Becoming Neighbors in a Mexican American Community: Power, Conflict, and Solidarity

By Gilda L. Ochoa | Go to book overview

Appendix
The Politics of Research

It is November 1997—La Puente’s annual 5K run. The mainly
Latina/o runners have just completed the hardest mile of the
race. We are greeted by community residents who have risen
early this Sunday morning. Standing in front of their homes,
they cheer us on—“Come on. Good job. Keep going. ¡Vamos!
¡Vamos! ¡Andale! ¡Andale!” From the group of runners, we
hear someone yell, “Speak in English. This is America.” Sud-
denly I hear myself respond, “This is La Puente. We speak in
Spanish and in English.” My heart beats faster, and I run ahead.

FIELD NOTES, November 1997

Feminists, scholars of color, and progressives have extensively critiqued the assumptions underlying traditional social science methodological approaches that assert that scholars should maintain distance and a “valuefree” stance from their research topics and the people being studied (hooks 1989; Collins 1990; Frankenberg 1993). Such critics have argued that research questions, research design, data collection, analysis, and conclusions are influenced by a researcher’s social location and his or her views of the world as a raced, classed, and gendered individual. Thus, all research, whether explicitly stated or not, is based on political perspectives and political decisions (Nyden et al. 1999). There is no “disinterested position to be adopted in scholarship” (Frankenberg 1993, 30). Also, maintaining distance may reinforce power differentials and objectify individuals and communities (hooks 1989; Collins 1990). As with other forms of research, certain politics are involved in conducting a qualitative study of a working-class community of color (Baca Zinn 1979; Zavella 1987; Blea 1995). As a self-identified Latina, a bi-ethnic Nicaraguan and Italian-American woman, born in La Puente and raised in a lower-middle-class household doing research in a predominantly working-class, Mexican-origin community, it has been important to reflect both on the research process and my own position.

As a feminist and Chicana/o studies scholar concerned with achieving social justice, I was not a neutral researcher. I agreed with many of the issues raised by parents regarding the quality of schools and the unequal power

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