dreaming in song

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This past week and weekend has been nightmarish in that what started off as a mild case of the flu-bug turned into a fully blown sinus! My meds triggered a kidney problem and it was bed rest and lots of fluids with nothing much else doing.

On the plus side, I was able to retrieve three of my Laurie King books from the much neglected book shelf and read each one as if anew. My dreams were not filled with suspense or mystery – typical Sherlock Holmes style… in fact there was nothing to write home about until this morning.. the twins getting ready for school and I was in between re-reading page 85 of “Justice Hall” when I dropped into a heavy 20 minute sleep only to be serenaded by an upbeat love song in true Bollywood form (except that it was in English) and I was supposed to have composed it.. hmm .. no idea what it means but I awoke with the distinct feeling that I had been singing or at least humming in my sleep given the strange look on my 18 month old grand niece who wanted a concerned cuddle..

Any dream therapists out there? I am convinced that this has to do with PhD guilt that I have been fighting all week having not done any concrete work towards the literature review in ten days!

Haven’t read the Sherlock Holmes and Mary Russell mysteries? See http://www.laurierking.com/books/mary-russell


Here hoping this week will be better and that I don’t have any choral/choir dreams !!

aue! this thing they call philosophy…

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I forget now who shared this story with me but at a regional educational gathering, a foreigner shared developments in educational thinking in the developed world and the proceeded to ask the Pacific representatives what the Pacific paradigm was and if there was a shift in thinking. An indignant male PI immediately stood up and said, “I don’t know about you guys but in XXX we don’t have paradigms”.  O.k so at the time I thought it was funny. Then later when I really thought about it I realized the ‘cultural gap’ that is characterized not only by the distancing of education and research from indigenous people’s but the very notion of knowledge and the language of power that defines and expresses it.

And then I got to my own thesis.. so my dear what is your ontological perspective? My what?! Back to the great magical tool of google.. and about 20 articles later.. oh right you mean our understanding of reality and our existence.. hmm.. one reference says it is the study of being.. being what? human? human existence? life in general…

the origins of thought from another Pacific daughter (on the problems of doing a Pacific PhD)

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The Pacific daughter is fighting the flu and an infection but today (amidst fever and aching joints) I am trying to organize an Education for Sustainable Development Workshop on Art, Culture and Civil Society bringing together artists and teachers and the budget is killing me…

On the PhD front am trying to situate Indigenous Pacific Epistemologies within the wider literature review. Not much to say at this point really but lots and lots to read and talanoa about… must make list of persons to interview.. and can anyone tell me how valid are e-interviews via email and skype?

anyone with experience or suggestions on this?

the origins of thought from another Pacific daughter (on the problems of doing a Pacific PhD)


The brain is a curious thing.. I often find myself making seemingly random connections that even I cant quite figure out.. so here I am on a Saturday afternoon trying really hard to revisit my literature review. Do I want it systematically arranged in chronological order or do I want it to be thematic? choices.. choices.. and suddenly I am on wordpress searching for Pacific island(er) bloggers who might be blogging on education or the arts/culture.. no such luck only three popped up tagged in Pacific arts and Oceania and not a single hit for Pacific education…That was a bit of a downer given that there are hundreds of thousands of Pacific islanders in the world today (if you add those in the islands and Diasporas) and a lot of them have access to internet (for e.g. see fb). Yes, yes I know blogging is not for everyone. I mean I started a blog (Saumaiafe and the ghazal singer) a few years ago and its been inactive for some time now.. (something I need to rectify)… Getting over that bit of disappointment, I decided to write this entry on the origins of thought.. seeing as I have been preoccupied with ‘ontological’ and ‘epistemological’ framing for the last six months…

The problem with writing a Pacific PhD is that the description itself is contested… so what do you mean a Pacific PhD.. do you mean you are studying in the Pacific? Do you mean you are studying the Pacific? Or are you trying to embed Pacific thinking in the PhD from a Pacific perspective… well for me the answer is yes, yes and yes.. for others (esp. non P.I’s) perhaps just yes, yes and no)… Just like Pacific Art and Pacific Education.. these are seen as mere adjectives to describe rather than define.. and so here I am .. I want to write a PhD from the insider perspective of a Pacific island daughter.. I know there are many who detest the “insider”, “outsider” terminology but what the hell! It’s accurate. Everyone is dually an insider or an outsider so what’s so wrong with acknowledging that a researcher’s own subjectivity and background (cultural and otherwise) informs (a) the conceptual frames; and (b) interpretations and analysis.

So what is my dilemma? Well to put it plainly I feel like I am being boxed in by this whole process of PhDing. I conduct research as part of my scholarly work in education and art/culture development but to get into indigenous knowledge – the research walkway suddenly leads into thick bush. You see –  the perspective of a Pacific islander is one in which “research has become a bad word” (Tuhiwai Smith, 1999) and representative of communities that feel they “…have been researched to death” (Castellano, 2004). There is animosity about being misrepresented, misinterpreted by ‘outsiders’ and today, some view Pacific researchers with equal disdain. My mother who was born and raised in Samoa constantly reminded me that “some things are a privilege to learn” but “their power remains only in keeping them sacred and hidden”. She would tell me genealogical stories and then say “don’t write that down”. It is this notion of closed or secret knowledge that bothers me. Am I doing a disservice to the people I have committed myself to fight for? And the western educated alter-ego self reasons that if it is not documented it may be lost, but the Pacific islander id-persona is doubtful still.

Having said that, my bigger stress-button is the argument of “Western research paradigms” and “knowledge systems” that we must abide by. Granted I have chosen to undertake the PhD which is a ‘western’ construct of higher education and in so doing, I am mindful that I ought to follow the rules of research – and ensure a reasonable rigor while trying to contribute new knowledge. So whats the problem? I hear you say..

The problem is the overwhelming plethora of indigenous writing that has emerged over the last 20 years attempts to decolonize education and research – which is wonderful! I too want to join this club of thinkers.. but at the same time.. how do I as a PhD candidate validate (to myself and to my examiners) that I have adequately framed my research in the expected (yes western) paradigms but at the same time, claimed the process as my own?

So a friend tells me to revisit Edward Said’s Orientalism – yes yes.. make the connections etc etc… but the problem of getting into the “other” box is  that I run the risk of writing another anti-western dissertation that is pre-occupied with “reacting” and calling for a “decolonization of the mind”. Don’t get me wrong, I agree with them – but I don’t necessarily want to write a sequel.

I think my supervisor is right when she says the world has gone mad.. or maybe I have?

Perhaps I ought to stop over-thinking and just complete the damned literature review… the problem with epistemology though will be the subject of my next post…

must i really get into the Post-Colonial box?

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Ok Ok so its kind of a well-known fact that the majority of Pacific island countries were (and some still are) Colonized  – of course with the exception of Tonga. The latter is debatable because even though it was never politically ceeded, Great Britian acted as a Protectorate for some years before it regained full sovereignty under its monachy. Anyway, I am diverting here…

So for the longest time, I have listened to Pacific scholars rambling about Post-colonialism and I couldnt help but think – come on.. can we move on please? Someone please come up with another theoretical framework.. Must we forever define ourselves as the product of Colonialism? Must we always define ourselves as reactionary beings responding to or resisting the colonial powers?  To cut a long story short – it kinda got old. Every paper I picked up, every thesis.. and then the fanC pants scholars who abbrev. everything and refer to it as Post-Col .. hmmm.. well that was annoying… And then it came time for me to think about my doctorate..

I attempted three distinguished and respected colleagues and friends I might add working at reputable Universities in New Zealand and Australia to advise me on my intent. And they all came back with.. why arent you drawing from Post-Colonial Theory? I was so annoyed and wanted to jump up and down in hysterics shouting I dont want to get into that box dammit! I dont want to interpret everything and everyone in those frames… yeah well that was four years ago .. and now I am not so sure anymore..

So like I mentioned in an earlier post, I am attempting to apply the bricolage approach and I am so caught up in Critical theory and Resilience theory and the wonders of it all (yes I am a nerd).. but there is a continuous scratching at the back of my head… an irritance like a speck of sand in your eye that you cant quite wash out and you can just feel it there in the corner.. and it bugs me.. because I get the feeling.. no I am convinced that I too need to hook these onto the dratted Post-Colonialist reality..so yes, it is a constant.. must i? must i really? no really do i have to? and the annoying third person narrator in my head who also speaks in a voice uncannily not unlike my own replies..  ahh yes my dear, you do need to get into the box.. and no it cant be a green box.. it must be the standard cardboard brown box that you have learnt to despise. Get into the box. Embrace the box.

But I have decided the Post-Colonial Box will not define me or my research.. I will deconstruct the box, and reconstruct anew …

so here I go.. suck it up.. suck it up… and breathe deeply before revisiting what i call the three big C’s.. Contact, Christianity and  Colonialism – Oh how fucking predictable…  aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaagggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!

does ‘group therapy’ work?

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In 2002 while I was completing my Masters thesis, I was completely stressed out. The main reason for my frustration was the fact that 11 of the 12 months that year, my supervisor was out of the country conducting some huge ADB research project in the field. Great for her – bad for me. Despite numerous requests for a second supervisor, I was not granted one and ended up doing the thesis in isolation. well.. almost..

Towards the middle of that year, I met up with two male friends Desmond and Dick (one from Samoa and the other a Solomon Islander) who were also writing their dissertations and who shared a supervisor that they both detested. One day over coffee and biscuits, someone (I am not sure who) suggested we set up a support group of three. We did. Every wednesday we met at the arts centre (courtesy of the director the late Professor Epeli Hau’ofa) and we sat there from 5 pm to 8pm critiquing, challenging and defending our own and each other’s chapters. For some reason it worked and in december that year, we all graduated with our Masters of Arts in Education. That group worked. We were equally stressed out, committed to our work and dedicated to completing on time.  

This year as part of a similar self-help strategy, a group of colleagues in my department (education) have decided to invite well respected researchers and professors with vast experience of supervisingand examining PhD thesis to share some pointers on very specific “challenging” issues and today we had our first session.

We havent named the group but I guess you could call it the School of Education PhD Support Group (how very original I know! 🙂 Anyways, our first session was today from 2 – 4 pm in the Faculty Postgraduate Seminar Room – what better way to remind us all that we are students.

About the group – there are nine of us (academic staff members) enrolled in the PhD program and everyone is at different points of their studies. It is interesting and challenging having such a diverse group of interests, knowledge and skill set in a big group with the singular mission to get the damned PhD done!

Anyway, back to today.. We invited seasoned researcher and academic Allen (Max) Quanchi who discussed reseach design. While most of what he said was geared at those just beginning their journey (i.e. the intent and proposal process) I found the session interesting because it was the first time that someone had spoken about bricolage (and actually knew what they were talking about). I decided to use the bricolage approach in my thesis (being a fan of Joe Kinchelo’s writing and research works) but have never met anyone who deliberately and consciously applied it so it was pretty awesome.

A firm believer in things happening for a reason, I am pretty damned sure that I was meant to go to that session today! Especially after all the second quessing I have been doing in applying bricolage given that Kinchelo cautions against its use in the PhD. What a relief to hear of other examples. I am totally stoked right now and keen to dig into my next chapter.

Something else of interest was the different expectations of the PhD in different parts of the world – e.g. Germany, France, USA, UK and between “traditional/classical” universities and “newer” institutions who are more open to emerging schools of thought, multidisciplinary approaches and the like.

Max suggested that we identify a “critical friend” outside of our subject area to simply read for coherence. That is definitely on my to do list and I think I have the perfect friend in mind – Oh Mary.. where art thou Miss Mary.. 🙂  

Definitely time well spent. I am totally looking forward to the next session in two weeks and just hope that as we go along everyone gains some momentum as it would be awful  to have some fall out of the boat.

For more on J.L Kinchelo see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_L._Kincheloe.

For bricolage see for example, Kinchelo (2011). Describing the Bricolage: Conceptualizing a new rigor  in qualitative research http://www.petajwhite.net/Uni/910/Legit%20and%20Representation/Representation%20Precis/Kincheloe.pdf