Participatory Action Research: Democratizing Knowledge for Social Justice | Bryan S. R. Grimwood
I think of it as a moment of beautiful disruption: that liminal space where the circumstances of doing research seem to take on a life of their own. As researchers, these moments jar aspirations for control and expertise, repeatedly inscribed upon us through academic discourse, by shifting authority over knowledge and its production into the realm of the commons. One such instance occurred in November 2012 when I met with representatives of the Lutsel K’e Dene First Nation, a community situated on the east arm of Great Slave Lake in Canada’s Northwest Territories. As a non-northerner of Euro-Canadian descent, I was visiting Lutsel K’e to share qualitative and visual data derived from my work with tourists and Inuit inhabitants of the Thelon River watershed (Grimwood, 2011a), a place deemed sacred within Dene ancestral territory. A secondary objective was to explore possibilities for collaborating on a new and related project. During an informal workshop with community representatives, research products such as photographs, narratives, and maps were circulated for inspection and discussion. Emphasis was very much on dialogue, storytelling, and co-learning. Midway through the workshop, representatives politely-albeit firmly-requested that I leave the meeting so that they could deliberate in confidence and determine the path forward. The decision to include Dene participation in the Thelon River study was very much out of my hands. When I returned to the meeting, I listened intently as representatives shared rationale, processes, and expectations for adapting the study to their local context.