Chilisa, 2012

Chilisa, B. (2012). Indigenous research methodologies. Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE Publications.

Extracted Annotations (2019-10-18, 7:10:31 AM)

Researchers want to engage the researched in a conversation on what has been written about them and what dreams they have about improving their quality of life. This chapter critiques the dominant interview method from a postco­ lonial indigenous perspective and offers alternative interview strategies that reflect postcolonial indigenous worldviews. The critique relates to the asym­ metrical relations between the interviewer and the interviewee and among interviewees and to the dominance of Western academic disciplines' theories, terms, and concepts in shaping interview questions and analyzing interview transcripts. The chapter further discusses indigenous interview strategies, based on philosophic sagacity, that invoke indigenous worldviews of the col­ onized Other to inform the type of questions that can be asked and data anal­ ysis approaches that can be used.The alternative interview strategies require the researched to critique the literature written about them, to introduce the indigenous knowledge that informs their experiences, and to enter into a dialogue with the researcher on the researcher's questions of interest. (p. 3)


The interview has been defined as a purposeful conversation, usu­ally between two people (Bogdan & Biklen, 1982), or a conversation with a purpose (Lincoln & Guba, 1985). (p. 4)

The unstructured or nonstandardized interview. (p. 4)

The semistructured interview. (p. 4)

The structured or standardized interview. (p. 4)

Descriptive questions: (p. 5)

Structural questions: (p. 5)

Contrast questions: (p. 5)

Experience and behavior questions: (p. 5)

Opinion and value questions: (p. 5)

Feeling questions: (p. 5)

Knowledge questions: (p. 5)

Sensory questions: (p. 5)

Background and demographic information: (p. 5)


A postcolonial indigenous research paradigm offers other possible interview methods, which privilege relational ways of knowing that valorize respect for relations people have with one another and with the environment. (p. 5)

Another concern about the individual interview method has been the visibility of the researched in the finished research report. (p. 6)

In Chapter 4, you learned that a postcolonial indigenous paradigm favors using the names of everyone who participates in the research, if they permit it. This ensures that the researcher is accountable to the participants, and the participants are in turn accountable to their communities. For a post­ colonial indigenous perspective, information or stories told by participants lose their power if the storyteller is not known. (p. 6)

A Relational Interview Method:The Diviner/Client Construction of a Story (p. 6)

A Relational Interview Method:The Focused Life-Story Interview (p. 7)

Shane Edwards, Verne McManus, and Tim McCreanor (2005) described a method they call the focused life-story interview and how this method enabled each individual to construct his or her story in relation to the con­ nections he or she had with other people. (p. 7)

In keeping with the principles of a postcolonial indigenous research paradigm, the focused life-story interview method invokes relational ways of knowing to enable the use of an interview guide that brings to the discussion ways in which people are connected with one another and the environment, as well as topics absent from the standard vocabulary of academic disci­plines. (p. 8)

S. Edwards, V. McManus, & T. McCreanor (2005), "Collaborative Research Within Maori on Sensitive Issues: The Application of Tikanga and Kaupapa in Research on Maori Sudden Infant Death Syndrome," Social Policy Journal of New Zealand, 25, 88-104. (p. 8)

For many Maori researchers karakia plays a central part of research pedagogy. In traditional times all activity took place with karakia present throughout. The effect of successive colonial acts to limit connectedness to Maori spirituality meant that karakia did not and continues not to play a central role in the everyday lives of Maori as previously experienced. (p. 9)

Focused life story interviews are very appropriate for sensitive topics as they encourage a reflective, narrative style where the interviewee sets the pace and the interviewer listens, clarifies, probes, and possibly brings up topics which need to be covered in the interview that have not arisen spontaneously in the course of the conversation. (p. 9)

This interview method is also consistent with the prin­ciples that underpin a Kaupapa Maori research framework within which the mana of the participants and the information that has been shared is upheld, and our respect and appreciation for the contribution are conveyed. (p. 9)

To start the interviews, the participants were asked to con­struct an outline of their life, paying special attention to those aspects (themes) that relate to whakapapa, relationships, family structure, economic/employment issues, education, identity, sense of belonging, access to amenities and other aspects of community that impact on the health and well-being of whanau. (p. 10)

Philosophic Sagacity and the Interview Method (p. 10)

Another way to approach indigenous interviews is sagacity, a reflec­tive system of thought based on the wisdom and the traditions of people (Emagalit, 2001, p. 4). From this perspective, the theory of knowledge and questions about knowledge can be found in the wisdom and beliefs of wise elders of the communities, who have not been schooled in the formal educa­tion system (Kaphagawani & Malherbe, 2000). (p. 10)

This is how Weber-Pillwax describes the approach. One of the steps that I have sometimes taken in preparation for inter­ views is to select specific excerpts from relevant literature that I feel would speak to the person with whom I will be working. I would make these excepts available to the people involved in my work by reading aloud or having them read on their own, and then giving a brief inter­pretation of what I thought the author was saying would then contex­tualise the focus of our work together and put my ideas forward as to how this selection fitted or raised questions. The contribution to the discussion would flow easily from this introduction .. .The process is one where indigenous people, many of whom are not able to read the English texts, can participate in the direct analysis of written knowl­edge and worldviews from other cultural groups and also be active partners in the co-creation of contemporary indigenous knowledge. I believe that this seemingly simple approach has potential for ensur­ing the vitality of the intellectual contributions that indigenous elders are making in the area of indigenous scholarship, (p. 171) (p. 11)


The Western-based focus group was developed in the 1930s because of dis­satisfaction with the individual interview. It is a discussion-based interview in which multiple research participants simultaneously produce data on a specified issue. (p. 11)

The basic principle is not to allow the group to be so big that participation by all is impossible or so small that it is not possible to cover a number of issues. (p. 11)

The main disadvantage of Western-based focus group interviews is that a few assertive individuals may dominate the discussion. (p. 11)

Talking Circles (p. 12)

Talking circles are based on the ideal of participants' respect for each other and are an example of a focus group method derived from postcolonial indigenous worldviews. (p. 12)

From Canada, Peggy Wilson and Stan Wilson (2000) explain that group members sit "in a circle that represents the holism of Mother Earth and the equality of all members" (p. 11). A common practice in talking circles is that a sacred object—a feather, a shield, a stone, a basket, or a spoon—is passed around from speaker to speaker. These sacred objects symbolize col­lective construction of knowledge and the relations among group members. (p. 12)

The holder of the object speaks uninterrupted, and the group listens silently and nonjudgmentally until the speaker has finished. (p. 12)

Interviews and Data Analysis (p. 13)

Organizing data starts with open coding. Open coding refers to the process of breaking down data into themes, patterns, and concepts to create a meaningful story from the volume of data (p. 13)

Euro-Western academic discipline-related language continues to dominate analysis procedures, interpretation, and reporting procedures. During the reporting, for instance, the researcher pulls together the voices of the interviewees to create generalizations, pat­ terns, or sameness communicated in Euro-Western academic discipline language. The voices of the researched cease to exist except when cited to illustrate a theme or a pattern. (p. 13)

Lawrence Neuman (2003, p. 458) has summarized seven Euro-Western academic discipline-related strategies for qualitative data analysis: (p. 13)

The narrative. (p. 13)

Ideal types. (p. 13)

Success approximation. (p. 13)

The illustrative model. (p. 13)

Path dependency and contingency. (p. 14)

Domain analysis. (p. 14)

Analytical comparison. (p. 14)

Terry L. Cross, Kathleen Earle, Solie, H. Echo-Hawk Solie, and Kathryn Manness (2000), in their study of Native American communities, designed interview and focus group questions based on the four quadrants of the Medicine Wheel. They defined the four quadrants as context, body, mind, and spirit (Cross et al., 2000, as cited Mertens, 2009). (p. 15)

  • The context includes culture, community, family, peers, work, school, and social history.
  • The mind includes our cognitive processes such as thoughts, memories, knowledge, and emotional processes such as feelings, defenses and self­ esteem.
  • The body includes all physical aspects, such as genetic inheritance, gender and condition, as well as sleep, nutrition and substance use. (p. 15)
  • The spirit area includes both positive and negative learned teachings and practices, as well as positive and negative metaphysical or innate forces (Cross et al., as cited in Mertens, 2009, pp. 20-21). (p. 16)


In the talking circle method, for example, objects symbolize the connection of participants to each other and the collective construction of knowledge. (p. 17)

It is thus clear from these examples that cultural artifacts store world­ views and can be used as stimulants in individual and focus group inter­ views. These cultural artifacts, which include pottery, sculptures, home painting, and basket weaving by ordinary women and men, may bring to life worldviews, topics, and other categories of thought otherwise missing in the literature. (p. 17)

Bamana women of Mali are the creators of the unique cloth design called bogolanfini (mud cloth), (p. 18) The Bamana cloth design captures others forms of representing and stor­ing information. These forms of writing and storing information have to be recognized, collected, and brought to interviews with sages so that they can be analyzed and interpreted for use as baseline literature on research topics of interest. (p. 18)


From the discussion in this chapter, we can draw the following principles about a postcolonial indigenous interview.

  1. The interview process is guided by a relational way of knowing and therefore brings into the process objects that communicate equality among participants; recognize and celebrate participants' connection to each other and to the environment; and teach respect, love, and harmony among all those participating in the interview process.
  2. The researched, who are the knowers, draw from their web of connec­tion with land, the environment, the living, and the nonliving to engage in a dialogue on the issue of discussion.
  3. The research participants have the following roles among others: cri­tiquing the literature written about them; bringing to the discussion indigenous knowledge such as worldviews, the myths, folktales, lan­guage, and proverbs that inform their frames of reference; and entering into a dialogue with the researcher on the researcher's questions of interest. (p. 19)

Starting the interview. Indigenous research is viewed as ceremony. (p. 20)

About the participants and the researcher. (p. 20)

Rituals and symbolism during the interview. (p. 20)

Giving voice to the participants. (p. 20)


  • The conventional interview method works within a standard vocabulary, terms, concepts, and categories of analysis informed by Western academic disciplines with their associated theories and a Western social science research culture with its emphasis on the individual as the social unit of focus.
  • In postcolonial indigenous societies, researchers conduct interviews as privileged elites and knowers who are researching and operating with Western models of thought and conducting interviews within frame­works of Othering ideologies supported by deficit theories and literature that constructs the researched as the problem.
  • Researchers should use indigenous knowledge to guide interview ques­tion structures, types of questions asked, and data analysis procedures.
  • Researchers should recognize indigenous people who have expertise and knowledge.
  • Researchers should highlight reviewed literature about the researched and dialogue with the researched to enable them to participate in a cri­tique of the literature produced about them. (p. 22)