Engagement & Participatory Practices

This research theme refers to my overarching and on-going interest in the theory and practice of various models of collaborative and participatory engagement originating in the work of Kurt Lewin, Paulo Freire and Orlando Fals-Borda and exemplified today by prominent Aboriginal researchers and community organizers like Luke Lassiter, Ann McCaulay and Lawrence Green amongst others. In terms of method, I agree with an increasing number of others that participatory practice is a key, if not defining, tool in Indigenous research today. The evolution of research in Northern communities over the past twenty years shows a normalization of participatory and collaborative research models in response to Indigenous critiques of research politics, agenda development and lack of community involvement. As the Royal Society of Canada elaborated in the mid-1990s, the dialogical engagement which participatory research promotes in its practice, enables community members and non-community researchers to learn more about themselves, their material conditions and each other. At its best, this encourages cycles of critical dialogue, reflection and social action that address the issues at stake and help to build and strengthen the communities in question. I am currently working on a paper – “Is Anthropology a Moral Practice?” – in which I am thinking through the implications of collaborative and participatory anthropologies for the discipline in general, particularly in light of debates surrounding its public relevance.