Get over your Self

FInding the buried mummy

What if there is no self?

How would we approach life, discourse and communication if we were able to put our Self in abeyance? On hold?

I listened to a talk recently about how selves–our egos, I guess–get in the way of understanding.

Although the talk was in the context of Buddhism, my mind rushed to Indian Country, where I believe the Self is less important than we might imagine casually.

In order to address the issues that I’ve been studying—the role of science in Indian Country—it may first be necessary to abandon the Self. Our desires and hopes and dreams. What we lust after. What we want. What we think we need.

An important point of contention in scientific conflicts may be the boulders in our paths created by ego. And in order to nudge the boulders aside, we may need to extract our ego from the conversation.

I think about the ongoing disputes over bones, bodies and skeletons that indigenous tribes want repatriated from public and private collections, and how the conversations unfold over the provenance of science and discovery.

I think about the mummy Juanita, enclosed in a glass cage in a museum in Peru, and on continuous display since 1996, according to Wikipedia. Sacrificed to the gods about 500 years ago, her mummified body was pulled from Mount Ampato and heralded as a major scientific find.

And yet…do our scientific egos get in the way of our good judgment when it comes to respectful treatment of the mummified body?

Juanita is no longer a person when she becomes an object of scientific desire. She becomes a creature that fills our scientific lust.

And if scientists abandon the Self, does that allow us a clearer perspective? Perhaps then we can begin to more clearly see the person, the family member, who is now encased in glass.

Photo credit:


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, Indian, Native Science, science and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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