Knowing when to step forward, back, or out: An autoethnography of a white researcher in two post-colonial educational contexts: An autoethnography of a white researcher in two post-colonial educational contexts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


This autoethnography makes use of 10 years of field notes that the author collected while living and working as an educational researcher in Greenland and Hawaii. Using Kaomea’s framework for thinking about when non-Native people should step forward, step back, or step out, the author’s analysis of these field notes indicates that she struggled around knowing her role in these post-colonial communities. The author was hesitant in moving into leadership positions in Greenland because it was only recently decolonized and she feared being perceived as someone interested in usurping qualified Greenlanders to fill important leadership positions. However, in Hawaii, which has had more time to consider its colonial past, the author felt less threatened, which gave her greater freedom to explore opportunities for where she could step forward. The study provides another dimension on white researchers working in post-colonial educational settings, and demonstrates the complexity of navigating post-colonial settings even in circumstances where researchers have personal experience with these power dynamics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)301-314
Number of pages14
JournalPower and Education
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1 2018



  • Autoethnography
  • Greenland
  • Hawaii
  • indigenous education
  • post-colonial
  • white researcher

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science

Cite this