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Session Overview
3-HP112: Transformative Methodologies for Social Justice
Tuesday, 06/July/2021:
2:00pm - 3:15pm

Session Chair: Dr. Karin Astrid Siegmann, International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam (ISS), Netherlands, The
Session Chair: Sanchita Bakshi, Erasmus University Roterdam, Netherlands, The
Session Chair: Brenda Rodríguez, ISS, Netherlands, The
Session Chair: Chitrakshi Vashisht, International Institute of Social Studies the Netherlands, Netherlands, The

Session Abstract

Development studies has been characterised by a strong and explicit commitment to social justice. This ethical commitment contrasts, however, with the criticism that the way in which development research is often conducted, in fact, reinforces injustices. This motivates a quest for methodologies that are organised in ways that embody progressive social change in the research process already. For this panel, we therefore invite empirical and conceptual contributions rooted in diverse geographies and epistemologies which engage with the question of how to put transformation centre-stage in approaches to development research.

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Interdisciplinary Solidarity - Social Transformative Research Informing Processes of Environmental Science

Eleanor Joanne Brown1, Sally Brooks1, Lynda Dunop1, Paul Walton1, Joshua Kirshner1, Kelly Redeker1, Richard Friend1, Fernanda Veneu2, Joao Cairo3, Ana Zimmermann4

1University of York, UK, United Kingdom; 2Centro Federal de Educacao Tecnologica Celso Suckow da Fonseca - CEFET/RJ, Brazil; 3University of Campinas, Brazil; 4University of Sao Paulo

Scientific interventions for sustainable development often make huge promises about overcoming climate change, and scientific research into technological innovations that have potential development implications receive a significant amount of funding, particularly in the UK through the Global Challenges Research Fund. The social outcomes of such projects are often overlooked, or engaged with superficially, and the science marches on regardless; thus potentially reinforcing injustices or producing unforeseen undesirable outcomes. Increasingly, projects claim to having an interdisciplinary dimension, in order to address social concerns that surround any development intervention, but these processes of interdisciplinary dialogue can be difficult to maintain and require an ability to relate across epistemological casums. Therefore, researchers have to be prepared to engage in transformative dialogue in order to assess their own assumptions, and be willing to learn from the disciplinary knowledge of the other. This can be challenging both for natural and social scientists.

This paper reports on a British Academy funded Knowledge Frontiers project which brought together an interdisciplinary team of researchers to explore the implications of Chemistry research that creates enzymes for a bioethanol-from-cellulose reactor, potentially presenting innovative solutions to the global need for sustainable fuels. These enzymes open up the possibility of breaking down ‘waste’ biomass, that can be grown on ‘marginal lands’, thus producing (second generation) biofuels without competing for land with agricultural crops. The team came together to critically analyse the many assumptions within this and consider how such technologies could be developed in ways that address broader social and environmental justice goals. We reflected on mainstream approaches to development and interrogated the questions, priorities and criteria used when new technological developments are proposed. This was contextualised through conducting a case study of the first operational second generation bio-refinery, located in Brazil, in order to investigate decision-making processes from a range of stakeholder perspectives.

Through interdisciplinary meetings, workshops, reflections and interviews we built up over the course of two years, sustainable relationships between social scientists, with expertise in participatory planning and development, and natural scientists, with expertise in developing and identifying enzymes used to break down cellulose in plant matter. The aims were two fold. Firstly, we aimed to use social science methodologies to consider how different frameworks of analysis may influence the perceived outcomes of implementing the technology, and how future enzyme research could be informed by these understandings. Secondly, we aimed to document the processes of learning that we engaged in as a team and the work we undertook to conduct dialogue across epistemological boundaries in addressing the questions raised by the research. We report primarily on the latter aim here.

We used the framework of transformative learning theory to identify key aspects of the interdisciplinary process and reflected on the need for sustained and open opportunities for dialogue in order to genuinely find ways to communicate across disciplines. We spent time at the outset to explicitly reveal and consider our taken-for-granted assumptions and identify what we understood by key terms and processes, including ‘sustainable’, ‘development’, ‘methodology’, ‘truth’, ‘marginal land’ and ‘outputs’. We found these encounters created opportunities to influence the trajectory of each other’s research and thinking, with the ideal of social justice as prominent in all our discussions. This interplay between disciplines is an innovative way to influence decision-making in science directly.

Solidarity is essential for epistemology switching, whether that is intercultural and international dialogue or interdisciplinary dialogue, similar attitudes and processes are required. By overtly addressing these requisites, our ability to approach the multifaceted challenges of sustainable development can become more open, more critical and more able to reveal appropriate solutions and promote relevant ongoing scientific research.

Non-domination As An Ideal In Transformative Research

Karl Landström

Coventry University, United Kingdom

This paper is primarily concerned with the importance of clarity in one’s ethical commitments for research. It is argued that clarity in our ethical commitments is necessary if they are to be action guiding in structuring and carrying out research in an ethical manner. Through a critical discussion of Donna Mertens’ conceptualisation of the transformative research paradigm it is argued, contrary to Mertens’ claim that the ethical commitments of the transformative research paradigm provide guidance for ethical conduct in research, that Mertens’ ethical commitments lack clarity and leave a range of significant questions unanswered which compromises the action-guiding capabilities of her ethical principles. Thus, there is a need for either further clarification of Mertens’ ethical principles in order for them to offer the kind of action-guidance that they are claimed they do, or a need to turn to a different ethical ideal that offers more clarity in what is morally required of the researcher. However, while Mertens’ conceptualisation of the transformative research paradigm is argued to be flawed, it includes important notions about what an ethical ideal for transformative research should be able to account for. The ideal should be clear, without internal inconsistencies, and be able to explicitly address power inequalities in research. The ideal should be able to provide action-guidance for how research ought to be structured and carried out in a manner that promotes change not only as a product of the research, but throughout the entire research process. Furthermore, it should also be able to account for a wide range of factors that can be the basis for discrimination and provide a convincing account of why such discrimination is wrong. In the latter parts of the paper, it is argued that the neo-republican ideal of non-domination fulfils all these ambitions and thus could potentially be an ideal well suited for those interested in transformative research practices.

Shifting Centers. Conversations with professional indigenous women from Mexico A caring, transformative methodology?

Marina Cadaval Narezo

ISS, Netherlands, The

In my presentation about Transformative Methodologies, I will share the methodological process I have followed during my Phd research, which reflects on the expectations about graduate education and the following professional development of a group of indigenous women from Mexico. This process has been built based on certain principles intrinsic to the way in which I try to relate to other people, and that consider care as the backbone. Those principles, for the matter of the research are related to collaboration, respect and recognition. But what those it means in academia to talk about them or to use them to develop a research? Will they lead to a transformative way in which knowledge is produced? To reflect on that, I would share here part of my professional journey which is connected to the way I have done the research. I hope that my experience can be useful for a general discussion about what a transformative methodology is and for who -maybe also on how.

Giving a Voice to Youth in Sexual and Reproductive Health Research: Reflections on working with Deaf and Hard of Hearing Youth as Co-Researchers in Kenya

Elizabeth{Eliza} Mulewa Ngutuku1, Auma Okwany2, Aurelia Munene3

1Firoz Lalji Centre for Africa, The London School of Economics and Political Science, UK; 2International Institute of Social Studies, The Netherlands; 3Nascent Research and Development Organization, Kenya

Elizabeth Ngutuku[2], Auma Okwany[3], Aurelia Munene[4], Habel Ouma[5]

The Youth Sexual and Reproductive Health arena is awash with adult led voices and the voice and realities of the young people is secondary, ignored or often treated as suspect. Further, the voice of young people with disabilities is often absent because of the practical challenges of engaging them. This absence is however also influenced by the assumptions about their sexuality, identity and self-hood. An ableist gaze that constructs persons with disability as the unequal subordinate Other, (Sparkes, Brighton & Inckle, 2018) permeates research on Deaf and hard of hearing youth These dominant ableist research approaches that privilege not only adult, but also ‘hearing’ ‘expert’ perspectives further marginalise perspectives of youth in their sexual and reproductive health. Such erasures of their perspectives constitute epistemic injustice. In responding to the calls for social justice to be accompanied by cognitive justice, we reflect on a transformative qualitative research that we carried out in Kenya in 2014-2015, with the Deaf and hard of hearing youth as co- researchers. We explore how we attempted to listen to them differently, reflexively and also responsibly. Such an approach not only de-stabilized adult/youth power relations, but also power relations that obtain from expert, able, adult and hearing gaze. The research as a space of encounter also enabled an intergenerational dialogue between the youth, the teachers and the policy makers, but also dialogue between the ‘hearing community’ and the Deaf and hard of hearing youth. In such spaces, youth enacted and reclaimed their selfhood and resisted ableism. We also present the labour of such a research approach, including our reflexivities on our ableist expert- adult gaze, including the labour of giving a voice to those who, literary are seen as lacking a voice, often seen as spoken voice and speech.

[1] This Research was supported by Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa ( Codesria)

[2] Firoz Lalji Institute for Africa, The London School of Economics and Political Science

[3] The International Institute of Social Studies, Erasmus University Rotterdam

[4] Nascent Research and Development Organization

[5] Kakamega Deaf Association (Affiliate of the Kenya National Association of the Deaf)

Sensing-thinking Our Sexuality(ies) Through Drawing: A Decolonial Feminist Collaborative Research For Social Transformation

Brenda Rodríguez

ISS, Netherlands, The

This paper addresses the use of decolonial feminist participatory drawing as a research methodology in the study of women’s sexuality. As part of a larger research project that explores the construction of sexual subjectivities of women in the city of Monterrey, Mexico, this paper demonstrates the importance of engaging with concepts such as embodiment, relationality and vulnerability (just to name a few) and how they can provide new understandings of gender and sexuality. By weaving together participatory action research, (decolonial) feminist methodologies and arts-based methods, it was possible to achieve a collaborative research for social transformation. Special attention will be given to the complementary strengths and challenges of using such methods.

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