Got My Pickaxe Handy

It’s a daunting task to study Native science and Western science, drilling down through the crust and mantle to examine the core of what centers our beliefs.

While some scholars point to power and capital, I find it stops the conversation rather than thrusting it forward. First, power is too nebulous to pin down, and Michel Foucault had insight to suggest we should look at how the conversation unfolds and at what junctures.

That explains my decision to intensify my studies in communication when I became a graduate student at Cornell in 1988. I wanted to study how conversations in print and news propel some arguments and halt others.

I was driven by having spent the prior decade in journalism and public relations. My job was writing and editing, from news stories to speeches, and I also learned to shoot photos, design publications, raise money, jockey music on a radio program, perform on live television, and supervise staff.

At the heart of my work in PR was learning how to persuade, and I was grateful that I worked for a university, so the persuasion seemed warranted. In the 1980s the head of the journalism department, Mark Larson, asked if I would like to teach the beginning PR course, and I discovered that theory underpins persuasion.

To learn more about theory I spent my graduate school years wrestling with theory and trying to discover how words persuade.

So, while it’s important to drill down to belief systems, I argue we need to examine how words, images and stories—the “stuff” —conveys such beliefs. And it’s the basketful of stuff that illuminates how beliefs are conveyed, not just a politician’s speech or a blockbuster movie.

So my current task is to mine the landscape for gems that reveal something about Native science. And this includes stories, conversations, museum displays, songs, poems, essays—you get the idea.

Got my pickaxe handy.


About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. Dr. Coleman is an enrolled citizen of the Osage Nation.
This entry was posted in authenticity, framing, Indian, journalism, Native Science, Osage, writing and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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