The relevance of postcolonial theoretical perspectives to research in Aboriginal health

Can J Nurs Res. 2005 Dec;37(4):16-37.


The authors critically examine the relevance of postcolonial theoretical perspectives to nursing research in the area of Aboriginal health. They discuss key theoretical underpinnings of postcolonial theory, citing differences and commonalities in postcolonial theory, postcolonial indigenous thinking, and other forms of critical theory. Drawing on insights from Aboriginal scholars, they critique the relevance of postcolonial discourses to issues of concern to Aboriginal peoples, and the potential limitations of those discourses. They then consider the implications of conducting research that is informed by postcolonial perspectives. They argue that postcolonial perspectives provide direction for research with Aboriginal communities in 4 interrelated ways. These are focused on (a) issues of partnership and "voice" in the research process, (b) a commitment to engaging in praxis-oriented inquiry, (c) understanding how continuities from the past shape the present context of health and health care, and (d) the colonizing potential of research. The authors draw attention to the concept of cultural safety as an instrument for incorporating postcolonial perspectives into the realm of nursing. To illustrate applications of postcolonial theory, they give examples from recent research conducted in partnership with Aboriginal communities. Although postcolonial theories are relatively new in nursing discourses, they provide a powerful analytical framework for considering the legacy of the colonial past and the neocolonial present as the context in which health care is delivered.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attitude to Health / ethnology
  • Canada
  • Colonialism*
  • Cultural Diversity*
  • Fellowships and Scholarships / organization & administration
  • Feminism
  • Humans
  • Indians, North American* / ethnology
  • Indians, North American* / statistics & numerical data
  • Knowledge
  • Nursing Research / organization & administration*
  • Nursing Theory*
  • Patient Advocacy
  • Philosophy, Nursing
  • Research Design
  • Social Change