Ulàpeitök: Using Bribri Indigenous Teachings to Develop a Ph.D. Research Methodology
Keywords:Costa Rica, ethics, Indigenous methodologies, qualitative research
Although there is a growing interest in Indigenous research, education regarding how to put Indigenous research into practice is not often part of academic training. To increase the awareness of how Indigenous methodologies can be applied to academic research, we describe how we used Bribri Indigenous teachings to develop a Ph.D. research methodology for a food security project in Costa Rica. Our research approach was based on a Bribri concept related to cooperation, ulàpeitök; this concept guided our work and helped to reduce the negative consequences associated with conventional research with Indigenous people (e.g., extractive practices, reinforcement of gender inequality, misrepresenting cultural information). We identified three considerations that may be useful for other scholars applying Indigenous teachings to academic research: 1) build flexibility into the entire research program, 2) ensure that community-level and university-level researchers are willing to play multiple roles beyond those associated with conventional research, and 3) proceed with an ethic of friendship. Our work is relevant to scholars working in Indigenous/non-Indigenous research teams that aim to transform conventional research approaches to ensure that they support human rights, equity, and cultural continuity. In Costa Rica, our research is specifically relevant to building wider acceptance of Indigenous methodologies in higher education.
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