Opening the Space Between Innocent and Oppressive Ways of Knowing: Challenges and Opportunities in Doing Research with Diverse Communities

Purnima Sundar, Sarah Todd
The growing ethno-racial diversity reflected in Canadian society has prompted increased academic interest, particularly in the field of social work, in understanding how people from different ethno-racial groups experience and perceive the world. In this paper, we talk about the challenges of creating such knowledge, or engaging in "cross-cultural research". We focus this discussion on three main dimensions of the research process: the goals and values underlying the research; the nature of
more » ... ledge negotiated in the research relationship; and the way that power is structured in the researcher/participant relationship. We begin by describing each of these with reference to "traditional" ways of doing cross-cultural research, and articulate how such approaches work to sustain the colonialist project. We then discuss the growing trend towards using "Participatory Action Research" (PAR) as an alternative approach to conducting research in the social sciences that is respectful, liberating, and geared towards social change. We suggest, however, that the idealization that PAR can somehow create an innocent or non-oppressive space for research is an illusion. Instead, we draw on the work of post-structural educator Elizabeth Ellsworth (1997) to enrich existing work on PAR approaches to cross-cultural research.