Research at the interface of indigenous and occidental science

There has been some success in certain parts of the world by indigenous researchers to gain sovereignty in the Global scientific arena, challenging institutional and intellectual Western hegemony both in methodological approach and in their insertion into the academic space as scholars. However, toxic colonial narratives still prevail as Western academic knowledge systems are deemed to be “science” (robust, modern), whilst indigenous science tends to be referred to as “knowledge” (knowledges of the past being passed down along generations). Oxford University is not foreign to this culture.

This representation of knowledge not only has colonial foundations, but is also false. Furthermore, we argue that viewing knowledge in this way in an increasingly globalising collaborative research space, creates barriers to the generation of high-quality robust, resilient, ethical and reciprocal research that could otherwise be useful to nature and people. Especially as increasing evidence shows that indigenous people can be amongst the best stewards of nature conservation and recovery. We engage with these issues through the lens of “research at the interface” on the topic of nature recovery in Ucayali in the Peruvian Amazon. The novel and innovative intercultural methodology we created interweaves indigenous methods, western social science techniques and remote sensing mapping. We hold that intercultural or decolonial research must be based on reciprocity, respect and appropriate time-invested. We determine our methodology to be robust and repeatable, as long as it is methodologically adapted and led by an indigenous person from the area of study.

Meeting the LCNR Aims: We see this project as meeting both the pump up and early wins on impact, outreach and engagement as it is novel, new and cutting edge with the need for a lot more injection of resources after more data is collected, to strengthen the case for such research. However, what can be achieved in the short time of this call in terms of academic output across disciplines, but the immediate impact on the lives of the local people and institutions with whom we collaborate cannot be underestimated. Additionally, it foments links and sharing of insights, approaches and ideas between the Leverhulme Centre for Nature Recovery themes. Furthermore, genuine engagement with indigenous researchers (independent, and from two local universities) further addresses LCNR goals, as it not only exposes researchers to the challenges and opportunities of working cross-disciplines, if not also across cultures, creating more intellectual space for the indigenous scientific and peoples´ voices together with our own.