it possible for me to present Yolŋu ideas without changing/simplifying their meaning?
Verran (2010) and Christie (2010) both write about the challenging task faced by the translator, particularly when they are approaching a language and culture rooted in a different epistemology. With my current level of understanding of Yolŋu languages and cultural concepts, I have felt more inhibited than excited by the prospect of dwelling in this research space. On the flip side, Christie (2010: 69) reminds me of the epiphanies that can explode into my consciousness when leaning about a Yolŋu concept for the first time: