Fourth World Theory and Methods of Inquiry

Fourth World Theory and Methods of Inquiry

Rudolph Carl Ryser (Center for World Indigenous Studies, USA), Dina Gilio-Whitaker (Center for World Indigenous Studies, USA) and Heidi G. Bruce (Center for World Indigenous Studies, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0833-5.ch003
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Abstract

Fourth World Theory (FWT) emerged in the experience of political leaders and scholars seeking to explain the position of non-state nations and peoples in their political and sometimes violent interactions with other non-state nations and with states' governments that pursue dominance and control over territories and peoples inside claimed boundaries. The conceptual framework of FWT is rooted in the dynamic and evolving relationships between people, the land and the cosmos. Authors explain the globally shared Four Directions metaphor as symbolic of the relational connection of human experience with the land and the cosmos; and how this emblematic instrument blends qualitative, quantitative and relational reasoning to apply knowledge systems that have local, regional and global applications. The authors seek to present a tested conceptual framework that permits one to explain social, economic, political, environmental, strategic and cultural phenomena blending indigenous scientific knowledge with conventional sciences.
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Overview

There is a widely accepted tendency in political, academic, and social institutions to take for granted what we mean when using the word “indigenous.” “Indigenous” or “Native” are terms of political art and academic convention often used interchangeably as an adjective describing “people” or “peoples” (Fenstad, Hoyningen et al. 2002, Agrawal 2004, Atleo 2004).

Using the terms in this way draws distinctions between those persons who are members of an ancestral community with ancestral ties to land and territory versus settler populations or their descendants that cannot claim such ancestral ties. Imperialism or colonialism is implicit in naming these distinctions. “Indigenous peoples” are distinct cultural and political societies colonized, for example, by European kingdoms, Chinese imperial dynasties, and Arabic Emirates from the 13th to the 20th centuries, and who were eventually declared minority populations within newly proclaimed political jurisdictions comprised of settler populations or controlled by a ruling nation.1 Consequently, “indigenous” is a category borne of statism or centralized control through the enforcement of universal laws within bounded territory by virtue of exercising power through the state political apparatus. It has become a political term of art adopted by the United Nations, International Labor Organization, states’ governments and many Fourth World nations to designate the peoples colonized and re-colonized2 by newly formed states. Indeed, neo-colonial processes are at the root of sub-regional and regional conflicts that are widely referred to as “civil wars” when in fact they are wars of self-determination or land control between the state and internally colonized peoples (Ryser 1985). The neo-colonial process could have incorporated peoples into the new states formed from crumbling empires in the 20th century by establishing negotiated power sharing, but the colonial patterns established from the 15th century proved unbending for the most part despite efforts to establish unified pluralistic state governments (Ryser 1994) (Ryser [b] 1994).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Culture: The dynamic and evolving relationship between a people, the land and the cosmos.

Science: A systematic construction, ordering and expression of knowledge.

Blended Research: Systematically employing Fourth World research methods with positivist quantitative and qualitative methods.

Cosmogram: A geometric figure depicting a cosmology—a study of the beginnings of the universe and its changes.

Knowledge System: A conceptually constructed body of ideas, observations and methods for comprehending through understanding and intuition.

Four Directions: A concept noting the rising and setting sun, and the poles of the earth connecting celestial events with events in human experience and the earth.

Metaphor: A form of speech, observation or other symbol that combines unrelated objects, practices and/or concepts into a singular image (as in graphic), expression (as in story) or physical action (as in dance).

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