Rowing upstream: Contextualising indigenous research processes and methodologies through the utilization of ethical principles

  • Luyanda Dube
  • Sipho Ndwandwe
  • Patrick Ngulube
Keywords: Indigenous research, research methods, ethical considerations.


The use of indigenous research ethics has a possibility of contextualising indigenous research. Orthodox research is guided by ethical principles which are meant to protect the institution or researcher and the participants. Despite the existence of the ethical pronouncements, literature has shown that research has proven to be a source of distress for indigenous people. Research has historically drawn upon frameworks, processes and practices of colonial, Western worldviews and the inherent knowledge, methods, morals and beliefs (Martin, 2001). This has led to the perceived notion of insensitivity towards indigenous people. First, they are not only regarded as a “problem” to be solved by external experts, they are treated as passive “objects” that require assistance from external experts. In view of these arguments one can deduce that the orthodox research methods have somehow failed to uphold the contextuality of research methods. Stemming from the incompatibility between orthodox research methods and the indigenous milieu has been the predominantly negative indigenous experience of research which has resulted in not only sceptism towards researchers but also to research processes and outcomes. For instance, indigenous people are on record saying, “researchers are like mosquitoes; they suck your blood and leave”. The umbrage has prompted robust calls from indigenous scholars and research ethicists to develop new paradigms of research that have a decolonizing agenda upholding Indigenous ethical archetype. This being a concept the article utilised descriptive and analytical approaches to examine how the indigenous research ethical modus operandi can be a lever to contextualize research. The article concludes by positing that to lessen the skepticism of indigenous peoples cultural sensitivity should be embodied in ethical considerations to negate any dilemmas. Further it avers that in the application of research methods ethical principles such as informed consent should not be taken at face value, but should be considered at a deeper level.

Keywords: Indigenous research, research methods, ethical considerations.


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eISSN: 1683-0296