Sustainability Science

, Volume 11, Issue 1, pp 139–152 | Cite as

Taking different ways of knowing seriously: cross-cultural work as translations and multiplicity

  • Laura Zanotti
  • Marcela Palomino-Schalscha
Special Feature: Original Article Weaving Indigenous and Sustainability Sciences to Diversify Our Methods (WIS2DOM)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Special Feature: Weaving Indigenous and Sustainability Sciences to Diversify Our Methods (WIS2DOM)


This article discusses the roles, challenges and opportunities of non-Indigenous academics working at the interface of Indigenous and non-Indigenous knowledges. Sustainability scientists have both questioned and advocated for cross-cultural research, and in this article we reflect on what working across different ways of knowing entails for non-Indigenous researchers at the professional, personal and epistemological level. Grounded on our experiences of on-going engagement with Indigenous communities, this article explores multiple pathways of taking Indigenous knowledges seriously while working in “Western” academic settings. In doing so, it highlights issues around the role and responsibility of non-Indigenous researchers in decolonising the (re)production of knowledges and the multiple contexts in which this can take place in sustainability science. It then deals with some of the challenges and ethical dilemmas we have encountered along the way, mainly with regards to issues of representation, translation in a broader sense, participation, and authority. Finally, this article discusses some of the epistemological consequences of engaging in such work, and how despite being fraught with tensions and contradictions, it can help to foster spaces of plural co-existence.


Indigenous knowledges Cross-cultural work Translation Multiplicity Participation Decolonisation 



To Jay Johnson, Renee Pualani Louis, and Andrew Kliskey for inviting us to Wis2dom Workshop and later to write in this special edition. We also would like to extend thanks to the other workshop participants. Thanks to the communities that have invited us into their homes and to whom we are forever indebted to this work. A final thanks to Patrick Freeland, who emphasised the importance of honour and respect in research praxis, and was very much an inspiration for this article.


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Copyright information

© Springer Japan 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Anthropology, Center for the EnvironmentPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA
  2. 2.School of Geography, Environment and Earth SciencesVictoria University of WellingtonWellingtonNew Zealand

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