Academic journal article Translation & Interpreting

Rebalancing Power: Participatory Research Methods in Interpreting Studies

Academic journal article Translation & Interpreting

Rebalancing Power: Participatory Research Methods in Interpreting Studies

Article excerpt

Abstract: A participatory research approach is a qualitative methodology that is inductive and collaborative (Cornwall & Jewkes, 1995) and relies on trust and relationships (Christopher et al. 2008). This approach is typically used in public health research studies, and has been used specifically to investigate migrant communities and interpreters in public health settings in Ireland (Macfarlane et al, 2009). Participatory research is an approach that enables positive user involvement and empowerment, and enables marginalised 'hidden' voices to be heard. Through purposeful sampling (Patton, 2002), 'information rich' stakeholder groups who have a depth of experience to share can contribute to the research process, thus ensuring that the research is conducted not just on, for and with people (Turner & Harrington, 2000), but also by people from stakeholder groups.

We reflect on two previous research studies to consider an innovative, interactive approach to interpreting research methodology. The studies adopted interactive principles of collaboration between researchers and key stakeholders and thus embedded a participatory approach within the research design. The key principles of participatory research will be outlined, with an overview of the methodologoy for each study and the benefits and challenges of using such an approach in interpreting studies. This paper will highlight how we can use sign language interpreting research to inform methodological approaches to the study of interpreter-mediated interaction generally.

Keywords: interpreting, participatory research, collaborative research, power, sign language

1. Introduction

Interpreting studies research frequently includes the involvement of people other than academics, be they interpreters, primary participants or other stakeholders of an interpreted event. Despite exceptions, this is true for research across the board, no matter what the philosophical foundation, the methodological design or the focus of enquiry. Typically, research participants, whether as individuals or as part of a representative group, are regarded as valuable resources, providing perspectives, opinions and insights, which exemplify, corroborate, adapt, add to or dispute existing theoretical knowledge.

This paper argues that ethical considerations become paramount in this context, not only in order to mitigate unavoidable researcher bias but also, and perhaps most importantly, to take those who act as informants in research seriously, and thus to produce socially meaningful outcomes. This paper sets out to contribute to putting the reflection of research practices at the forefront. Building on existing work (particularly Turner & Harrington, 2000), it presents a discussion of participatory research methods, a methodological design already commonly used within other disciplines, which centres on an attempt to redress the status of research participants and which consciously and critically blurs the boundaries between the roles of 'researcher' and 'researched'. After highlighting issues of power in relation to knowledge creation and introducing participatory methods as used within other disciplines, the paper critically reviews two studies that examined sign language interpreting using participatory methods: (i) a study of deaf people's views on access to health care information in Australia (Napier & Kidd, 2013; Napier, et al, 2014); and (ii) a study of deaf people's perceptions of being known through translation (Napier et al, 2016). This paper thereby aims to address and re-address the power imbalance between 'researcher' and 'researched', critically reshaping the roles associated with these two parties, and discuss the merits of using participatory methods in interpreting studies.

2. The researcher versus the researched

The premise for participatory research is the three-fold assumption that (1) research is not created in a vacuum, (2) that knowledge is not absolute and (3) that knowledge is linked to power. …

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