Manulani Aluli Meyer



Hawaiian Hermeneutics and the Triangulation of Meaning: Gross, Subtle, Causal

Writing from the perspective of an indigenous Hawaiian educator and researcher, the author uses hermeneutics, “the art and science of interpretation,” to challenge the sort of empiricism that characterizes much of Anglo-American approaches to knowledge, research, and education. She uses the example of “knowing what type of limu, seaweed, washes on Håmåkua shores during winter swells” to illustrate the epistemological assertions that “place educates, beauty develops our thinking, and time is not simply linear.” With regard to established notions of what constitute “objective” research practices, Mayer insists, “We are not ‘dumbing down’ methodology when we wish to sit and listen — for years.” She questions the academy’s assumptions about proper etiquette for maintaining the anonymity of her dissertation research informants: “It was absolutely vital that people knew who was talking. That matters because in our community, knowledge that endures happens when you know where it came from.” Meyer challenges the emphasis in current educational policies on standardized tests by insisting that we look at “the larger triangulation of meaning — Body, Mind, Spirit.” “The languaging of Anglo-American intelligence,” she observes, “comes with specific vocabulary, a speedy disposition, and with very prescribed ways of seeing the world.” Meyer’s optimism stems from what she sees as the efforts of indigenous Hawaiian researchers to “articulate a new/ancient consciousness” and to redefine “the things of value with regard to knowledge and how we wish to live out our lives.”

Hawaii, hermeneutics, indigenous epistemology, standardized testing

Citation: Social Justice Vol. 30, No. 4 (2003): 54-63