Set 5: Guided Questions

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Our reflections, thus far, have heightened our awareness about ourselves as research instruments. Perhaps we are looking at ourselves differently with respect to how we listen, question, probe and honour the stories we are told and the data we collect through our research. Yet is this sufficient? Could we, despite these insights, still be guilty of ‘colonising discourses of the other’ (Fine, 1998, p. 130)? As hooks writes, perhaps there is ‘… no need to hear your voice when I can talk about you better than you speak about yourself. No need to hear your voice. Only tell me about your pain. I want to know your story. And then I will tell it back to you in a new way. Tell it back to you in such a way that it has become mine, my own. Rewriting you, I write myself anew’ (hooks, 1990, pp. 151–152).

As you bring your reflective writings to a close, reflect on additional insights you have about yourself as a research instrument wanting to allow the ‘voice’ of your research subject to take leadership. Does a community based participatory research approach place new challenges in front of you as a research instrument? Does it offer new opportunities? What are these for you and how do you think you can respond to them and embrace them?

The above quote by hooks (1990), while quite eloquent and meaningful, seems circular to me. So, if my story is better told by someone else and their story is told better by me, and now I am “written anew”, then when do I know anything about anyone else or myself? I like the iterative nature of this statement, but I also feel it says that no one’s voice is valid unless it is re-worded and interpreted through someone else’s voice. Is my voice really so oppressive, blind, and without merit that it can only be taken to mean anything when it is filtered through another?

We interpret other’s actions, words, behaviour, everyday. This does not mean we are right, it means this is what we see. I suppose this quote is talking about what we represent to others and ultimately part of who we are is rooted in the perceptions of others.

I think the whole concept of community based participatory research should act as a benchmark for all research. Why don’t more people get involved with their projects? Why do I have read article after article that ends with, “more research is needed.” When will it be enough research? Don’t we already know what housing is good for people and that feelings of empowerment bring with it great wealth and happiness in the form of health and feeling in control? I truly believe that real social action and justice and equity will never emerge until people get off their behinds and get their hands dirty.

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