Society for Applied Anthropology
April 2005 Annual Conference
Santa Fé, New México
Toward an Anthropology of Collaboration:
Applying Participatory Action Approaches
in Graduate Research
This session presents the experiences, reflections and proposals for the incorporation of Participatory Action Research (PAR) methods in the design and implementation of graduate projects. Students who share critical perspectives on traditional social science approaches are increasingly concerned with problems of ethics and power relations with regard to “how” research is performed. This discussion explores the instruments developed in PAR and their potential for enhancing consciousness raising and praxis among communities of research. The changing roles of anthropologists with study participants and the creation of collaborative relationships throughout the process of defining goals, data generation, analysis and reaching consensus on the application of results will be addressed. Issues of social justice, protection of intellectual property, empowerment and advocacy are taken into consideration as fundamental to build socially aware and effective community participatory endeavors. Presenters participated in the Center for Social Well Being field methods program in Peru.
Patricia J. Hammer, Session Chair
Center for Social Well Being
Title: Methods and the Field: An Undergraduate’s Perspective
Aspiring anthropologists today get little exposure to methods through undergraduate education; As I plan my future in the field I find it essential to understand exactly what I will be doing with the rest of my life. The split between academia and practice involves different methodological techniques and different outcomes. Through a literature review and a methodological field school I analyze the different anthropological techniques. In this analysis I attempt to create a niche for myself within the discipline, focusing on the creation of knowledge, eradication of the intellectual elite, social justice and social action as my motivations for researching.
Name: Rowenn Kalman
Affiliation: Western Washington University
Title: Liberation Learning: Participatory Action Research as a Student Tool and Community Resource in Bellingham , Washington
Anthropology’s tradition of targeting the disenfranchised, oppressed populations of third world origin as “objects” of study is being openly critiqued by both established and upcoming scholars. Laura Nader’s “Up the Anthropologist” essay calls for more research attention to the power structures that enforce oppression, rather than the study of oppressed populations (Nader 1972). Participatory Action Research (PAR) is a powerful tool for combating oppression from a grassroots level worldwide, but student anthropologists need not look any further than their own community for opportunities to conduct collaborative and liberating research. By being advocates for local businesses, government agencies, and non-governmental organizations, students can help these groups incorporate a more grassroots approach to their work using PAR techniques. This paper discusses student PAR projects with community groups in Bellingham , Washington and the challenges, hopes, and lessons learned from the process of developing long-term connections between Western Washington University ‘s Anthropology Department and local organizations, as well as the challenges of bringing PAR philosophy and practice to a University in the form of classes, workshops, and service learning.
Name: Melissa Beske
Affiliation: Tulane University
Title: Prospects for the Application of Participatory Action Research Concerning Domestic Violence in Cayo , Belize
In this presentation, I will outline the merits of applying PAR methodologies of assets -based community capacity inventory, social networks analysis, sociograms, roll plays, and values clarification in order to approach the problem of domestic violence among community members of San Ignacio, Cayo , Belize . Despite the fact that domestic violence affects at least 50% of women in Belize (a statistic which is often underreported), Belizean women have few avenues through which to seek help due to the lack of enforcement of Protection and Restraining Orders and available shelters, as there is only one women’s shelter in the entire country of Belize. Drawing from my experiences with PAR in Peru and New Orleans , I will outline both the benefits and constraints of these methodologies as they apply to facilitating the mobilization of this Belizean community.
Name: Leah Getchell
Affiliation: University of Victoria , British Columbia , Canada
Title: “So What?”—The Anthropological Contributions of PAR in Graduate Research
When planning my Masters research project I am continuously challenged by my colleagues as to the ‘so what’ does any of this have to contribute to the anthropological literature? I want to work with street kids, talk with them, look at questions of identity—how do they see themselves within the larger context of Honduran society, look at program planning at Casa Alianza and investigate reasons why it seems as though, some children avoid going there all together. I struggle with the constant negotiation between traditional academic interest and my inner pull toward a more applied participatory worldview approach. I am left asking the question time and time again, does Action Research have a place in a Masters thesis, or at this level must I put on my game face and continue batting for the ivory team—the one in which ultimately has the power to send me packing or keep me on for the second inning?
Title: Participatory Action Research in Andean Contexts
PAR and related methodologies are often not promoted as valid investigation strategies in social science graduate research. Based on our experience through the Center for Social Well Being, reflections on our past PAR and non-PAR research in the Andean region, and current research, we advocate the efficacy and ethics embedded in this approach. We plan to utilize PAR strategies for data generation, analysis, and dissemination of that data to the community. In this panel we will discuss our plans to utilize PAR in our thesis research on health care access and reproductive health based in a mining community in Bolivia.