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Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Policymaking with the indigenous community

While working my way through Charles Taylor's wonderful volume A Secular Age, I came across the following observations that rang bells as to what lies in the background of so much difficulty that policy makers have had in engaging with the indigenous community.

In providing an account of the development of at the cultural power and prestige of disengaged thinking that is developed powerfully by Descartes, Taylor observes:

The argument has to be made again and again, that "experience-far" methods based on the natural sciences risk distorting and missing the point when applied to the phenomena of psychology, politics, language, historical interpretation and so on.

Not that it isn't evident in ordinary life that disengagement may be quite the wrong way to go about increasing understanding. When we want to understand what someone is trying to tell us in a conversation; or to grasp what motivates some person or group, how they see the world, and what kinds of thngs are important to them, disengagement will almost certainly be a self-stultifying strategy. We have to be open to the person or event, allowing our responses to meaning full reign, which generally means our fellings, which reflect these responses. Of course, our feelings, or understanding of human meanings, may also be wht is blocking us in these cases. We fail to grasp how different they are from us.

...the remedy for this is not to jump out of the range of human meanings altogether, and try to take things in through a bleached neutralized language of "social science'.That just bolts the door against new insight. It is by allowing ourselves to be challenged by the ways they fail to fit into our recognized range of meanings, that we can begin to discern how this range has to be broken open and transformed if we are to understand them
. (pp.285-6)

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