Cultural Capacity and Development; the case for flexible, interdisciplinary research in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island communities

lcj-19-coverSam Osborne

LCJ: Special Edition: Synthesis & Integration, 19, pp. 46-63
http://doi.org/10.18793/LCJ2016.19.04

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Osborne, S. (2016). Cultural Capacity and Development; the case for flexible, interdisciplinary research in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island communities. Learning Communities: International Journal of Learning in Social Contexts [Special Issue: Synthesis & Integration], 19, 46-63. DOI: http://doi.org/10.18793/LCJ2016.19.04.

 

Abstract

Policies in relation to remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities tend to adopt a logic of intervention, where current policy discourse has been narrowed to measures of school attendance, workforce participation and community safety (see Gordon, 2015). In this context, culture is sometimes viewed as unimportant, or even a problem to be overcome within efforts to ‘Close the Gap’ (Abbott, 2015) between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and other Australians. This paper draws on the work of Arjun Appadurai, who argues that strengthening cultural capacity, more specifically, the ‘capacity to aspire’ and ‘voice’ (Appadurai, 2004, p. 66) generates future-oriented thinking, foundational to notions of development. 

Two case studies are shared as examples of remote community research methodology in practice and where the logic of strengthening cultural capacity has been applied. In each case, this approach has required flexibility, working across research disciplines, and complex negotiations across points of significant epistemological difference as local voices and aspirations are privileged. Methodological adjustments are required and negotiated for strengthening local voices, language and conceptual development in each case, and the emergence of a language of aspiration and future thinking informs the analysis. 

Finally, in arguing for institutional structures that might assist in strengthening cultural capacity in remote communities, the concept of a tristate hub is proposed. Such a model offers potential for ‘decolonial knowledge-making’ (Nakata et al., 2012) and pursuing research-informed social and economic justice in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.   

 

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