Letter: Objective scholarly writing shouldn't be the gold standard

After reflecting on some work by Indigenous feminist scholar Dian Million, I have learned that students tend to view anger within academic writing as reductive. 

As students, we are taught that academic work, especially historical work, needs to be objective. Scholar Mansoor Niaz explains that objectivity has become synonymous with science. This false equivalency is then regurgitated by conservative commentators with their slogan “facts don’t care about your feelings”.

There is a fear that social sciences have stepped further away from their scientific nature — further from the truth — and claims “little interest in rigorous research” in our “preference for anecdotal evidence,” according to Maximilian Felsch’s “The Scientific Shortcomings of Postcolonial Theory.” These groups understand objectivity as void of bias while it actually creates a bias against emotions in academia. 

This requirement for objectivity, specifically regarding Indigenous issues, can cause individuals to view Indigenous women's emotional academic work negatively due to its perceived reductive nature. This negativity discredits the views and theories of Indigenous women, further limiting their ability to exist in academia. 

Anger is often where theory stems from and, therefore, it is productive. 

Stories about and written by Indigenous women are seldom published. UBC students should seek out and uplift work by Indigenous authors where they unapologetically express their anger.

As a Métis woman, I am tired of pretending to be content with our current reality — I am angry. I see the way that academia informs negative perceptions of Indigenous people. Indigenous women are continually represented as irrational or overly emotional in an effort to undermine and discredit our lived experiences. 

Indigenous scholar, Rachel Flowers, highlights that discrediting emotions frames Indigenous women's responses to colonial violence as inappropriate, and says that the ‘proper’ way to respond to this violence is in an objective, and therefore productive, way. There may be a hesitation to center stories of Indigenous women's anger in an effort to not contribute to these stereotypes of ‘emotionally irrational’ women. Still, by stripping these stories of emotion we are doing nothing more than making them palatable for settlers. 

In reality, Indigenous women’s anger offers richness to our politics and a new depth to our academic work. We are not offering a “distorted perception of reality that endangers the overall reputation of the social sciences,” as argued by Felsch. We are the reality. Our anger is an assertion that we are not passive victims of colonial violence but rather, continually exist in opposition to colonial powers. 

Academic journals and media at UBC, like The Ubyssey, have the ability to represent Indigenous women’s anger in an authentic way. When our work is disregarded within academia, student media can call attention to the different types of theorizing that are being done within Indigenous spaces. While educating others, uplifting our voices is an encouragement of Indigenous women's academic work. We have seen what media outside of academia, like social media, allows in regards to social movements like Black Lives Matter and Indigenous women's activism.

This media has fewer barriers in place and allows the spread of theories that would not have otherwise been published, and student-led media can do the same. I want to see more journalistic and scholarly articles that uplift the emotional and personal work that is being produced within Critical Indigenous Studies. Million said colonialism’s strongest defence is silence. 

If we continue to allow the misrepresentation of anger, then we are acting in accordance with colonization.

Casey Cooper is a fourth-year psychology student and research assistant.

This is an opinion letter. It does not reflect the opinions of The Ubyssey as a whole. You can submit an opinion at ubyssey.ca/pages/submit-an-opinion.