Monday, 12 March 2012

Ethical Space/Ethical Lodge

On the way up to the ‘Expert Seminar on Indigenous Peoples’ Languages and Cultures,’ I read a book ‘The Ethics of Cultural Appropriation’ eds. J Young and C Brunk, (Wiley-Blackwell 2009). I was very struck by the idea of an ethical space/ethical lodge raised in chapter 4 on the repatriation of human remains. This concept followed me for the two day Expert Seminar and just appeared to encapsulate the environment of the seminar.

So what is an ethical space/ethical lodge? The term first articulated by Roger Poole ,’ Towards Deep Subjectivity,’ (London: Allen Lane The Penguin Press, 1972). , ‘a space that no one owns where engagement involves openness and mutual learning,’ has been advanced by Professor Willie Ermine a Member of the Sturgeon Lake First Nation Canada. In his article ‘The Ethical Space of Engagement’, Indigenous Law Journal 6 194-2001 (2007) he suggests that, ‘The "ethical space" is formed when two societies, with disparate worldviews, are poised to engage each other. It is the thought about diverse societies and the space in between them that contributes to the development of a framework for dialogue between human communities.’

He suggests drawing on Poole’s work that we should focus on the space between entities that we thought as empty. This idea is a new one for me but one that I feel is so useful. What can that empty space tell us? Do the different entities move into that space as different entities and remain different or do they become something else by moving into that space? Entities here I suggest can be peoples, different paradigms, etc. It has made me think about my own research where I ‘unbundle’ property paradigms in relation to ancient human remains. Where is the ‘ethical lodge’ between these paradigms or even within them?

Professor Ermine also talks about ‘the undercurrent.’ ‘Among the challenges is to understand and confront the hidden interests, attitudes, and bedrock assumptions that animate Western dealings with Indigenous peoples.’ The "undercurrent" is an analogy used to describe these subsurface interests and attitudes that continually influence communication and behaviors between individuals, organizations and nations.’ The undercurrent appears to be a whole topic in itself but one which influences the ‘ethical space’.(Research in progress)

Did we move into the ‘ethical space’ at the Seminar? Open question!

Written by Fiona Batt.

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