CfP: Developing Responsible Partnerships in Indigenous Health Research

Dear Colleagues,

We seek papers for a panel on responsible partnerships in Indigenous health research for the 2020 American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting in St. Louis. Sean Bruna and I (Margaret Pollak) will serve as co-organizers. If interested, please E-mail me (mepollak@iu.edu) a paper title and abstract of no more than 250 words by Monday March 23, 2020 as soon as possible, but well before the AAA Extended Deadline of May 15. See panel details below:

Organizers: Margaret E. Pollak, PhD. and Sean P. Bruna, PhD.

Discussant: TBD

Session Title: Developing Responsible Partnerships in Indigenous Health Research

Session Abstract: This session explores the processes of developing and fostering long-term working relationships with America’s Indigenous peoples in studying health-related issues. America’s Indigenous peoples have been critical of and resistant to both anthropological and medical research in their communities. These stances of critique and resistance are well warranted, as past scholars prioritized their responsibilities to their field of scholarship over their responsibilities to the populations they study. Indigenous critics identify these past research practices as replicating the oppression and injustices of colonialism. In his paper “Here Come the Anthros,” Cecil King describes how anthropologists “cage” and stereotype the true experiences of Indigenous American life in their descriptions, through a practice that Renato Rosaldo refers to as “imperialist nostalgia” (King 2007; Rosaldo 1993). In his critiques of the field, Vine Deloria, Jr. explains that researchers ought to be more cognizant of their responsibilities to the communities they work with (Deloria 1969; Deloria 1991). The practice Deloria refers to in recent years has been referred to as “helicopter research,” a practice in which a researcher helicopters into a research site, collects data, and then leaves the research site with little involvement from locally studied communities. This form of research is common in the health sciences and is problematic for developing long-term research relationships in most communities. Linda Tuhiwai Smith has offered a framework for decolonizing research methodologies in working in Indigenous communities globally (Tuhiwai Smith 1999). Cultural anthropology, with its commitment to long-term ethnographic research is well positioned to address these critiques and improve the working relationships between America’s Indigenous peoples and scholars.

In light of the meeting’s theme of truth and responsibility, presentations in this session explore anthropology’s role in this history and a renewed responsibility for developing productive working relationships in the arena of health and wellness among America’s Indigenous peoples. The Indigenous peoples of the Americas face significant disparities in health and in access to health care in the United States, while also providing a space for innovative approaches to wellness. Presentations in this session explore the development and fostering of long-term partnerships with Indigenous American communities. We present papers that highlight the development of collaborative and community engaged research in recognition that local community members know their own needs and capabilities best.  Furthermore, we show how engagement with leaders in local communities can produce more productive long-term research relationships and positive health outcomes.


Margaret Pollak & Sean Bruna
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Margaret Pollak, PhD. Assistant Professor, Indiana University-Northwest
Sean Bruna, PhD. Associate Professor, Western Washington University


CfP: Developing Responsible Partnerships in Indigenous Health Research
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