SETTLER FRAGILITY: Four Paradoxes of Decolonizing Research

Kaitlyn Watson, Sandra Jeppesen


This dialogic autoethnography, in which the authors reflect on their experiences as settlers who have researched with Indigenous communities, maps four paradoxes settler researchers need to negotiate in decolonizing research. The term settler fragility signals a settler positioning of innocence in colonization, which simultaneously recenters colonial power to secure settler futures. In research, settler fragility must be confronted through four paradoxes: (1) the paradox of learning Indigenous worldviews in a profound way but without appropriation; (2) the paradox of unsettling research by undoing colonial epistemologies in which settlers problematically aim to feel settled; (3) the paradox of reconciling research to improve relationships with Indigenous communities which can lead to reconciling settlers with their place in colonialism, rather than with Indigenous research partners; and (4) the paradox of decolonizing research in which settler research in colonial universities is recognized as incommensurate with decolonization and yet must be undertaken to decolonize the university. Contributing a tentative set of settler research practices, this paper aims to expand dialogues about how settlers can overcome settler fragility through negotiating the four paradoxes of decolonizing research to develop authentic relationships with Indigenous communities, researchers, and research partners.


decolonizing methodologies, reconciliation, systemic anti-Indigenous racism, dialogic autoethnography, settler research

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