Wait a Second: Who Are You Anyways?': The Insider/Outsider Debate and American Indian Studies


Excerpt from Article, Page 440-441:

"Indigenous researchers have much to gain from the experiences of other insider researchers in both conducting research and addressing criticisms that attempt to undermine the validity of their research. An examination of how insider researchers have tackled these concerns illustrates how these concerns are relevant to Aboriginal insider researchers and can assist them in conducting research in their home communities. American Indian studies is interdisciplinary, which allows American Indian studies scholars the flexibility to incorporate methods, theories, and approaches to research from many different disciplines that are conducive to the Indigenous research context. Participating in the insider/ outsider debate gives American Indian studies scholars the opportunity to exert influence on an issue important to our discipline to a wider academic audience, demonstrating that our research has significance not only to Indigenous communities but also to the broader scholarly community. In this article I situate my dissertation research within both the insider/outsider debate and American Indian studies and thereby highlight the interplay of both. 

I am a Plains Cree member of Cowessess First Nation, which is located in southeastern Saskatchewan, and I conducted my doctoral research on the importance of family ties to contemporary Cowessess band members.[2] However, as an urban band member and a person who gained federal recognition of my Indian status after the 1985 amendment to the Indian Act, I am both an insider and outsider to Cowessess. My research experience in many respects was similar to other insider researchers. My findings presented new understandings of the ways in which contemporary Cowessess members put into practice their belief in the importance of family ties. My insider status enabled me to develop research questions that provided a new view of contemporary kinship relations, but my outsider status as a researcher meant that I still had to negotiate with the participants to gain their trust.

This article is divided into four sections. First, I present a discussion of the dominant issues in the insider/outsider debate, specifically, those issues concerning the nature of insider research, who conducts it, and the validity of the approach. Second, I provide a brief overview of my dissertation research. Third, I describe my position as an insider and outsider and assert that this position allowed me to pose new questions and present new understandings about the kinship roles and responsibilities of Cowessess First Nation members. In the last section I demonstrate that while my "insiderness" was somewhat tenuous, my "outsiderness" was tempered by the fact that I am a Cowessess member and related to many of the research participants. Yet like all insider researchers I still had to navigate the research relationship with community members." (440-441).

Publication Information

Innes, Robert Alexander. "`Wait a Second: Who Are You Anyways?': The Insider/Outsider Debate and American Indian Studies" American Indian Quarterly 33, no. 4 (2009): 440-461.

Innes, Robert Alexander
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