An emergent methodology for creating a transcultural spatial narrative : reconceptualising the Ngunawal socio-cultural landscape as interactive space

  • Karen Williams

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This thesis is about creating a synthesis of emergent methodology with empathic understanding through transforming, as researcher, my ways of knowing and worldview. I use a transcultural spatial narrative about achieving that synthesis to demonstrate an emergent methodology. I present the theoretical underpinnings of my emergent methodology by exploring the process of transforming self. A transdisciplinary approach to history, ethnography and the visual arts is used to interact with Ngunawal ways of knowing and to reconceptualise the meanings of territory, line, space and the boundaries of the Ngunawal socio-cultural landscape. I discuss my redefined concepts and permeable boundaries with reference to Tindale’s 1974 map of tribal boundaries, which became a catalyst in my creation of a transcultural perspective (endorsed by the Ngunawal Elders) of Ngunawal territory. My methodology and empathic understanding emerge from my transformation. The movement and change, communicated by a series of exegeses, can be traced as I create the transcultural spatial narrative. The purpose of the thesis is both to develop, as an empathic researcher, a methodology for temporarily suspending my established knowledge base and to challenge my preconceptions in order to better understand the ways of knowing and perception of others. That purpose is achieved using a case study of the relationship between Ngunawal Aboriginal Australian culture and my own Euro-Australian culture. I create an interpretative narrative of territory as a means of validating my understanding. An interpretive narrative of Ngunawal territory means working with the Ngunawal Elders and their perspective of territory, but not appropriating their culture. However, since Mabo 2, research on Native Title has increasingly focused on the material dimensions of culture. The current focus is on defining the boundaries of ‘place’ as lines on maps, and on the material connection of people to places between those lines. Given our original perception of Australia as Terra Nullius was so badly flawed, I have challenged the perceptions and ways of knowing that led to it. Therefore, I work toward creating a transcultural narrative that focuses on physical and non-physical aspects that define territory. The Ngunawal Elders taught me that ways of knowing territory depend on recognising the different emphasis generally placed on the interaction of personal and environmental space by my own culture compared to Ngunawal culture. Differences in the perception of boundaries between mind, body and environment are key. The general view of my culture perceives mind, body and environment as separate and opposing. This challenges the coherence of a narrative of territory. The difference in perception caused me to rethink the role of self as I reconceptualised Ngunawal territory in terms of interactive space (a hybrid space of social, cultural and environmental interaction). Reconceptualising self in interactive space enabled me to perceive Ngunawal culture empathically without appropriating it. I created a spatial narrative using a hybrid system of signals and symbols that were open to new and changing experiences and perceptions.
    Date of Award2011
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorBarbara Chambers (Supervisor) & John Spriggs (Supervisor)

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