Since the early 2000s, Pacific research has made its way into government policy and programming. Ministries have even adopted Pacific specific research guidelines such as the Ministry of Education’s teu le va report. This growth in demand and implementation of Pacific research shows that both the government and private sector are beginning to value Pacific knowledge.
What is Pacific Research?
Pacific research is about centring Pacific people’s diverse understandings of the world. Pacific research considers Pacific experiences of the world and then asks what Pacific solutions to this may look like. We see Pacific research in health, education, climate change, and so many more other areas. Pacific research methodologies are a resurgence practice that empowers Pacific people to define ourselves and critique the world we live in.
Pacific research includes but is not limited to vanua, kakala, talanoa, ula, and fa’afaletui. The shared values within Pacific research such as respect, reciprocity, communal relationships, and service etc. demonstrate our connections across the Pacific. While regional and country-specific research approaches such as masi methodology showcase our uniqueness. Within Aotearoa New Zealand, Pacific research guidelines have also been developed for government research such as Teu le va and the Health Research Council’s Pacific Health Research Guidelines. Pacific research is continually evolving as more Pacific people enter the research sector and develop research styles that suit the communities we work with and are part of.
Why is Pacific Research Important?
For too long solutions to Pacific issues were framed from outside of the Pacific. This resulted in ‘solutions’ that just focussed on Pacific deficiencies that were actually a result of systemic discrimination as opposed to considering how the system is experienced differently by different groups. When we create research that misunderstands and misrepresents Pacific people, then we develop solutions that will never address the issue at hand. Instead, the solutions we develop are likely to further entrench systemic inequities. Pacific research offers an opportunity for us to shift the critical lens to the system and formulate rich solutions to an inequitable system.
Pacific research is also a decolonising practice. Pacific people have always been scientists, we navigated the worlds largest ocean repetitively and intentionally to maintain a complex economic, political, and relational world. In many ways, Pacific research developed in response to an education and research sector that undermined and ignored Pacific ways of knowing and being. The reclamation and increased use of Pacific research show that as a community, Pacific peoples are speaking back to a space which has actively ignored and belittled them for many decades.
Pacific research isn’t only useful for Pacific issues. Pacific ways of engaging in solution-based and relational knowledge construction have been utilised outside of the Pacific. A recent example of this was the use of talanoa (both a research method and cultural practice) within the United Nations response to climate change. By utilising talanoa, the United Nations was able to open up the dialogue about Climate Change that was solutions focussed and productive.
How do you do Pacific Research?
There are many different types of Pacific research, the main thing is that it is research that centres Pacific understandings of the world. There are Pacific research methods that are considered Pan-Pacific as they cross multiple Pacific nations and their understandings of the world, such as talanoa. There are also nation-specific research approaches, such as the Fijian Vanua method. When conducting Pacific research, you begin with the community that you are researching with:
- What story does the community want to tell?
- What is the community trying to find a solution to?
- How does the community envision the project working?
- How does the community share their stories now?
Pacific research is a long-term commitment, it is research built on relationality. Suppose you are planning on using Pacific research. In that case, you must understand that the community comes first and that you are in it for the long-run.