REFLEXIONS about PARTICIPATIVE METHODOLOGY and UNDERPRIVILEGED WOMEN


Should we have a specific methodology for the study of women?

Let us consider two aspects:
o Should the women's issue be transversal to all subjects instead of restricted to just one subject or to the so-called "women's studies"?;
o Regardless of the fact that the participative research is a consciousness-raising or an emancipating methodology, it should nevertheless be a privileged means of research to and about women.

This allows us an attempt to answer the question: How can feminist studies contribute to a better development process?

In the first place, studies about women in underdeveloped countries constitute an important source of reflection and criticism about the conditions to which women are subject. Second, studies show us the social asymmetries between the north and the south, resulting in a criticism about the preponderance of western feminism among women from developing countries, and in particular from Latin America.

Vandana Shiva, an Indian feminist with a doctorate in Physics, declared a few years ago at a United Nations meeting on the Women's Decade:

"The low numbers of female participation are not the reason for the ever increasing female underdevelopment, but the consequence of their forced and asymmetrical participation in a process where they paid the price and did not receive any benefits."

When we talk about participative research in relation to women, we are not referring simply to psycho-sociological orientations. Today there is also a strong anthropological orientation that works with life stories, i.e., how did the group object of research build its story and how this story is "translated" by researchers. Ruth Behar, an American anthropologist of Latin American origin, published a work that became a reference in this field:
Translated Women.

When we examine the issues of Latin American women, we again observe, as with works about women and the patriarchal authority in Brazil, that changes are not synchronic. On the contrary, Latin American women become modern without stepping out of tradition.

Maria Mies, is a German sociologist who follows the Paulo Freire tradition adopted by several researchers devoted to feminist popular education points out the strong points of this kind of research. They are summarized below:
1. There must be a partial identification among the objects of research. The aseptic type of research which discards notions of values must cease.
2. There must be a vision from the bottom up and not only from the top down. The academic approach has to take into consideration its subjects' realities and, above all, how they see their reality.
3. The author declares that pure theoretic knowledge is dead, in the contemplative sense. She says no to Max Weber, who separates science from politic praxis.
4. Research should promote the awareness of oppression, as inspired by Paulo Freire (popular education ).
5. Research should go beyond the "individual and social history of women. Women cannot take charge of their individual history unless they take charge of their own experiences.

 

NOTES

1) "MIES, M., SHIVA, V. Ecofeminismo. Lisboa, Piaget, 1999"
2) "BEHAR, R. Translated Women. Beacon Press, 1985."
3) "MIES, M., SHIVA, V. Ecofeminismo. Lisboa, Piaget ,1999."