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Accepted Contribution:

A PhD with Participatory Action Research? Challenges, Possibilities, and Learnings  
Sakhi Nitin Anita (SOAS University of London)

Contribution short abstract:

As a PhD student who conducted fieldwork using a Participatory Action Research framework, I hope to share its challenges as well as learnings, and explore whether using participatory methods in PhDs can be viable in academia while retaining their potential for epistemic responsibility and justice.

Contribution long abstract:

I am a PhD student at SOAS and my research explores the linkages between the concepts of education, development, and progress, reimaging them with and for rural girls in India. I carried out my PhD fieldwork using the Participatory Action Research (PAR) methodology. Given its commitment to collaboration, shared knowledge production, and epistemic justice, PAR appeared to be the best methodology to undertake a research that aimed to challenge dominant modes of thinking about education and development, incorporated a feminist re-visioning of education, and most importantly, hoped to discursively challenge the boundaries of who could produce knowledge in academia. Using PAR in my fieldwork centred the voices of marginalised rural girls in India who have been rendered silent within the discourses of education and development, and enabled the girls to bring their unique perspectives and cultural capital accrued by being located on the margins of intersecting systems of power, in a collaborative effort to produce knowledge about girlhood, education, development ,and progress.

Opting for such an unconventional (but not unheard of) methodology for a PhD raised several ethical questions as well as practical challenges during fieldwork, which I hope to share along with the strategies I used to deal with them. I also hope to invite feedback, reflections and insights towards developing a participatory methodological framework for PhDs. Finally, considering the ‘messiness’ of doing participatory research, I explore how it can serve a transformative purpose and the questions it raises for further dialogue on feminist knowledge production and epistemic justice.

Workshop PE02
Community knowledge in academic research: in pursuit of epistemic justice
  Session 2 Thursday 27 June, 2024, -