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Cooperative Inquiry Voices of Change: Participatory Research in the United States and Canada by Peter Park; Mary Brydon-Miller;

Budd Hall; Ted Jackson Review by: Peter Reason Curriculum Inquiry, Vol. 26, No. 1 (Spring, 1996), pp. 81-87 Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education/University of Toronto Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1179902 . Accessed: 13/11/2013 15:19
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Cooperative Inquiry
A Review of Voicesof Change:Participatory Researchin the United States and Canada, Peter Park, Mary Brydon-Miller, Budd Hall, and Ted Jackson, eds. Toronto: OISE Press, 1993.

Reviewed by: PETER REASON Universityof Bath Bath, United Kingdom

I am not a "participatory"researcher in the sense that the term is used in Voices Research in the UnitedStatesand Canada; rather of Change:Participatory I am an advocate of a wide range of collaborative approaches to inquiry. I see participatory research as one member of an extended family: close cousins to participatory research are cooperative inquiry and action inquiry (Reason 1994), which, although they start from different assumptions and employ different rhetoric, are working to similar ends, and have their hearts in very similar places. Within this extended family, participatory research has contributed the important emphasis on power as a significant aspect of knowledge, and specifically points to the injustice that arises when the construction of knowledge is taken away from ordinary people and placed in the hands of an elite. But injustice is not the only outcome; equally significant is the error that arises when indigenous information and wisdom are ignored in favor of the so-called objective knowledge of outsiders. Participatory research carries an epistemological as well as a political message. Thus the emphasis of participatory research is that the purpose of research is the development of knowledge that can be applied to emancipatory purposes, and that the process of research should in itself be an education for freedom, an education for the community and the individual in the experience of creating one's own knowledge. As Budd Hall puts it in his introduction to Voices of Change,participatory research involves research, education, and action. Thus we would expect accounts of participatory research to inform us about each of these purposes. I cannot argue with these purposes; they are close to my own. Participatory research plays an important role in drawing our attention to them.
@ 1996 by The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. Curriculum Inquiry26:1 (1996) Published by Blackwell Publishers, 238 Main Street, Cambridge, MA 02142, USA, and 108 Cowley Road, Oxford OX4 1JF,UK.

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But I do feel that, although writings on participatory research are often long on the rhetoric of liberation, they are disappointingly short on concrete accounts of what the participant researchers actually do. We often do not learn enough about how the actual process of research is carried out. Thus a careful reading of Orlando Fals-Borda and Anisur Rahman's Action
and Knowledge: Breaking the Monopoly with Participatory Action Research left me

impressed with the value position, moved by the accounts of people engaged with significant social issues, but often not at all clear about the claim that these processes were research. I can see them as social activism, as mobilization of the energy of oppressed and disadvantaged people, but not in terms of the generation of knowledge or the reappropriation of knowledge for the people's application. In this volume Peter Park defines participatory research as "the cycle of reflection-action-reflection through which both consciousness and conscience develop." But it is rare to find accounts of how this cycle is applied in practice. My second concern about participatory research is that it often appears to separate itself from the other streams of collaborative and nontraditional research. I get the feeling that practitioners of participatory research experience themselves as disciples in the one true Church, and that no one else is doing anything worthwhile or politically legitimate. Thus the theory of participatory research draws on a quite limited range of theoretical bases-constructed by people like Freire, Habermas, and Gramsci-that are repeated in different writings without taking the theory forward in any way. So I turned to this book fundamentally sympathetic to the aims and espoused processes of participatory research, but with a critical eye. I was hoping that this volume would meet some of my criticisms of other books: I was looking for developments in the theory of participatory research and solid accounts of actual practice in projects. To a large extent I was disappointed. The volume starts with an introduction by Hall, followed by three chapters that explore theoretical issues. Park's overview of the process of participatory research is for the most part unexceptional; it is a helpful review of the process, which will serve to orient the newcomer to this field, but does not take the more seasoned reader forward. My mild disappointment turned to irritation when he discusses the question of validity. He points to the limitations of traditional views of objectivity and argues, correctly in my view, that each of the three forms of knowing that Habermas identifies as relevant to human life-instrumental, interactive, and critical-will need to be judged in terms of its own form of validity. But he does not take this important question any further. Park makes passing reference to "important beginnings" that are being made in alternative research paradigms, referencing my own work and that of my colleague John Heron (getting the date of the latter wrong), but argues that "more explicit linkages need to be made between the methodological question of validity and theories of knowledge." He appears to be unaware that several writers have done just this,

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notably Heron (1988, 1992), Torbert (1991), Guba and Lincoln (1990), and Guba (1990). These contributions make specific links between epistemology and methodology, and although Park may regard these as inadequate, it is strange that he should ignore them. This is an example of the tendency of participatory research to remain isolated in its own theoretical bubble, ignoring exciting developments in attitudes to research that are taking place elsewhere. For a wide-ranging view of such edited by Denzin developments, see the Handbookof QualitativeResearch, and Lincoln; although the constructivist approach adopted by those editors is not entirely sympathetic with participatory research. There have also been interesting developments toward a participatory world view since Voiceswas published, notably Skolimowski's The ParticipatoryMind (1994), my own Participationin Human Inquiry (1994), the collection of papers Quality in Human Inquiry (Reason and Lincoln, forthcoming), and John Heron's Co-operative Inquiry (forthcoming). I found John Gaventa's essay more stimulating because he focuses on one issue and explores it in depth. He argues that in this current information age control of information is a significant instrument of power,just as the control of land was in feudal times. Thus research must involve three processes: reappropriation of knowledge kept out of reach of ordinary people, given that "those who are directly affected by a problem have the right to acquire information about it for themselves"; developing the people's science, a "popular, organic knowledge which converts spontaneous common sense into good sense"; and popular control of knowledge production by experts. Gaventa points to the importance of the development of a participatory knowledge within a knowledge democracy that will be more "humane, rational, and liberating than the dominating knowledge of today." This chapter points to important links between politics and epistemology. Thomas Heaney's critique of the potential ways in which participatory research may be co-opted by the university establishment seems to me a little odd. It raises important issues about the pressures on academics to build careers, and points to the ways in which academia has attempted to monopolize knowledge. But he writes as if there is an inevitable and unbridgeable gap between the ethos of participatory research and a university career, which surely is an exaggeration. Many academics have not sold out and are working toward worthwhile social objectives. And if participatory research is the powerful liberating process it is claimed to be, why can it be co-opted so easily? If it is "simplya contradiction" to the university system, how will it ever be anything more than a minority opposition movement? I feel that this chapter represents an aspect of the participatory research community that insists, "We are special" and "We are different" in a counterdependent fashion that separates the participatoryresearch movement from potential allies in alternative research and in academia generally. Following these theoretical contributions are two chapters that offer overviews of the role of participatory research in the movement toward

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self-determination and self-government among aboriginal peoples in Canada and of the environmental movement in Appalachia. TedJackson's account of the development of participatoryresearch among aboriginal peoples in Canada is intended as an overview, but it attempts to cover too much ground. He starts with a summary of some of the participatory research projects that have been undertaken, turns to a discussion of leadership and class within the movement, and continues to review the events of the past few years, stating that participatory research has become a "wayof working" for the aboriginal movement. I am left unconvinced and dissatisfied by this, feeling that I have read a piece of propaganda in favor of participatory research rather than information that would lead me to understand the process more fully. I found the discussion of class issues in relationship to leadership of participatory research in the aboriginal communities particularly troubling. Jackson seems to import the analysis on the basis of class without questioning its appropriateness: he claims "worker self-management in Aboriginal enterprises is a class question rather than a question of nationality or race." Who says? How can he be so sure and assured? Is he not in danger of importing an analysis from outside the community rather than building a critique from the inside experience? Surely it would be more congruent with the attitude of participatory research to seek ways in which the whole community could inquire into such issues, rather than take a predetermined position based on ideology. As at times elsewhere in the participatory inquiry movement, the rhetoric of class interests here seems to overwhelm the attitude of inquiry across interest groups. For example, in his brief account of the Big Trout Lake projectJackson tells us that a variety of participatory approaches were used, and that the Band Council recommended trucking water and sanitation "based on the principle of democratized servicing rather than 'technical apartheid'" (52). Now, it is difficult to argue from any perspective that democratized service is not "better"than technical apartheid. But what do these two terms really mean? And what is hidden within their rhetorical flourish? It would seem quite likely that there were many different perspectives on these issues, informed by different judgments as well as different interests. How could participatoryresearch processes explore questions of conflicting purpose? Indeed, how do we inquire into such conflicts of opinion and interest which divide communities? As so often with accounts of participatory research, I am left with no exploration of these issues, only with the feeling that participatory research is seen to have served the "true" interest of the people, which feels a little naive and simplistic. In "Putting Scientists in their Place," Juliet Merrifield provides some important examples of how people can inform themselves about the impact on their lives of chemicals dumped in the environment, and how this information can be used to challenge the "official" view of the impact of these chemicals on health. She provides practical illustrations of the process of reappropriating knowledge discussed by Gaventa.The chapter is help-

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ful in showing the broad impact of a movement, but for my taste it is too spread out among different examples, so each is covered rather superficially. And the attitude of "putting scientists in their place" seems to generate an oppositional attitude of "the people" against the "bad scientists." The next five chapters are intended to provide case examples of participatory research. Billy Horton's account of the Appalachian Land Ownership Study is disappointing, in that it covers almost exclusively the development of grassroots political organization that took place alongside the study itself, without providing an account of how the study was actually conducted. If participatory research is really to establish itself as a form of inquiry that takes place in the context of political organization, we need more detailed and careful accounts of how the inquiry approach itself is accomplished. Similarly Mary Brydon-Miller's account of participatory research with disabled people, "Breaking Down Barriers,"is more an account of growing competence in advocacy. Important as this is, it is not an account of research: we learn very little of an inquiry process that helped those involved either understand more about the barriers or discover and develop skills of advocacy. And Marlene Brant Castelleno's discussion of aboriginal organizations in Canada, although providing an account of the need for effective organization of aboriginal peoples to counter the cultural invasion from "the south," provides very little information indeed about participatory research in this endeavor. My two favorite chapters are Donald Comstock and Russell Fox's account of the relocation of the city of North Bonneville and Patricia Maguire's detailed account of her delights and tribulations as a doctoral student using participatory research. Both of these are clearly rooted in the values and political orientation of the participatory research movement, and show us in sufficient detail how the project was conducted as an inquiry aiming to develop new knowledge in the service of effective action by a group of people who would otherwise be disadvantaged by the established systems of society. Donald Comstock and Russell Fox start with a theoretical question: "Is participatory research pragmatism or dialectical materialism?"They offer a (rather opaque) discussion of this question and come to the conclusion that it is neither, but rather that "participatory research based on critical theory can be an epistemologically grounded method of generating liberating knowledge and testing the validity of that knowledge in political struggle." They also briefly explore the role of popular knowledge, the contribution of the outsider, and the criteria for evaluating participatory research projects. They then move to illustrate these theoretical reflections with an account of the experience of the citizens of Bonneville, a town about to be destroyed by the location of a dam built by the Corps of Engineers. The people of the town resisted when told that they would all have to move to other cities, which would have destroyed their community, and proposed instead that the whole town be relocated to a new site. The account tells how, in collaboration with students and staff from Evergreen State College,

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the various "complex external and political social forces" in opposition to this proposal were overcome, how a proposal for relocation was developed through a process of participatory inquiry with the people of the town into their needs and aspirations, how the social and political organization of the town developed in a participatory fashion. In the end not only was the relocation accomplished but the community has developed an increased self-awareness and capacity for learning about itself. The following illustrates the power of participatory research. As residents reflected and talked about what they knew about their community, they began to realize the discrepancy between their knowledge of who they were and the very different perspective of the Corps of Engineers and the politicians who wrote relocation laws. They began to define their community as a complex network of social, natural and spiritual relationships. They discovered that the government defined their community as abstract individuals and a quantifiable number of physical artifacts, such as a firetruck and so many lampposts.... They realized that the Corps planning was a meticulously designed and carefully controlled critical path for technical efficiency.... To the contrary the town's "planning process" was the creation of knowledge about themselves. ... They discovered that their goalsurvival of the social relationships that defined their community-was quite different from the government's goal-to build a powerhouse as quickly as possible. (116) Patricia Maguire's story of formerly battered women provides of the dilemmas an honest account of her thinks she made, exploring work. attempted participatory research with a group of is important because of the personal detail she she faced and the choices she made. She offers experience, being clear about the mistakes she the shortfalls as well as the achievements of her

Participatory research is not only about trying to transform social structures "out there" and "the people", it is about being open to transforming ourselves and our relationships with others. Just as I examined the dilemmas and contradictions in participatory research, I was challenged daily to consider the dilemmas and contradictions in my own life choices. I was forced to question my part in the social construction and maintenance of the larger social structures, systems, and relationships. And relentlessly, I found myself asking, How am I choosing to be in the world? I was often disappointed in myself. (175) What a breath of fresh air! I believe all forms of collaborative inquiry will be enriched if more researchers provide such open accounts from which we can learn. So how does participatory research, as portrayed in this volume, look from the perspective of one whose orientation is that of cooperative inquiry? To put this another way, how does a liberationist and politically grounded strategy look from the perspective of a humanistic one? First, I feel that the writers are often trapped within their own liberationist rhetoric, which sets oppressed against oppressor in a kind of set-piece dualism. It appears that even though dialogue within the oppressed groups is appropriate, the relationship to the oppressor must always be one of scorn-

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ful opposition: "putting scientists in their place" for example. This dualism creates a relationship of opposition and ignores the systemic quality of all social relations. Related to this point, advocates of participatory research appear to me at times to be caught in a class-based analysis of society that, although it has a lot of power to show how knowledge is monopolized, is of limited help in understanding the microprocesses of organizational and small group processes and in providing practical help in setting up inquiry groups and working within organizational settings. Second, as I read these accounts, I realize that the "research" aspect of a project-whether it is appropriating or new often existing knowledge generating knowledge-is neglected in favor of organizing and advocacy. Although these latter are essential, it is wrong to call them research, which, even if it has been appropriated and used to buttress political power, is a process separate from organizing and advocacy. My concern is that the processes of human inquiry, of people being empowered to find out more about their worlds, may degenerate into unreflective activism and opposition. Paulo Freire says in the foreword that "This book deserves to be read." And so it does. It needs to be read with an eye that appreciates the challenge that participatory research brings to orthodox ways of knowledge production, and with an eye that is continually watchful for the unaware bias of the lens through which the contributors sometimes see their world and their work. REFERENCES Thousand Denzin, N. K., and Y S. Lincoln. 1994. Handbookof qualitativeresearch. Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Fals-Borda, 0., and M. A. Rahman. 1991. Actionand knowledge: Breakingthe monopoly with participatory action research. New York: Intermediate Technology Publishers/ Apex Press. Guba, E. G., and Y. S. Lincoln. 1990. Can there be a human science? PersonCentred Review5(2): 130-153. Guba, E. G. 1990. Theparadigmdialog. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications. Heron, J. 1988. Validity in co-operative inquiry. In Human Inquiry in Action, ed. P. Reason, 40-59. London: Sage Publications. in anotherkey.London: Sage. Heron, J. 1992. Feelingand personhood: psychology Heron, J. Forthcoming. Co-operative inquiry.London: Sage Publications. Reason, P. 1994. Three approaches to participative inquiry. In Handbookof qualitative research, ed. N. Denzin and Y. S. Lincoln. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Reason, P., and Y. S. Lincoln. Forthcoming. Quality in human inquiry 2(2). mind. London: Arkana. Skolimowski, H. 1994. Theparticipatory Torbert, W. R. 1991. Thepowerof balance:transforming and scientificinquiry. self society, Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.

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