I’ve been reading quite a bit about participatory action research, or PAR. An amazing source by Linda Tuhiwai Smith, Decolonializing Methodologies, had a great resonance with some readings I had done previously by Nagar. Whereas Smith laid out the basic questions within PAR as follows:
- Whose research is it?
- Who owns it?
- Whose interests does it serve?
- Who will benefit from it?
- Who has designed its questions and framed its scope?
- Who will carry it out? Who will write it up?
- How will its results be disseminated?
Nagar laid out her fundamental questions differently. Nagar had only three, albiet more complex questions to approach an understanding of positionality in PAR. Nagar’s three questions and/or issues are as follows:
- Who are we writing for, how, and why?
- What does it mean to co-produce relevant knowledge across geographical, institutional, and/or cultural borders?
- What are the structure of the academy and the constraints and values embedded therein, as well as our desire and ability to challenge and reshape those structures and values?
These two sets of questionings are productive in how we as researchers with a commitment to decolonial practices might engage more ethically with research To me, by engaging with these issues, we help to avoid Donna Harraway’s quandary of research, the “god trick”. Fine argues, by using Rosaldo’s words, that by removing researchers as gods, we help begin to cast off the “camouflage [of our] deepest, most privileged interest” (Fine, 2004, pg. 15).
My favorite part of the readings this week came from Fine’s work, one the different stances that researchers can take up. Those three stances are ventriloquy, “voices”, and activism. Most prescient, Fine begins talking about ventriloquy, by using a quote. She states that: “Once upon a time, the introduction of writings of women and people of color were called politicizing the curriculum. Only we had politics (and its nasty little mate, ideology), whereas they had standards” (Robinson, 1989). Standards, has become a word (much like professionalism) that has become double-speak for the maintenance of white supremacy.
I also found it interesting in the two viewpoints espoused by Nagar (2002) and Fine (2004) as it pertains to PAR and positionality. I think that I generally side more with Nagar, in that theory is good to have as a framework, but if it does no good for praxis, then it is no good in general. This was most efficiently described in the narrative regarding her work in India, and how her peer-reviewers wanted something out of the article that mattered very little (at best) to the women who were truly engaged with the project on the ground. I think in this moment; this will be a lifetime struggle for me as a researcher. While it is obvious I have to publish research, both for T&P reasons, but also to hopefully create positive change in the world, how will I accommodate other voices, whom were not engaged in the research into my work? As I remember some of the more painful peer review processes I have gone through, I know that this can be a large issue.
Nagar argues, and I concur, that we “must continue the struggle to create new institutional
spaces that favor, facilitate, and give due recognition to alternative research products and to new forms of collaboration” (Nagar, 2002, pg.185). As I begin to think about the research project I began last semester, and will continue this semester both for this class as well as the Graduate Civic Scholarship Program, I think about how can I meaningfully engage, with decolonial ethics, when I am the site and the embodiment of the oppression that my participants may face? Is this possible? I think my questions on this matter far outweigh the answers, and I think my answer changes with each engagement with a different text. I think I need to return to the questions, both sets, laid out by Nagar and Smith to answer these questions.