Transformative Methodologies

The stated objective of academic research is often to transform the everyday lives of people for the better. In order to achieve this aim, we argue that it is not enough to keep an eye on research output. Rather, researchers committed to societal transformation also need to critically reflect on and possibly adapt their methodologies of research. In particular, this concern whether social hierarchies of, e.g., class, race and gender are reproduced or challenged and transformed in the research process.

The quest for transformative methodologies focuses on answering several critical questions, including:

  • Who wants transformative changes?
  • Who brings about these changes?
  • What are the intersectional implications of these changes?

About the research

This project is aimed at furthering discussions on transformative methodologies within and beyond the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS).

Within ISS and its Civic Innovation (CI) Research Group, several research works spanning ISS’s cross-cutting research themes (for instance, decolonial feminist research and participatory research) have challenged the dominant Eurocentric epistemological and methodological foundations of research, contributing to alternative research practices and discussions towards what is being referred to as transformative methodologies. Our project aims to further these dialogues on transformative methodologies.

Furthering the discussion on transformative methodologies

Research in the field of development studies continue to be dominated by a number of ontological and epistemological assumptions that limit the transformative potential of produced knowledge.

The recognition of a singular ‘expert’ knowledge of persons and groups based in academic institutions in the global North, preferably with white, male bodies, and the widespread failure to connect produced knowledge to communities who often form the research focus but are hardly part of the research process, are two central obstacles to realise the transformative potential of much research in development studies. Further, the fact that, often, the perspectives and interests of dominant groups shape research questions and approaches implies that power hierarchies are maintained rather than challenged in the course of knowledge production.

Transformative Methodologies research project addresses these problematic assumptions and the resulting practices in a proactive manner by a critical and forward-looking synthesis of existing transformative research methodologies that have been used by members of the CI Research Group.

Project objectives

Building on existing efforts within CI, this project seeks to:

  1. Synthesize existing transformative research methodologies that have been used by members of the ISS CI Research Group
  2. Discuss and analyze the strengths and weaknesses of these existing approaches and brainstorm possible new ways of overcoming existing challenges or limitations, and
  3. Propose new avenues for enabling the application of transformative methodologies in the development studies field, with a particular focus on facilitating collaboration and interdisciplinary research within ISS research groups.

Collaborations

This project is led by Sreerekha Sathiamma and has following team members:

Outputs

This project aims to deliver three main outputs:

  1. A virtual gallery of existing CI practices on transformative methodologies launched during an online workshop on 11 May 2021. The workshop gave an opportunity for collective discussion and mutual inspiration and led to the compilation of a gallery of how some CI scholars seek to bring about transformative social change through the application of transformative methodologies. The virtual gallery comprises several short videos from CI scholars about their work and their application of transformative methodologies in their research.
  2. A series of blog articles will be written for publication on ISS Blog Bliss. This will allow for the communication of key themes or discussion points emerging from the building of and the conversations around the virtual gallery, thereby indicating a concrete societal impact of the project itself in stimulating discussions on transformative methodologies in and beyond ISS.
  3. An ISS working paper will be written based on the discussions and other data gathered for the project.

Contact the Transformative Methodologies research group

Funding

This project is funded by the ISS Research Innovation Facility, 2020.

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