Thursday 4 March 2021

CRFR New Webpage

CRFR New Webpage

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Wednesday 3 March 2021

The Legacy of Orkney for Child Protection

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The Legacy of Orkney for Child Protection

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Wednesday 3 February 2021

Looking to capture practices of intimacy in times of social distancing: Mixed-methods research on singles in Japan.

Laura Dales (PhD, UWA) is Senior Lecturer in Asian Studies at the University of Western Australia. Her main research interests include agency, friendship and dating across Asia, as well as singlehood and marriage in contemporary Japan. She is currently writing a book examining intimacy beyond the family in contemporary Japan.

Nora Kottmann (PhD, Heinrich-Heine University Düsseldorf) is Senior Research Fellow at the German Institute for Japanese Studies (DIJ) in Tokyo. Her main research interests include personal relationships, intimacy (‘spaces of intimacy’), (not) belonging, mobile and multi-local biographies/relationships and expat communities. 

copyright is with Nora Kottman

In Japan, COVID-19-time has been marked by avoidance of “the 3 Cs“: closed spaces, crowds and close-contact situations. The term, selected late last year as the most popular new word of 2020, encapsulates governmental advice, recommended but not legally enforced. The call to avoid the ‘3Cs’ was first formulated by Tokyo governor Koike Yuriko in late March 2020. Soon after (and following the decision to postpone the Olympics), then-Prime Minister Abe Shinzō declared a state of emergency for seven prefectures on April 7, 2020; this was expanded to the entire nation on April 16. A successive lifting of the state of emergency started in mid-May and ended on May 25. While hardly any restrictions were noticeable in everyday life in the months that followed, masks became an obligatory accessory and calls for self-restraint (jishuku) and social distancing (sōsharu disutansu) in everyday life remained strong. At the same time, the government implemented the so-called “Go-To” campaign for citizens and residents of Japan to revitalise the badly damaged tourism industry, although the campaign was put “on hold” at the end of 2020. In the late autumn of 2020, the number of COVID-19 cases increased significantly and finally, on 7 January 2021, a renewed state of emergency was declared in selected prefectures, which is currently ongoing.

As social scientists working on issues related to gender, intimacy and personal relationships beyond marriage, we have been especially interested in the ways that the pandemic and its associated rules and sanctions have shaped non-familial practices of intimacy (Jamieson 2011), recognising that these practices extend beyond the household and beyond the family. Although we both have a background in qualitative methods, we decided to design a quantitative survey that captures these effects, with an eye to sketching a picture of changes that have played out across the country, albeit in different ways.

We began planning a survey that is partly based on our previous qualitative findings in September 2020, firstly collating relevant Japanese and English-language research and scholarly and media articles on COVID and its impact. We particularly focused on the ways that the pandemic affected practices and perceptions of unmarried individuals between 25 and 49 (‘singles’) to redress the gap in scholarly literature on intimate practices among so-called ‘singles’, and also to decouple assumptions of romance and sex from familist or marriage-centric ideals. These tendencies are especially strong in Japan, where the number of unmarried individuals is on the steep rise, but cohabitation (women 7%; men 5,5%; 18 – 34 years) and children born out of wedlock (2,29%; 2016) remain rather uncommon. In the context of a strong focus on heterosexual marriage in public and political discourse, ‘singles’ are a marginalized and often overlooked population in Japan although experts in the Japanese context anticipate the emergence of a ‘hyper solo society’, a ‘society where living alone will be the norm’ (Arakawa & Nakano 2020).

This research therefore aims to better understand the lives and non-familial relationship worlds of unmarried adults, and the practices that flow from COVID-19 related changes. Our nationwide survey (n=4000), implemented with a renowned Japanese research institute (Hommerich & Kottmann 2020) generally focuses on legally unmarried individuals regardless of their relationship status, including those living in a range of housing arrangements: solo-dwellers, those who live with elderly or young dependants, those who cohabit with romantic partners and those who live with strangers or friends. In considering the effect of household composition and wider social networks upon singles during COVID times, we recognise that lives and practices are shaped by factors beyond marital status and romantic attachment and that the way unmarried individuals are embedded in social networks varies significantly (Dales 2017). In so doing we ask the question: how have policies and measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 shaped the experience of being ‘single’, living alone and ‘doing’ solo on the one hand, and ‘being together’, creating ‘new’ communities’ on the other hand?

We decided to conduct a quantitative survey for several reasons. One consideration was expediency: unlike interviews, which can be time-consuming to arrange, conduct and transcribe, an online survey can capture thousands of experiences in a short period of time (in our case, the 4000 results were gathered in less than one week). A second related benefit is speed, which is critical in the context of the daily flux of COVID-19 infections and related policies affecting social practices. Third: the possibility to focus on change through addressing three time frames, namely pre Covid-19; during the first state of emergency (April – May 2020) and finally from June 2020 until the declaration of the second state of emergency in January 2021. 4. The need to re-consider and adapt (especially) qualitative methodological approaches in times of social distancing. Despite challenges, the ‘”socially-distant”-method’ (Lobe et al. 2020: 1; see also Lupton (ed.) 2020) was one way for us to solve this dilemma. Finally, we were fortunate to access COVID-related research funds – one of the few silver-linings of COVID-times – to enable the commissioning of the survey.

After the successful completion of the pre-test in late December, the main survey is currently being conducted; we expect first descriptive findings in mid-February. In our forthcoming analyses we aim to situate the data in the context of contemporary media and public discourse on how individuals are managing COVID-life. From the outset it is clear that the pandemic, and its concomitant uncertainties have produced two diachronic developments: An increase in suicides (especially among women) and public concerns about loneliness on the one hand, and an apparent increase in acceptance of ‘solo-activities’ (soro-katsu) on the other hand: ‘solo-camping’ was chosen as one of the top 10 buzzwords of 2020.

It is already clear that COVID-19 has had significant impacts on the mental as well as physical health of communities around the world, even as we know that these impacts have not been equal. Alongside global studies that reveal class, ethnic and economic differences in COVID-19 effects, we hope our research contributes to an understanding of the ways that singlehood, marital status and extra-familial relationships are shaped, and shape, the experiences of this pandemic.

For further information and updates on news, findings and publications, please see here.

For a recently published blog by the same authors, please see Solo-camping and solo-hotpots: Re-thinking practices and perceptions of singlehood in Japan in COVID-time.


Dales, Laura (2017) “Friendships, marriage and happiness in contemporary Japan”,  in Manzenreiter, Wolfram & Holthus, Barbara (eds) Happiness and the Good Life in Japan, London: Routledge, pp. 68-86.

Jamieson, Lynn (2011) “Intimacy as a Concept: Explaining Social Change in the Context of Globalisation or Another Form of Ethnocentricism.” Sociological Research Online 16 (4): 1–13.

Hommerich, Carola & Kottmann, Nora (2020) “How to combine methods: Mixed methods designs”, in Kottmann, Nora & Reiher, Cornelia (eds) Studying Japan. Handbook of Research Designs, Fieldwork and Methods. Baden-Baden: Nomos, pp. 264–282.

Tuesday 24 November 2020

Children’s hearing system fails to address child sexual exploitation

Dr Sarah Nelson OBE, is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships (CRFR) and a research specialist on childhood sexual abuse and its effects across the lifecourse. Sarah's book, ‘Tackling Child Sexual Abuse: Radical Approaches’, offers hope of more effective, imaginative means of protecting children and young people from sexual abuse.

Disturbing research has found that Scotland’s children’s hearing system, and social work recommendations to it, are significantly failing to identify and safeguard against child sexual exploitation.

Research by Barnardo's Scotland and the Scottish Children's Reporter Administration considered 44 cases where child sexual exploitation (CSE) was referenced in reports (mostly by police or social work). They also considered 30 more cases where researchers identified the child as a very likely victim. This was through combinations of significant known factors, but where there was no mention in official documents. Going missing overnight for instance was linked with significant risk factors such as unexplained injury, notably older partner, sexually risky behaviour, unexplained money and disclosure of assault.

Girls were more likely to be identified than boys - 91% of the 44 known cases were girls. In comparison, more than half of the children found by the researchers to be likely victims were boys (57%).

The 44 known children were highly vulnerable: 220 Hearings altogether had been held for them. Most had long histories of supervision at home, in foster care or in residential units. The researchers identified 30 girls (57%) as having been actual or likely victims of CSE from aged nine to 13 years. Some were vulnerable to CSE for almost half their lives. Prior sexual abuse was significant. For 55% of girls and 24% of boys, sexual abuse histories were recorded in their case files. For nearly a quarter of girls, this abuse began before they were four years old.

Don’t consider child a victim

Yet when CSE was referenced in reports, this was often very briefly and was seldom included in social work recommendations to Children’s Hearings. Only 10% of recommendations explicitly referenced CSE. In Hearings’ decisions only 11% of decisions specifically referenced CSE and a further 16% alluded to it. In only 23 Hearings did the social work recommendation include or reference CSE.

For 15 of the 44 children where CSE was explicit in their case files, (34%), there was evidence that an assessment of CSE risk had been carried out. Yet these assessments were not made available to the Children’s Reporter or Children’s Hearings. This, they say, is

“A serious concern…sexual exploitation cannot be understood as a vague additional risk, but rather a lived traumatic reality for a significant minority of children and young people involved in the Children’s Hearings System.”

Most Children’s Hearings do not therefore appear to be considering the child as a CSE victim when making decisions on statutory interventions.

For children to receive interventions and services to protect them from sexual exploitation, the researchers argue, all involved in their care and welfare must have up to date information on children’s vulnerabilities and risks, to make effective decisions and plans. Children’s Panel Members and Children’s Reporters needed to be better informed and empowered to ask questions when a child has many vulnerabilities associated with CSE, but this is unnamed in reports.

Vulnerability - not behaviour

Most risk assessment and risk management planning, they add, “focuses on the behaviours of children…. rather than dealing with the person or places/spaces that present risk to them. There is a need to look beyond a child’s behaviour and family circumstances to who is associating with the child, why they are doing this and… to better identify and protect those vulnerable to sexual exploitation”.

On under-identification of boys, the researchers ask that tools and frameworks used to recognise and respond to CSE reflect the diversity of young people affected and the variety of the abuse. Boys and girls may experience different trajectories into and out of exploitation.

Recommendations for change

Recommendations include:

· Children’s Hearings Scotland and SCRA must ensure workers and volunteers have access to training on the identification of and response to CSE, and to tackle victim-blaming attitudes (such as “at risk from her sexual activities”, “placing herself in dangerous situations”, etc.)

· The Scottish Government must support cultural change throughout the sector to eradicate victim-blaming attitudes and language by delivering training, supporting internal audits and reporting progress.

· Models of contextual safeguarding (dealing with risk outside the home in the local environment) must be embedded in policy and practice. Child Protection Committees and Community Safety Partnerships can play important roles.

· SCRA must embed CSE-specific training for Reporters to improve knowledge, understanding and confidence on issues relating to CSE risk and information-sharing. Children’s Hearings Scotland must make CSE-specific training standard for Panel members, to foster “appropriate curiosity as to the nature of children’s experiences”.

· The Scottish Government must take responsibility for the recommendations in this report and assign their delivery to an appropriate national working group.

This report adds substantially to training concerns by Sue Hampson (Safe to Say) and myself from our previous discussions about sexual abuse with members of the Scottish children’s hearing system. These concerns were about very limited training for panel members, including understanding of common reactive behaviours by children and young people, which might bring them before the Panels in need of physical protection and therapeutic support.


Nelson, S. (2016) Tackling Child Sexual Abuse: Radical approaches to prevention, protection and support’, Ch.4, ‘Stigmatised young people: from “abuse fodder” to key allies against abuse and sexual exploitation’, PP.133-175.

Monday 16 November 2020

Inclusion of parents and LGBTQ youth in teen dating violence research and prevention programs: A review of current research

Cristina McAllister M.S., Kathleen Rodgers Ph.D. and Hilary Rose Ph.D., CFLE from Washington State University review their current research.

In North America, teen dating violence among adolescents is a significant health concern. LGBTQ youth disproportionately experience bullying, peer aggression, suicide and peer harassment. In the United States, 1 in 9 adolescent women and 1 in 12 adolescent males have experienced a form of TDV (CDC, 2020). The 2017 National School Climate Survey in the United States indicated that in a nationally representative sample of 23,001 students, 57.3% of LGBTQ students were sexually harassed in the past year at school (Kosciw et al., 2017). In Canada, 7% of youth experience dating or other intimate partner violence before 17 years of age (Conroy et al., 2018). The 2019 Canadian Trans and Non-Binary Youth Health survey found that out of 1,519 trans and non-binary youth from across various provinces and territories in Canada, 28% of these teens were sexually assaulted, and 30% had been physically hurt by a date (Taylor et al., 2020).

Teen dating violence (TDV) is defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 2020) as a type of intimate partner violence that includes physical violence, sexual violence, psychological aggression, and stalking that can take place in person or electronically (para. 1).

Despite the high rates of TDV among LGBTQ teens, few prevention programs specifically target this audience (Human Rights Campaign, ND). Additionally, although research identifies families as an important context for learning about romantic relationships (Whitaker & Miller, 2000), few prevention programs appear to involve parents. Furthermore, most IPV research has focused primarily on heteronormative youth without taking into consideration the intersection of race.

Little is known about the prevalence of research on parental involvement and the needs of LGBTQ teen dating violence prevention programming. This review will (1) illuminate how often research includes or targets the needs of LGBTQ adolescents, and (2) how often TDV research and prevention practices engage parents.

TDV Prevention Programs in the United States and Canada
The primary focus of TDV research in the United States and Canada is to understand why teens perpetrate or are victims of dating violence, and how TDV impacts teenagers. Twenty-two articles of 85 identified had US samples, and 3 of 17 had Canadian samples, focused on prevention and intervention programming primarily implemented in schools. Our search identified the following programs most frequently: Safe Dates, Coaching Boys into Men, Dating Matters, Expect Respect, Start Strong, and Teen Choices. Programs less frequently identified were: Discovery Dating, Familias En Nuestra Escuela, Love U2, It’s Your Game, Lucidity (narrative based computer game), and Bringing in the Bystander. Many of these programs target “high-risk” adolescent populations, but they do not address specific risks that LGBTQ teens face.

Intersectionality and TDV research
Out of 102 articles retrieved with US and Canadian samples, very few addressed TDV among LGBTQ youth (see Table 1 for article break down by LGBTQ inclusion). Measuring gender identity with a single survey question was common in studies. Often, this single LGBTQ survey question was never discussed again in these papers. Only 3 articles with US samples specifically discussed and analyzed LGBTQ youth and TDV beyond asking about gender on a survey. Among studies with Canadian samples, articles largely did not measure whether teens identified as heterosexual or LGBTQ.

Table 1. Count of Articles by Sexual Orientation and Location


United States


LGBTQ Youth Only



LGBTQ measured; No Further Analysis



LGBTQ Not Measured



Total Articles Retrieved (102):



Our search revealed that, white non-Hispanic populations are the primary focus of research (see Table 2 for article break down by race). These results illustrate common research trends seen in the US and Canada. The racial make-up of these two countries is largely reflected by the numbers seen in table two. In most cases, non-white racial groups are collapsed into singular groups for analysis. This is problematic because the cultural diversity that exists within racial groups is not revealed. 

Table 2. Count of Articles by Study Sample Race and Location


United States














Indigenous/Native American



Mix of Races



Race Not Measured



Total Articles Retrieved (102):



Our literature review illustrates a strong need for researchers of TDV to be more intentionally intersectional. The findings from our search revealed a limited scope of intersectionality in research focused on adolescent romantic relationships and dating violence. This is problematic because the experiences of indigenous, black, Hispanic, and Asian youth tend to be different from Caucasian peers who do not have to navigate systemic racism. With both North American countries having diverse populations, it is critical that TDV researchers acknowledge hardships faced by different racial groups and sexual orientation. 

Parents and Dating Violence Prevention
Parents have the potential to mitigate the effects of TDV by engaging in regular conversations about dating and romantic relationships and providing a supportive environment for their child (Rogers et al., 2015). More evaluation research is needed to understand parents’ role in preventing TDV.

A primary challenge for parents is how to have a conversation with their teen about teen dating violence. In a focus group study, researchers found that parents and teens differ in the types of comments they make about TDV (Black & Preble, 2016). Parents tended to provide information about TDV without addressing their child’s specific situation. In contrast, teens in the study said they wanted parents to provide “comfort and support” but without lecturing while talking about TDV (Black & Preble, 2016, p. 152).

Researchers suggest that TDV programs for LGBTQ youth should address relevant sexuality-sensitive topics (Flores & Barroso, 2017).

LGBTQ teens with supportive families may benefit from parent-child discussions about healthy romantic relationships. However, involving parents in programming about healthy romantic relationships could pose a potentially harmful situation for LGBTQ teens who are not “out” or who have unsupportive parents (Bouris et al., 2010; Flores et al., 2019).

TDV Prevention Research Moving Forward
TDV prevention research has made progress over the last decade, but there are areas for improvement. 

1. There is a need to research, identify, and design TDV programs with components (modules) that can be modified to meet targeted population needs, such as for LGBTQ youth, while also maintaining core curriculum components that have demonstrated effectiveness.

2. There is a substantial lack of research surrounding the needs and experiences of LGBTQ and non-Caucasian youth with TDV. Without more research on the TDV experiences of LGBTQ and diverse youth populations beyond Caucasians, current TDV may fail to address the unique concerns of LGBTQ and adolescents of color.

3. There is a need for prevention programs to better incorporate parents in programming. Parents can benefit from knowing more about how to help their child succeed in healthy romantic relationships. Current research studies provide limited educational resources for parents on how to talk with teens about TDV.

These are initial steps towards understanding how TDV research can address the needs of all youth by including parents when appropriate, and by increasing inclusivity of diverse dating and romantic relationship experiences among all youth. Our review will help illuminate more inclusive research and programming on teen dating violence.

Wednesday 4 November 2020

South Asian child sexual abuse – what we need to know

Vanisha Jassal is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Kent where she is Director of Studies for the MA in Advanced Child Protection. She can deliver bespoke training for local authorities around barriers to CSA disclosure amongst BAME communities.

The June report published by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), “People don’t talk about it”, discusses how children and young people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities (BAME) can face additional barriers to disclosing and reporting child sexual abuse (CSA).

I have been researching one such barrier for three years, investigating how concepts of Shame and Honour in South Asian communities can amplify the secrecy of intra-familial CSA for female victims from Britain’s Bangladeshi, Indian and Pakistani families. Having interviewed eight adult survivors to date, my research concurs with the IICSA report in that certain cultural norms can be a significant impediment to disclosure. None of the eight interviewees reported the abuse to statutory services.

Develop an understanding of what ‘Shame’ and ‘Honour’ means to South Asian service users
Feeling shame is a universal emotion and most people will want to represent both themselves and their families in a positive light. However, for those of South Asian origin, as am I, shame is known to take on greater intensity (Gilligan and Akhtar 2006; Sawrikar and Katz 2017; McNeish and Scott 2018[i]) as concerns over family reputation and community standing can predominate decisions about matters related to the private affairs of one’s family. Child sexual abuse is deemed shameful, and victims/survivors and perpetrators, are only too aware of this. Disclosures are consequently not forthcoming, and abuse can continue for many years. As one interviewee stated:

“Sharam [shame] it’s like, you know, it’s a big thing and saying something like this [disclosing sexual abuse] would have been really bad because we are from a strict family…so I’d never have said anything to anyone.”

My interviews reveal that these cultural norms can be deeply embedded within an individual, governing her thoughts and behaviours as far back as she can remember. She is very aware of what is categorised as shameful to her family and her community and how a disclosure of CSA will bring shame upon the family and have nothing short of disastrous and damaging implications for her loved ones, and for her. Another interviewee stated:

“I basically don’t want any of my siblings at some point in their lives to meet someone and then it doesn’t work out because their partner’s family doesn’t want to get involved with my family because of the sexual abuse.”

Understand that perceptions of child sexual abuse can be different within the community
The IICSA report highlighted that there can be a perception, and even a firm belief, that CSA does not occur in one’s community. That it is something that happens in other communities. This leads to a direct or indirect denial of the abuse. My interview data revealed that such views discourage victims from disclosing. One interviewee stated that a cousin had disclosed CSA and was told by her parents not to not say anything; their concern being that the family’s reputation, and the girl’s, would be tarnished. The interviewee therefore felt that her parents would have the same reaction and never disclosed her abuse. Perpetrators, familiar with such likely responses, can therefore exploit the situation and are protected by these perspectives. Another interviewee was told by her perpetrator that her parents would not do anything about what she was saying and may not even believe her.

Appreciating that community relationships with statutory sector services need to be developed
BAME communities often feel that they cannot reach out to statutory sector services as they feel that these are too Eurocentric in their models of family intervention and support and would not address the abuse appropriately or in a culturally sensitive way. This is a further barrier. The need to be ‘culturally aware’ and ‘culturally competent’ is engrained in social work values and is something widely discussed but how can we actually support practitioners to achieve this? Having taught an MA in Advanced Child Protection to experienced professional for several years, I am aware of the challenges this poses for well-intentioned practitioners. As one interviewee said to me: ‘It is such a relief not having to explain what shame and honour mean to you’, indicating that practitioners of non-South Asian origin are not sufficiently aware of how these concepts can influence one’s life.

Below are some recommendations to support organisations and practitioners in developing skills and confidence in this area:

Advice and tips
1. Organisations are advised to introduce or strengthen their workforce development skills around what shame and honour means for service users, enabling practitioners and managers to feel more confident when responding to relevant cases. This will develop an understanding of the deeply embedded meaning that these norms hold for effected communities and how this materialises in situations of abuse. It will also allow practitioners to challenge their own biases about these concepts which may seem alien and difficult to comprehend. The charity Karma Nirvana supports victims of honour-based abuse and also provides training, and is a useful starting point to learn more about the issues.

2. Practitioners are advised to read some of the high profile cases of honour-based abuse which highlight these concepts in a very clear way, and their serious and sometimes tragic consequences for individuals. These BBC news articles provide a brief overview of the cases: Shafileah Ahmed and Banaz Mahmod. You can also view documentaries on You Tube: Shafileah Ahmed documentary and Banaz Mahmod documentary.

3. Shame and honour are called ‘Sharam’ and ‘Izzat’ by South Asian communities. Listen out for these words in your everyday practice with communities and try to use this knowledge to enhance risk assessment processes and decision-making.

4. Consider carefully how concerns about shame and honour can be exploited by perpetrators of abuse, aware that a victim is unlikely to want to be the cause of family disharmony or dishonour.
Without this concerted effort to try to understand the meaning and implications of shame and honour, these will remain as barriers and practitioners are likely to remain less well equipped to respond.

A word of caution: exploring cultural norms and seeing the child beyond these norms
Developing cultural competence continues to be developed, especially due to the continuing inequalities across health and social care services for BAME children and families. However, it is also critical to remember that a child should not only be seen through the lens of his/her ethnicity or culture. The cases of Victoria Climbie, Humza Khan, Khyra Ishaq, Bilal and others, are reminders that this can lead to poor decision-making. Although shame and honour emerged as a theme in my research, it was not the only significant factor when discussing non reporting of the abuse. Some interviewees simply did not want to disrupt family life, some did not know what to do about the abuse and could not make sense of it, others thought that they were in a meaningful relationship with the abuser. These are findings which are commonly known in CSA cases amongst all communities and so by demarking a child singularly by her culture will be limiting our assessments of risk.

The research is continuing for the remainder of 2020 and if you are a British female CSA victim/survivor of South Asian origin, over 21, and would like to be a research participant or would like to find out more about the research, please email which is a confidential email address for the research. I would also like to hear from social workers who have worked with cases of South Asian origin and further details can be supplied through contacting me at the same email address.

Contact details
Work email:
Research email:
Twitter: @vanishajassal

[i] Gilligan, P. and Akhtar, S. (2006). ‘Cultural barriers to the Disclosure of Child Sexual Abuse in Asian Communities: Listening to What Women Say’. British Journal of Social Work, V.36, pp1361-1377.

McNeish, D. and Scott, S. (2018). Key Messages from Research on Intra-Familial Child Sexual Abuse. (Centre of Expertise on Child Sexual Abuse: Essex).

Sawrikar, P. and Katz, I. (2017). Barriers to disclosing child sexual abuse (CSA) in ethnic minority communities: A review of the literature and implications for practice in Australia. Children and Youth Services Review [Online] 83:302–315. Available at: [Accessed: 7 December 2017].

Tuesday 27 October 2020

A blog conversation between Helen Moewaka Barnes and Rosalind Edwards: indigenous knowledges and intersectionality

The Centre for Research on Families and Relationships is holding its seminar, 'Intersectionality Families and Relationships – Colonisation, Climate Change, Children’s Rights: Has Covid-19 changed the agenda?' on the 11th and 12th of November 2020. In this short blog, two of our guest speakers Helen Moewaka Barnes and Ros Edwards, talk together about the overlaps and tensions between indigenous approaches and intersectionality.

Ros Edwards, Professor of Sociology at the University of Southampton will speak to Standing at the Intersection of Western and Indigenous Knowledges. Ros will discuss her positioning alongside Indigenous colleagues in a project they collaborated on about Indigenous and non-Indigenous researcher partnerships, and consider the intersection between intersectionality and Indigenous knowledges.

Helen Moewaka Barnes, (Te Kapotai te hapu, Ngāpuhi te iwi): Co-Director SHORE & Whariki Research Centre, Director Whariki, College of Health, Massey University, Aotearoa New Zealand will speak to Colonizing and marginalizing families: resistance, internalization and determination.

To join Helen and Ros in this discussion, please register here:

ROS: We’re participating in the CRFR online international seminar on ‘Intersectionality, families and relationships’ which has prompted me to think about the relationship between indigenous knowledges and intersectionality. I’ve learnt a lot from our discussions about decolonisation, kaupapa Māori approaches to knowledge, and our indigenous/non-indigenous research partnership project (, including the importance of knowing who you are and where you are located. So it seems to me that while we may see some overlaps between indigenous approaches and intersectionality, there also may be some tensions. I think that quite what constitutes the relationship between the two depends on where you are standing. If you are an intersectionality researcher then you may view indigenous approaches as one of the elements of a resistory and transformative intersectional endeavour. But if the ground that you stand on is indigenous, then maybe that could feel like indigenous knowledge becomes a handmaiden for intersectionality? Maybe intersectionality could serve to find a space for and welcoming of indigenous approaches in mainstream universalising western thought?

HELEN: Firstly, I have to confess that I have only a passing acquaintance with intersectionality. My relatively shallow understanding is that it is an implicit part of how we, as the ‘other’ understand our lives. It might also provide a useful lens through which to understand colonial history and its interconnectedness with poverty, racism and gender, to name a few. While its origins lie in discrimination in relation to race and gender, the gaze can equally be turned on privilege, power and the maintenance of these. This means looking at the identity and positions of dominant cultures, how these are experienced, maintained and reproduced. As an indigenous woman, intersectionality is one way of naming what we, as the ‘other’, understand and work at every day. In Aotearoa (New Zealand) our naming and claiming of these spaces is more usually framed within our worldviews as Māori.

ROS: Dialogue between various marginalised knowledge projects such as decolonialisation is a feature of intersectional methodology and the generation of a resistory transformative intersectionality. This takes me back to Patricia Hill Collins’ ideas about dialogue and pivoting the centre[1] in the Afrocentric call-and-response tradition, where we work towards challenging dominant power dynamics: everyone has a voice, but everyone must listen and respond to other voices. I was very struck by this idea when I first read about it two decades ago (eek!), and I hope that our partnership work has managed that. I’m interested to know how you might see the notion of dialogue from a kaupapa Māori point of view.

HELEN: Kaupapa Maori is one space where we can defend our right to centre our experiences and practice within our scholarly traditions and matauranga (knowledge systems). From here, many of us form alliances (or draw battle lines). My position then might be one of allegiance and dialogue with those located within intersectionality.

ROS: One issue that I find both fundamental and challenging about indigenous approaches and kaupapa Māori specifically is the issue of accountability. And it seems to me that this might be a point of difference with intersectionality. As I understand it, as a Māori researcher, you are accountable to your research subjects in a very different way to me. If you act in a way that harms your community, then it is not just your reputation that will suffer, but your extended family will be involved in that currently and into the future. While I can see that, like me, intersectionality researchers can be self-reflexive about their location and feel strongly accountable to marginalised peoples through research and activism, I am not sure that there is the deep sense of accountability investment, generationally and communally, in the same way.

HELEN: We are a small country and connections (whakapapa) are a central part of who we are as Māori and how we see ourselves in relation to all things; not just people. I carry my whakapapa with me and my actions aren’t just my own. If I go into a space that makes me uncomfortable or I need courage, I often tell myself beforehand that I can’t let my tupuna (ancestors) down, that I stand with them and for them. This gives me strength, but it also makes me accountable. What my tupuna did they did for future generations. Our ‘intersectionality’ covers time, space, place and relationships between all things and I take my place within that.

[1] Black Feminist Thought, 1990, Unwin Hyman.