Enacting an Indigenist Anthropology: Diversity and Decolonising the Discipline

  • Sarah Bourke University of Oxford


My doctoral thesis focused on a national epidemiological survey of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander wellbeing in Australia. I occupied many roles during my study and fieldwork and adapted the practice of my anthropology to fulfil both the goals of my research and my socio-cultural responsibilities as an Aboriginal Australian. Being able to conceptualise one’s diversity and being reflexive in anthropological practice is necessary for researchers undertaking decolonising research in particular. The necessity of this process is not often taught at an institutional level, reflecting (and perpetuating) the lack of diversity within the Academy and the enduring power imbalances between researchers and the Indigenous communities with whom they conduct research. This paper is organised around four principles which are characteristics of a decolonising research model from an Indigenous standpoint — Resistance, Reflexivity, Relationality, and Respect. Through these principles I describe how I enacted an ‘Indigenist anthropology’ which enabled me to be diverse and work towards decolonising the discipline from within the Academy. What this paper highlights is the need for research for, with, and by Indigenous academics, and the need for allies in the Academy who recognise the importance of decolonisation and diversity within anthropology.