Location

University of Dayton

Start Date

10-2-2015 8:45 AM

End Date

10-2-2015 10:15 AM

Abstract

Social science methodologies frequently assume that the researcher is ahistorical, bringing no background or investment to the topic they study. Yet, as activists and scholars of human rights activism we are drawn to the movements we study precisely because of our engagement with these groups, places and topics. How does our research and teaching change if we are viewed as participants rather than outside observers in the movements we study? How do we navigate interviews with people who know us as activists rather than scholars? How do we interpret materials in which our own words and images appear?

Coming to academia as activists, we have personal histories intimately connected to the topics we study, including colleagues on the ground. Although we are activist ‘insiders’ we also negotiate a simultaneous position of ‘outsiderness’ as we study countries where we are culturally foreign. Employing a reflexive analysis of our own research methodologies we interrogate the dynamics of what we term ‘invested scholarship.’ We explore two human rights struggles: women’s rights in Guatemala and HIV rights in Botswana. Both studies are based on fieldwork including observation, participation, formal and informal conversations, and semi-structured and in-depth interviews. To analyse the complex role of the activist/scholar we focus on the ways in which we, the invested scholars, appear in our data, through images, statements and relationships. We find that assumptions of allegiance and ‘insiderness’ appear relatively frequently in our research interactions. Being known as activists by those we study is a status that allows us a position of trust and unique access. However, such a privileged position also comes with unique challenges and responsibilities raising questions of objectivity, ethics and methodology. We argue that this role is a negotiated nexus of activism and scholarship that presents important critiques to the paradigm of outsider objectivity.

Comments

This biennial conference provides a unique space for scholars, practitioners and advocates to engage in collaboration, dialogue and critical analysis of human rights advocacy — locally and globally. Learn more about the Human Rights Center at the University of Dayton >>>.

 
Oct 2nd, 8:45 AM Oct 2nd, 10:15 AM

From Activism to Invested Scholarship: When Outsiders Are Insiders (abstract)

University of Dayton

Social science methodologies frequently assume that the researcher is ahistorical, bringing no background or investment to the topic they study. Yet, as activists and scholars of human rights activism we are drawn to the movements we study precisely because of our engagement with these groups, places and topics. How does our research and teaching change if we are viewed as participants rather than outside observers in the movements we study? How do we navigate interviews with people who know us as activists rather than scholars? How do we interpret materials in which our own words and images appear?

Coming to academia as activists, we have personal histories intimately connected to the topics we study, including colleagues on the ground. Although we are activist ‘insiders’ we also negotiate a simultaneous position of ‘outsiderness’ as we study countries where we are culturally foreign. Employing a reflexive analysis of our own research methodologies we interrogate the dynamics of what we term ‘invested scholarship.’ We explore two human rights struggles: women’s rights in Guatemala and HIV rights in Botswana. Both studies are based on fieldwork including observation, participation, formal and informal conversations, and semi-structured and in-depth interviews. To analyse the complex role of the activist/scholar we focus on the ways in which we, the invested scholars, appear in our data, through images, statements and relationships. We find that assumptions of allegiance and ‘insiderness’ appear relatively frequently in our research interactions. Being known as activists by those we study is a status that allows us a position of trust and unique access. However, such a privileged position also comes with unique challenges and responsibilities raising questions of objectivity, ethics and methodology. We argue that this role is a negotiated nexus of activism and scholarship that presents important critiques to the paradigm of outsider objectivity.