"Two Eyed Seeing": against, along, and beyond the archival grain

Authors: Declan Cullen*,
Topics: Indigenous Peoples, Historical Geography, Cultural Geography
Keywords: Archives, Participatory Research, Methodology, Indigenous Knowledges
Session Type: Paper
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Colonial archives have been reframed as sites and technologies that enabled the production, collection and use of knowledge for colonial governance. Critical archival approaches have encouraged researchers to expose the power relations embedded in archives by “brushing history against the grain”, by reading “along the archival grain”, and through considering what constitutes an archive in the first place. In response to these concerns human geographers increasingly theorize the archive as a subject and practice both animating and politicizing the archive. Scholars and activists are engaging in the production of counter histories and alternate archives, seeking to support the decolonization of epistemologies and to intervene in struggles against ongoing colonialisms. This paper recounts our engagement with an archival project that was part of a broader study led by the Mi’kmaq First Nation in Nova Scotia titled “Building a social policy framework for the health and well-being of Mi’kmaq communities in Nova Scotia: A two-eyed seeing approach.” A “Two Eyed Seeing Approach” seeks to weave together indigenous and mainstream knowledges. Our goal was to integrate the ‘European’/state-based historical record with Mi’kmaq understanding of that history in an attempt to rewrite the Mi’kmaq First Nations’ position in Canadian history and social policy. Our archival project was undertaken in the spirit of participatory archival research. Here we wish to share our experiences of navigating the practical, methodological, theoretical, and ethical issues raised by the conduct of such community-driven archival research.

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