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March 2019

Celebrating Women

We’re celebrating Women’s History Month by sharing powerful stories by and about women from our recent titles.

Paulus CoverThe Only Woman In the Room: The Norma Paulus Story is an inspiring look at the life and work of Norma Paulus, the first woman to be elected to state-wide office in Oregon. This book follows Paulus’ journey, which includes surviving polio, graduating from law school with honors despite not having a college degree, running for governor, and being elected Secretary of State. Paulus, who recently passed away, left behind a powerful legacy in Oregon politics.


Remembering the Power of Words: The Life of an Oregon Activist, Legislator, and Community Leader tells the powerful story of Avel Louise Gordly, the first African American woman to be elected to the Oregon Senate. Throughout her career, Gordly worked to confront and renounce Oregon’s racist history. Her work and words will continue to inspire generations to come. Read more about Gordly’s legacy in our recent blog post.

Beyond the Rebel Girl by Heather Mayer sheds light on the important roles that women played in the Wobbly movement in the Pacific Northwest. Counter to the popular perception of International Workers of the World members as being mainly male, women were instrumental in Wobbly life and fights for justice. To learn more about Beyond the Rebel Girl, you can read our recent interview with Mayer.


Homing Instincts cover

Homing Instincts features essays by OSU MFA alumnus Dionisia Morales that investigate ideas of identity and home. Ranging from topics like rock climbing to love, and geography to pregnancy, Morales wonders what it means to belong in a world in which migration and social integration present urgent political and ethical questions. Homing Instincts is a finalist for the Oregon Book Awards for creative nonfiction.

In our current age of environmental unbalance, Stephany Wilkes weaves a fascinating and timely account of the origins and importance of a resource present in all of our lives. Wilkes shares her story of becoming a certified sheep shearer along with the ecological concerns of the textile industry in Raw Material: Working Wool in the West, which made the longlist for the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association (NCIBA) 2018 Golden Poppy Award.

Giving Back in Real Ways

Today on the OSU Press blog, we are looking at an important conversation that is happening in community-based research.



In Giving Back: Research and Reciprocity in Indigenous Settings, R.D.K. Herman pulls together twelve case studies in order to provide ways for researchers to move forward while working ethically in partnership with communities, and to identify areas where there is still work to be done. Below, read excerpts from contributor Maria Fadiman and R.D.K. Herman on the ethical issues researchers face when trying to give back to the communities in which they work.


From Chapter 8: “Are You Making A Million Dollars?” Reciprocity as Cultural and Environmental Reconnection by contributor Maria Fadiman


“Are you making a million dollars?” Don Jorge asked.

            “No,” I replied.

            He laid his hand on the bark of the tree and said, “We heard that a researcher in the next village made a million dollars,” he paused, “and didn’t give any to the people.”

“No money for me.”

            “Then why are you doing it?” he asked.

            That was a good question.

Why do I do what I do? I am an ethnobotanist studying the relationship between plants and people. My overall goal is to promote conservation and cultural retention from within communities. Through helping local people maintain their own plant knowledge, this can lead to a more concrete re-connection to the plants themselves and raise the value of the ecosystems in which these plants live. One of the issues I need to address on every project is: how do I compensate people for the time they take out of their daily schedule working with me and sharing their information?


 R.D.K. Herman:

As Maria’s story illustrates, those of us who conduct field research in Indigenous settings know that our success depends upon the assistance, cooperation and even aid of peoples in those communities. The framework and methods of research have historically encouraged an extractive approach to data collecting: the researcher goes in, obtains the data and leaves, returning nothing to the community, and sometimes even publishing or patenting knowledge and “discoveries” derived from the local informants to the detriment of the local people. While newer research methodologies recognize that this is exploitative, and have developed approaches to at least engage the local communities as partners in research projects, the notion of reciprocity in research is slower to take root.  Especially for those of us who engage closely in the lives of the peoples we work with—building relationships for the short, medium or long term—we have to negotiate these relationships constantly.  And particularly in Indigenous communities, that involves giving.

The act of reciprocity in Indigenous research involves a cross-cultural encounter wherein two (or more) sets of values, senses of obligation, social rules and ritual protocols collide.  Western notions of individual ownership and intellectual property come up against Indigenous notions of collective ownership—or no ownership, for how can certain things be owned by anyone?—and responsibility. 

The growing field of Indigenous Studies recognizes that as scholars—whether Native or non-Native—we are entering into a relationship with a community and its members that is rooted in trust, responsibility, integrity, and genuine concern for the wellbeing of that community and its knowledge and traditions.  Meanwhile, Native communities themselves are increasingly demanding more say over or about the nature of research projects in their communities and on their lands, and are willing to say No to projects that do not clearly serve their interests.

The aim of this volume is to discuss how research with communities can better accomplish reciprocity with those communities.  Despite recent university and professional-association ethics policies, individual researchers must define for themselves what the quality and nature of their relationships will be with the communities with whom they work. They must ask themselves, What does reciprocity look and feel like in my working relationships with communities? What institutional barriers must be navigated in efforts to develop reciprocal relationships with community partners? How do you know when the outcomes of a research project have upheld your ethical obligations or goals of reciprocity? How do you navigate the unequal power relations inherent in academic research with Indigenous and “other” communities, in defining appropriate ways of ‘giving back’? How can research be mutually beneficial, given the historical and ongoing relationships of power in centers of knowledge production? How are the multiple perspectives within an individual community navigated in efforts to ensure positive outcomes for research partners? Even for researchers who are members of the communities with whom they work, ‘giving back’ may present unique challenges and opportunities. Can research itself be a form of ‘giving back’?

Many of us are never sure whether our attempts at reciprocity got it right, so this volume turns to those who have had more experience in this matter, or given it more thought, or engaged in innovative practices to create different paradigms from that of extractive research.  There is much more that can be said on this topic, and this is not a cookbook or a how-to. Yet we hope that some maps to this complex territory may emerge.


Pick up a copy of Giving Back: Research and Reciprocity in Indigenous Settings and learn more about the work that is being done to address unethical relationships between researchers and communities.

RDK Herman is senior geographer at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. He has served the Indigenous Peoples Specialty Group of the Association of American Geographers since 2000, and has authored work on decolonizing research methodologies. In 2000 he created Pacific Worlds, a web-based indigenous-geography education project for Hawai‘i and the American Pacific. 

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