The act of naming a research project is not trivial. Like with people and places project names are tools to distinguish one from another, and to talk more precisely about a particular research theme, but at the same time the name can be slightly diffuse.

By Hilde Sollid, professor

One of the driving forces in the project Indigenous Citizenship and Education  (ICE) is a perception of shared faith between Indigenous peoples across borders. Although the Sámi in Norway and Sweden are geographically far away from Maori in New Zealand and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in Australia, there are some similarities in the historical as well as contemporary relationships between the nation states and their Indigenous peoples. Systemically, Indigenous peoples have been subject to harsh colonialism that have had devastating effects on the social, cultural, economic and political institutions.On this basis the project participants have joined forces in researching one of these institutions, namely education. The overarching goal of the ICE project is to contribute to knowledge about the colonial legacy within the field of education, and how contemporary education systems deal with matters regarding Indigenous peoples, indigeneity and citizenship.

What’s in the name of the project might however differ for the participants, as there are significant differences between our local contexts and positions. The theoretical and empirical work in ICE departs from the observation that the national contexts represented in project have one or more recognized Indigenous peoples. This concept is connected to international discourses, and still, within national contexts there can be a slightly different vocabulary to refer to similar concepts. So, the titles in English and Norwegian are Indigenous Citizenship and Education is translated into Urfolk, medborgerskap og utdanning. The English title points to two discrete concepts, while the Norwegian has three. In Norwegian the adjective Indigenous does not have a clear cognate, but the noun urfolk is widely used, which is best translated into Indigenous People. Furthermore, in Norwegian citizenship means either statsborgerskap or medborgerskap – two words that basically demonstrate differentiation between citizenship as formal status and as social practice.

In the four (so far) countries represented in the project there are different ways of recognizing its Indigenous peoples a political space within the national context. Thus, what citizenship in practice refers to, might differ. In New Zealand for instance, Maori have a system of self-governance, in addition to being an integrated part in the national political system. For the ICE project a crucial point is also that being a citizen of New Zealand also includes recognizing Maori as an integrated part of the nation state, which also requires that education for all includes indigenous perspectives. The English title also foregrounds indigenous citizenship, which points to a duality between national and indigenous citizenship. Thus, both citizenship as formal status and as practice creates a basis for the ICE project, but with emphasis on citizenship constellations as practice within the field of formal education.

So, working and researching across cultural and linguistic borders requires special attention what the key concepts might refer to and how they are relevant in each context. Equally important is recognizing that the name of the project raises research ethical considerations. As researchers, we have, we take and we are given positions and roughly described the members of the research team are insiders and outsiders, Indigenous and Non-Indigenous. We are, based on these positions, formally and morally committed by research ethical guidelines, which regulates the research activities. The national guidelines are not the same across the different contexts, and it is for instance stricter regulations in Australia and New Zealand compared to Norway and Sweden. This means that we cannot blindly replicate research concepts, questions and procedures; they need to be framed according to the local context. For the research team this is a strength, as we have a broad spectrum of approaches to explore the colonial legacy in the field education. We are constantly reminded of methodologies and research ethical aspects of doing research on the relationship between Indigenous peoples and national collectives.