Academic journal article International Journal of Action Research

Reconstructing a Participatory Process in the Production of Knowledge: A Concept and a Practice1

Academic journal article International Journal of Action Research

Reconstructing a Participatory Process in the Production of Knowledge: A Concept and a Practice1

Article excerpt

This is a reflection on the knowledge production process based on participatory approaches, highlighting experiences in the field of evaluative research. The article emphasizes the contribution that can be offered by this modality of investigation to create tools for the organization and action of "subaltern" classes in the field of Public Policies, and for the advancement of democracy and expansion of citizenship. The social insertion of the researcher is considered essential to allow the participation of knowledge in the field of popular struggles, bearing in mind the construction of a more humane, fair society, oriented to the need of distributing socially produced wealth.

Key words: Participatory research, production of knowledge, evaluative research

1. Introduction

My book, "Refletindo a Pesquisa Participante" (Reflecting Participatory Research), published by Cortez Editora in São Paulo, with a first edition in 1986 and a second edition in 1991, presents the results of an exhaustive research study on the state of the art of different modalities of Participatory Research that became so fashionable from the 1960s onwards in Latin America and in Brazil. This is a study that seeks, analyzes and problematizes the thinking of the most representative authors of the time2 in constructing those modalities of investigation, at the same time as relevant experiences are referenced in this field of knowledge that I consider in permanent construction, generically called, by me, Participatory Research. The Study begins with a critique of the Positivist Model of Science, and points to theoretical-methodological concepts and contents of Participatory Research, presented in their diversity, but having as central point of reference a profound reaction and critique of science as pure, autonomous and neutral knowledge, and as the expression of a single and universal truth. It presents what I call central aspects of Participatory Research in Brazil and in Latin America, considering the thinking of authors who are relevant in this field of knowledge, as regards the critique of the positivist model of science, the conceptual aspects and characterization, intentionality and objectives, modalities, theoretical and methodological aspects, also highlighting the development of a problematizing analysis on Participation as a central aspect of this modality of investigation.

In constructing the book, I present the participatory dimension as a dimension associated to the process of knowledge, with two outstanding aspects: one that is more intensively discussed and developed in the literature, pointing out the need for the popular sectors to become part of the process of knowledge as subjects, also becoming researchers together with the scientists and people from academe, so that the knowledge produced will be placed at the service of the popular classes and their struggles; another that places the possibility of knowledge, even when produced without the direct participation of the popular classes3, in the development of its construction process, being made available to participate and contribute to the advancement of social struggles, which means that the knowledge produced by research may be placed at the service of social transformations, even if the social subjects interested in this transformation have not acted as researchers at all times in the investigation process. In this sense, in the book mentioned, I consider that it is essential to have the participation of research in the forming of a consciousness of the classes that have become subaltern,4 which allows me to outline a research proposal in support of popular social movements. Naturally, a proposal to construct knowledge committed to social change implies taking reality critically as the object of research, and requires the social insertion of the researcher in social reality, which means his or her identification with the interests and demands of classes of society that have become subaltern, the only subjects whom this change interests. …

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