Weaving Iron and Flax? At the Border of Indigenous Knowing and Critical Rationality: Implications for Indigenous Sustainability

Mr. Timu-o-te-rangi Niwa
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This is a theoretical paper which considers Karl Popper’s notion of critical rationality and its implications for indigenous cultural and social sustainability. With indigenous epistemologies and ontologies continually challenged by dominant views of the world, indigenous peoples are in a precarious position which requires the abandonment, re-affirmation or modification of their indigenous epistemologies and ontologies. This paper poses two related questions for discussion, 1) is it ‘sustainable’ to retain indigenous forms of cultural and social knowing which fall outside the realm of rationality as described by Popper and 2) is it legitimate from an insider-indigenous position to modify or put to the side ‘irrational’ aspects of indigenous cultural and social knowing which seem to be have been immutably held onto by our ancestors?

Drawing from indigenous Māori experiences this paper aims to probe into the epistemological and ontological challenges faced by indigenous peoples when considering issues of cultural and social sustainability. Citing current examples from the New Zealand context this paper attempts to stimulate critical thought for indigenous peoples throughout the world who are planning for sustainable development in local environments where ‘iron’ and ‘flax’ might co-exist in a more productive tension.

Keywords: Indigenous Knowledge, Critical Rationality, Epistemology and Ontology, Indigenous Cultural and Social Sustainability
Stream: Cultural Sustainability
Presentation Type: Virtual Presentation in English
Paper: Weaving Iron and Flax? At the Border of Indigenous Knowing and Critical Rationality

Mr. Timu-o-te-rangi Niwa

Assistant Lecturer, Te Uru Māraurau
Māori and Multicultural Education 
College of Education, Massey University

New Zealand

Timu-o-te-rangi is an Assistant Lecturer and Graduate Student at Te Uru Māraurau, Māori and Multicultural Education Department at Massey University’s College of Education. With links to the tribal regions of Te Atiawa, Whanau-A-Apanui, Whakatohea and Ngati Manawa and grand-parents from Essex, England Timu's mixed cultural and social backgrounds have impacted upon his theorising and philosophical approaches to indigenous sustainability in the education sector. With a background in primary school teaching Timu's research interests include Maori education and epistemological and ontological issues for indigenous peoples. Currently working in the tertiary sector Timu teaches Maori language and Maori educational politics papers to students in mainstream and Maori-immersion teacher training programmes.

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