Fieldwork today or cultural theft ? (part 4)

Mark P. Line mline at
Thu Feb 6 23:03:08 UTC 1997

I'm still trying to make up my mind on how I see this ethical question, so
I'm asking here for a little clarification of your position, Peter.

Peter Keegan wrote:
> When these 2 individuals found that a "Maori" from New Zealand was
> present, 1 suddenly left the conference, the other promptly changed the
> topic of her paper. Quite frankly, we Maori were disgusted and offended
> that two-Non Maori (I think both North Americans) would even dare to
> give papers on topics they know little about.  Surely, we Maori are
> better informed to talk about the Kohanga Reo movement than Non-Maori.

1. Do you know for a fact that the two non-Maori "knew little about" the

2. Is it possible that what they _did_ know might have been consistent
with that of a Maori, that what they knew was more than the other
non-Maori participants at the conference, and that therefore their
presentations (other things being equal) might have been justified?

3. Assuming that the two non-Maori participants were qualified to speak
about the movement from their own perspectives (whatever that might be),
do you believe that the presence of the Maori's perspective in the
conference program automatically disqualified every other possible
perspective from the program?

4. Is it possible that the two non-Maori removed their original papers
from the conference out of respect for the greater first-hand knowledge
they might have assumed the Maori participant to possess, rather than out
of any kind of shame, guilt or other shortcoming?

> At the same conference there were white Australians talking about the
> situation of Australian Aboriginal languages. Who gave the white
> Australians this right ?

Can you expand on your belief that the right to talk about a certain topic
is dependent on one's skin-color?

> Why where there no Australian Aboriginals at that conference?

Do you believe that they were prevented from attending, or is it possible
that the absence of Australian Aboriginals at the conference was either a
chance happening (perhaps there were also no Formosans at the conference,
for example) or due to other causes (boycott, perhaps)?

> Do you think educated Australian Aboriginals like having white
> Australians telling the world about their languages and cultures?
> (perhaps this should read misrepresenting their languages and cultures
> !)

Can you expand on your belief that an Australian Aboriginal's dislike of
misrepresentation is dependent on the skin-color of the person doing the

Do you know for a fact that Australian Aboriginal languages and cultures
were misrepresented by the white Australians speaking at this conference?

-- Mark

(Mark P. Line   ----   Bellevue, Washington   ----   mline at

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