The aff’s call to fix a world gone astray is part of debate’s fixation on the suffering of the Other – this perspective is one of prescriptive colonialism that leads to endless violence



Download 0.71 Mb.
Page9/9
Date conversion16.05.2016
Size0.71 Mb.
1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9
This may be seen as a reason to set up barriers to the outsider researcher, but they can and should more often be seen as problems for researchers and participants to address together in the interests of their mutual understanding and benefit.

Notwithstanding these considerations, one of the chief complaints coming out of disempowered communities is that this kind of mutual interest and benefit is precisely what is lacking in their experience of research. It is to this consideration that I shall now turn. IV OUTSIDERS EXPLOIT INSIDER PARTICIPANTS IN THE COMMUNITIES THEY RESEARCH Ellen describes how fieldwork has become `a rite of passage by which the novice is transformed into the rounded anthropologist and initiated into the ranks of the profession'Ða ritual by which `the student of anthropology dies and a professional anthropologist is born' ��Ellen, 1984, p. 23). This is a reminder that research can carry benefits to the researcher which go beyond those associated with the `pure' pursuit of understanding. As participants in research become more aware of this, their attitudes towards research and researchers can, understandably, change. The following observation was made by a woman from a community that had experienced several waves of enthusiastic researchers: The kind of behaviour researchers have towards locals tells us that they just want to exploit them and take from them their ideas and information. It also tells us that they don't really care at all. They want the information to use in front of a group of people at home, so that they can be seen as clever academics. Then in the end they publish books, reviews, articles etc in order to spread their popularities. So what is this, and what is research really about? Not all researchers are exploiters, but most are, and I think it is time up now for this, and that these researchers should also be exploited by local people. ��Florence Shumba, quoted in Wilson, 1992, p. 199) Researchers who are sensitive to this issue typically look for ways to counter the imbalance of benefit. They will sometimes discuss with participants ways in which the research could be designed to benefit all parties, by, for example, ensuring that it addresses issues on which the participants need information as well as the researchers or by providing data that the research participants can use independently and for their own purposes. In the absence of any other perceived benefit, some schools in the UK have responded to researchers' requests for access and time for interviews by proposing to charge by the hour for teachers' time. Of course sometimes participants will be persuaded to participate on the grounds that some other people whose interests they care aboutÐ pupils in schools, for example, or children currently excluded from educationÐwill secure the benefit of the research, but there has to be the link between something which they perceive to be a benefit ��albeit altruistically) and the commitment which they are asked to make. These illustrations of the terms of engagement between researchers and their participants present a picture of a trade in benefit, the negotiation of a utilitarian equation of mutual happiness and, perhaps, pain, though one in which higher satisfactions ��e.g. new insights and the improvements to the future education of children) have a place alongside lower ones ��a bit of self-publicity or cash in the school fund). Questions of exploitation, in Kantian terms of treating people as means rather than ends ��see Kant, 1964)6 come in if, as is sometimes alleged, researchers use their positions of authority or their sophistication to establish relationships in which the benefits are very one-sided in their favour. This distinction between the utilitarian principle and the Kantian one is crucial here. The utilitarian principle might require us to measure in the scales a much wider community of benefit. If, for example, the researcher could show that, even though the Maori community he or she was researching experienced the inconvenience of the research without the benefit, thousands of other people would benefit from it, then the utilitarian equation might provide justification for the research. But this is precisely one of the weaknesses of the utilitarian principle of the greatest happiness of the greatest numberÐat least when it is applied with this sort of simplicity. It requires either a broader take on the utilitarian principle ��which might observe that a programme of action which allocates all the benefits to one group and all the `pain' to another will not be conducive to the greatest aggregation of happiness) or the invoking of something closer to the Kantian principle, which would demand that we do not exploit one group of people to the exclusive benefit of another. Researchers seeking collaboration with participants in disempowered communities have essentially two forms of appealÐto their self-interest or to their generosity. Either they need to see some benefit to themselves which is at least roughly commensurate to the effort that is required of them ��or in some cases the value of what they have to offer); or they need knowingly to contribute out of their own benevolence towards the researcher or others whom they believe the research will benefit. In this second case, the researcher is placed in something of the position of the receiver of a gift and he or she needs to recognise consequently the quite elaborate ethical apparatus that surrounds such receipt. There is a particular `spirit' in which we might be expected to receive a gift: a spirit of gratitude, of humility, of mutuality in the relationship. There may also be a network of social expectations, which flow from such givingÐof being in thrall to the giver, of being in his or her debtÐbut on the whole anyone contributing to an educational research project would be naõÈve to assume that such `debts' might be repaid. Most of the time, researchers are in fact inviting the generosity of their participants, and perhaps there is something more ethically elevated in responding to such generosity with a true spirit of gratitude and a recognition of the mutuality of relationship which binds giver and receiver, than in seeking to establish a trade in dubious benefits. Smith ��1999) provides a wonderful picture of the combination of spirit and benefits that might be involved in establishing this relationship ��as well as a whole new angle on the notion of `empowerment'!) when she outlines the range of issues on which a researcher approaching a Maori community might need to satisfy them: `Is her spirit clear? Does he have a good heart? What other baggage are they carrying? Are they useful to us? Can they fix up our generator? Can they actually do anything?' ��Smith, 1999, p.10). Perhaps all educational researchers should be required to satisfy participants on these questions. I conclude that the possibility that outsider educational research may be conducted in an exploitative manner is not an argument for obstructing it comprehensively, but it is an argument for requiring that it be conducted under an appropriate set of principles and obligations and in a proper spirit. `Qualitative researchers', argued Stake, `are guests in the private spaces of the world. Their manners should be good and their code of ethics strict' ��Stake, 1998, p.103). Any community may legitimately reject a researcher ��insider or outsider) who fails to establish and conduct relationships under these requirements. In this field, ethics is never far removed from politics. This essay has focused on the relationship between educational researchers and communities that are self-defined as `disempowered' but has not really addressed the issue of power. At the heart of the objections to outsider research is a view that such research, far from challenging and removing such disempowerment, operates to reinforce it. It is this argument which I shall now address. V OUTSIDERS' RESEARCH DISEMPOWERS INSIDERS At least one of the arguments against outsider research into self-defined `disempowered' sections of the population is made independently of the measure of sensitivity and care, which the outsider researchers demonstrate in its conduct. `If we have learned one thing from the civil rights movement in the US', wrote Ed Roberts, a leading figure in the Disability Rights Movement ��DRM), `it's that when others speak for you, you lose' ��quoted in Driedger, 1989, p. 28). Roberts' case is in part that for so long as such groups depend on outsiders to represent them on the wider stage, they will be reinforcing both the fact and the perception of their subordination and dependency as well as exposing themselves to potential misrepresentation. They have to break the vicious circle of dependencyÐand that means taking control for themselves of the ways in which their experience is represented more widely: The DRM's demand for control is the essential theme that runs through all its work, regardless of political-economic or cultural di��erences. Control has universal appeal for DRM activists because their needs are everywhere conditioned by a dependency born of powerlessness, poverty, degradation, and institutionalisation. This dependency, saturated with paternalism, begins with the onset of disability and continues until death. ��Charlton, 1998, p. 3) Outsider researchers sometimes persuade themselves that they are acting in an emancipatory way by `giving voice to' neglected or disenfranchised sections of the community. Their research may indeed push the evident voice of the researcher far into the background as he or she `simply presents', perhaps as large chunks of direct transcription and without commentary, what participants have to say. But, as Reinharz has warned, this is by no means as simple as it might appear: To listen to people is to empower them. But if you want to hear it, you have to go hear it, in their space, or in a safe space. Before you can expect to hear anything worth hearing, you have to examine the power dynamics of the space and the social actors . . . Second, you have to be the person someone else can talk to, and you have to be able to create a context where the person can speak and you can listen. That means we have to study who we are and who we are in relation to those we study . . . Third, you have to be willing to hear what someone is saying, even when it violates your expectations or threatens your interests. In other words, if you want someone to tell it like it is, you have to hear it like it is. ��Reinharz, 1988, pp. 15±16) Even with this level of self knowledge, sensitivity and discipline, there is a significant temptation in such situations to what is sometimes called ventriloquy: the using of the voice of the participant to give expression to the things which the researcher wants to say or to have said. This is a process which is present in the selection of participants, in the framing of the questions which they are encouraged to answer, in the verbal and visual cues which they are given of the researcher's pleasure or excitement with their responses, and, later, in the researcher's selection of material for publication. Such ventriloquy, argues Fine, disguises `the usually unacknowledged stances of researchers who navigate and camouflage theory through the richness of ``native voices''' ��Fine, 1994, p.22).

The argument that insiders within `disempowered' communities (or any other communities for that matter) should be researching and, where appropriate, giving public expression to their own experience is surely uncontroversial. In a context in which insider research has been negligible and hugely subordinated to waves of outsider research, there is a good case for taking practical steps to correct that balance and spare a community what can understandably be experienced as an increasingly oppressive relationship with research.

There are, however, at last three reasons in principle for keeping the possibility of outsider research open: (i) that such enquiry might enhance the understanding of the researcher; (ii) that it might enhance the understanding of the community itself; and (iii) that it might enhance the understanding of a wider public. There is no doubt a place for researching our own experience and that of our own communities, but surely we cannot be condemned lifelong to such social solipsism? Notwithstanding some postmodernist misgivings, `There is still a world out there, much to learn, much to discover; and the exploration of ourselves, however laudable in that at least it risks no new imperialistic gesture, is not, in the end, capable of sustaining lasting interest' (Patai, 1994, p. 67). The issue is not, however, merely one of satisfying curiosity. There is a real danger that if we become persuaded that we cannot understand the experience of others and that `we have no right to speak for anyone but ourselves', then we will all too easily find ourselves epistemologically and morally isolated, furnished with a comfortable legitimation for ignoring the condition of anyone but ourselves. This is not, any more than the paternalism of the powerful, the route to a more just society.

How, then can we reconcile the importance of (1) wider social understanding of the world of `disempowered' communities and of the structures which contribute to that disempowerment, (2) the openness of those communities and structures to the outsider researcher, and (3) the determination that the researcher should not wittingly or unwittingly reinforce that disempowerment? The literature (from which a few selected examples are quoted below) provides some clues as to the character of relations between researcher and researched which `emancipatory', `participatory' or `educative' research might take.

To begin with, we need to re-examine the application of the notion of `property' to the ownership of knowledge. In economic terms, knowledge is not a competitive good. It has the distinctive virtue that (at least in terms of its educative function) it can be infinitely distributed without loss to any of those who are sharing in it. Similarly the researcher can acquire it from people without denying it to them and can return it enriched. However, it is easy to neglect the processes of reporting back to people and sharing in knowledge and the importance which can be attached to this process by those concerned. For Smith, a Maori woman working with research students from the indigenous people of New Zealand, `Reporting back to the people is never a one-off exercise or a task that can be signed off on completion of the written report'. She describes how one of her students took her work back to the people she interviewed. `The family was waiting for her; they cooked food and made us welcome. We left knowing that her work will be passed around the family to be read and eventually will have a place in the living room along with other valued family books and family photographs' (Smith, 1999, pp. 15±16).

For some, what is required is a moving away from regarding research as a property and towards seeing it as a dialogic enquiry designed to assist the understanding of all concerned:



Educative research attempts to restructure the traditional relationship between researcher and `subject'. Instead of a one-way process where researchers extract data from `subjects', Educational Research encourages a dialogic process where participants negotiate meanings at the level of question posing, data collection and analysis . . . It . . . encourages participants to work together on an equal basis to reach a mutual understanding. Neither participant should stand apart in an aloof or judgmental manner; neither should be silenced in the process. (Gitlin and Russell, 1994, p. 185)
1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9


The database is protected by copyright ©essaydocs.org 2016
send message

    Main page