Indigenous Sociology for Social Impact

Indigenous Sociology for Social Impact

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have a strong contribution to make in leading change in sociology, however, their knowledges are kept on the periphery of our discipline. Associate Professor Kathleen Butler is working to transform sociology by “Indigenising” sociology. She is an Aboriginal woman belonging to the Bundjalung and Worimi peoples of coastal New South Wales, and a sociologist who hosted the “Indigenous Sociology for Social Impact” workshop. The workshop explored ways to address colonial practices in sociology, as well as how to draw on Indigenous expertise to decolonise research, methods and theories in sociology.

Indigenising sociology

Using the Aboriginal method of a “talking circle” (or yarning circle), where any person can contribute to unstructured dialogue, Professor Butler began two-day discussions considering how Indigenous-led practices can enhance Australian sociology.

The first day of the workshop was centred on a thoughtful presentation by former social worker and researcher Karen Menzies on how intergenerational trauma of forced removal of Aboriginal children continues to impact the health and life outcomes of Indigenous people.

The second day of the workshop began with Associate Professor Butler reflecting on her evolving research on sociological teaching and resources. She has analysed the topics covered in higher education sociology courses around Australia, and finds that there is almost no focus on Indigenous scholarship, and that there is little attention to race in central sociology teaching. She argued this is one of the ways in which we see how sociology actively participates in an exclusively Western framing of social issues.

We discussed that sociology as a discipline actively perpetuates colonialism in the citing conventions, theories and methods we continue to pass on to students.

Investing in future change

Another question we discussed at length was: how do we account for the fact that the majority of people who are trained as sociologists are not Indigenous? We discussed how Aboriginal sociologists are on the fringes of our discipline, either underemployed or precariously employed as casual staff. We noted a major investment in the training, mentorship, sponsorship, promotion and retention of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander sociologists needs to be prioritised in sociology.

Decolonising sociology

We discussed what a decolonised sociological imagination would look like, with critiques of foundational Western sociological texts at the centre. Australian sociology has rebuilt itself before – using a White feminist framework in the 1970s and 1980s – we can do this again using Indigenous knowledges and intersectionality. Associate Professor Butler argued that the work of Professor Aileen Moreton-Robinson (a Geonpul woman) is our starting point for decolonising sociology, especially in Australia.

We also discussed issues of ethics and intersectionality (the interconnections between gender and racial inequality and other forms of social marginalisation).

Read more on my post, including a video interview with Associate Professor Butler delving into the outcomes of the workshop and questions that remain for our discipline. https://othersociologist.com/2018/01/06/indigenous-sociology-for-social-impact/

#sociology #socialscience #indigenous #aboriginal #research #academia #inequality #race #racism #australia #university #socialjustice

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