PARTICIPATIVE RESEARCH and LATIN-AMERICAN IDENTITY


What are the challenges posed by participative research when conducted from a developmental point of view? What are the strategies to be followed by this type of research and by those who choose to use it? In an attempt to answer these questions, we will, based on
our experience in Brazil, review the trajectory of participative research as a special method of social psychology directed to underprivileged communities and influenced by popular education.

According to the latest PNUD's statistics, human development (in Latin America is considered to be high in Argentina, Chile and Uruguay. The remaining countries, Brazil included , are considered to be of medium development. One single country in Central America, Haiti, ranks as a low-development country.

Should we refer to a Latin-American identity? Constructivist conceptions, as opposed to essentialist conceptions, cannot answer this question. It is better to say that there are several Latin Americas, resulting from asynchronies that have become so familiar to us that we learned to define ourselves not by what we are or wish to be, but mainly by what we are not, by our opposite.

This seems to be the thesis of some Brazilianists such as Richard Mose, and other Latin-American writers and researchers such as Bosi, Darcy Ribeiro, Octavio Paz, Ibañez, and many others who have discussed the contradictions so abundant in the Latin-American daily life .

...North America speaks English and it is the child of the tradition that originated the modern world, in particular in what concerns three main processes: the Reformation, democracy and capitalism.South America speaks Spanish or Portuguese and it is the child of the catholic monarchy and Contra-Reformation. By the same token, we also did not succeed in becoming the legitimate heirs of modernity and/or of European post-modernity.... Liberalism was not fertile and did not achieve anything comparable to the pre-Colombian or New Spain's creations: neither pyramids, nor monasteries, nor cosmogonic myths nor poems by Soror Juana Ines de la Cruz's.... At the beginning of the XX century we were already living the pseudo-modernity: railroads and large rural properties, a democratic constitution and rural pseudo-military overlords in the best Arab-Hispanic tradition, positivist philosophers and pre-Colombian Indian chiefs, symbolist poetry and illiteracy.
(PAZ, Octávio. In: Ibañez, J. L. Modernidad, razón e identidad en America Latina. Santiago: Andres Bello, 1996.)

This asynchrony is the symbol of a hybrid culture or, better yet, of the various Latin-American hybrid cultures. By hybrid we mean the traditional placed side by side with the modern - side by side, not in opposition. When we refer to an asynchrony we assume more than just one temporality, i.e., coexisting temporalities within the Latin-American development.

This asynchrony is the symbol of a hybrid culture or, better yet, of the various Latin-American hybrid cultures. By hybrid we mean the traditional placed side by side with the modern - side by side, not in opposition. When we refer to an asynchrony we assume more than just one temporality, i.e., coexisting temporalities within the Latin-American development.

The agendas of international organizations and their large international summits will promote different researches under the same name and purposes, since these are considered as a favored means to reach the underprivileged classes and address the main issues between the north and the south. This influence is stronger in Latin-America through the non-governmental organizations (NGOs), due to the great support they received from international organizations, especially from the 60's to the 80's. The universities, as well as the academic world, remained reticent in relation to the new paradigms, especially the official research committees. During the 90's, with the new orientation adopted by some international organizations towards the universities, it was possible to move away somewhat from this type of academic "marginality", in view of the possibility of promoting research at deeper levels.

We should also notice that after the end of the military regimes we have witnessed a blossoming of partnerships between universities, official research centers and civil society, especially through the NGOs.

Kurt Lewin, a German social scientist living in the United States, was one of the pioneers in the so-called "action research". This Lewinian conception, influenced by the Gestalt theory, proposes a research that is inseparable from action. There are two key aspects in this kind of research: in the first place, the researcher does not dichotomize himself/herself in relation to the researched object in a positivist neutrality, i.e., the very action of observing will modify the observed object.

We may identify here a situation that many authors call the researcher's involvement. A second aspect relates to the feedback process, i.e., the return of the collected materials to the research subjects. The research subjects, on their turn, when discussing results and planning actions become themselves authors in the research process.

John Dewey refers to feedback as a "self-correcting inquiry process". According to René Lourau , Dewey has been one of the best theorists and practitioner of the research involvement.

Anthony Giddens also points out that: "the position of the observer is not different from the position of other members of the society. Mutual knowledge represents the interpreting models used by sociologists and actors do make sense of social activity (...) Immersion in a way of living is the only means available to an observer in order to produce such characterizations. IMMERSION does not mean becoming a member of a community- it means to get acquainted with a foreign culture and to find your way in this culture, thus being able to participate in it."

Participative Research - a few reference sites:
http://comm-dev.org/partres.htm
http://www.goshen.edu/soan/soan96p.htm
http://www.parnet.org

 

NOTES
1) "The selection of Brazil is self-explanatory, since it relates to our own experience (see thehiperlink EICOS PROGRAM). Nevertheless, in discussing Latin America, we do not claim to represent the totality of Latin-American cultural complexity, since we speak from the standpoint of Brazil. But Brazil's continental dimensions and cultural diversity may include many different Latin-American trends without presuming to exhaust them."
2)"life expectancy, schooling levels, income per capita"
3) "D'ÁVILA NETO, Inácia. Identidade da psicologia social latino-americana. In: Freitas, R. H., Guareschi, P. Paradigmas em psicologia social: a perspectiva latino-americana. Petrópolis: Vozes, 2000."
4) "CANCLINI, N.G. Culturas híbridas: estratégias para entrar y salir de la modernidad. Mexico, Grijalbo, 1989."
5) "LEWIN, K. Les conflits dans les modes de pensée aristotélicien et galiléen dans la psychologie contemporaine (1931), in C. FAUCHEUX, (dir.). Psychologie Dynamique. Paris, PUF, 1967."
6) "DEWEY, J. Logique et théorie de l'enquête (1938), R. LOURAU. Actes manqués de la recherche. Paris, PUF, 1996."
7) "LOURAU, R. Actes manqués de la recherche. Paris, PUF, 1996."
8) "GIDDENS, A. Novas regras do método sociológico, Ed. Gradiva, Lisboa, 1993."