He Rawe Tona Kakahu/She Wore a Becoming Dress: Performing the Hyphen
In the British settler nations of the United States, New Zealand, Australia and Canada, there continues to be debate about how to conduct research across the coloniser-indigene hyphen. Various indigenous scholars have discussed, at length, how western scholarship has been and continues to be implicated in the colonisation of indigenous peoples. While some progress has been made, it continues to be an unresolved issue. As a white American woman, I have responded to this situation by conducting my doctoral research using a decolonising epistemological pluralism that I developed through my practice as an artist and performer. This methodology, which is critical and performative, seeks to dismantle the colonial matrix of power and the dualisms that underpin the hegemony of western knowledge and casts a critical eye on power relations as they manifest out in the world and as they reproduce themselves inside individuals. It is my belief that such an approach will decentre the settler and facilitate working across the hyphen. As an example of how such a methodology could function, I undertook a collaborative and performative research project with Anahera Gildea, a Māori writer and performer from the iwi (tribe) of Ngāti Raukawa ki te Tonga. Our research examined the intersection of gender and colonisation. The knowledge systems that we chose to use arose naturally out of who we are and what we know. We are both Butoh performers. We both practice Nichiren Buddhism and use it to guide our daily lives. The outcome of our research was He rawe tona kakahu/She Wore A Becoming Dress, a multimedia Butoh performance, which was performed for two nights at the Film Archive in Wellington, New Zealand in 2009. As a collaboration that worked across the hyphen, we both engaged with critical and decolonising theory from our respective positions on the hyphen, as well as brought our respective world views—I, white American and Anahera, Te Ao Māori . This thesis is an attempt to provide a practice-based understanding of what it was like to undertake research using such a decolonising epistemological pluralism.