Ontological Openness on the Lurujarri Dreaming Trail: a Methodology for Decolonising Research

LCJ 22 front cover

Nia Emmanouil

LCJ: Special Issue: Decolonising Research Practices, 22, pp. 82-97

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Emmanouil, N. (2017). Ontological Openness on the Lurujarri Dreaming Trail: a Methodology for Decolonising Research. Learning Communities: International Journal of Learning in Social Contexts [Special Issue: Decolonising Research Practices], 22, 82-97. DOI: https://doi.org/10.18793/LCJ2017.22.08



The Lurujarri Dreaming Trail is an ancestral dreaming track near Broome in the Kimberley region of north-western Australia. Walked each barrgana season by Goolarabooloo traditional custodians and non-Indigenous people, this trail was also recently the site of a major land use dispute. Conflicts over what the land is and how it should be valued have defined Indigenoussettler relations since the first wave of colonisation of Australia’s First Peoples and their ancestral estates (Wilson & Ellender, 2002). At the heart of these conflicts are different ways of conceptualising and relating to the land, and ultimately, divergent ontologies. This paper reflects on my doctoral research and the recent dispute in the Kimberley which foregrounded my research, to contribute to conversations on how research methodology can recognise the ontological politics (Verran, 2007) enacted in place. It explores how I, as an ethnographic researcher, used ontological openness to work ethically and productively with the different realities being performed in place. It also explores the broader implications of this approach in terms of decolonising research practice and supporting respectful dialogue between Indigenous and Western peoples and realities.


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