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WCCEH Seminar: Democratising Research

Participatory action research and dialogue-based approaches

A Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health seminar
Date13 June 2018
Time13:30 to 15:00
PlaceBaring Court 128

The Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health are delighted to welcome Dr Tom Wakeford to join us for this exciting interactive seminar opportunity.

Hierarchies of knowledge developed in parallel with the rise of the modern research university. The institutionalisation of research took place as an integral part of the colonisation of peoples around the world by European powers. Two centuries of colonial dominance imposed a new world order in relation to knowledge. It systematically denied contributions from holders who were not members of the European professional elites. Over the centuries, the hegemony of a single, narrow approach to the production of what constitutes valid knowledge has benefited some - but marginalised and excluded many, many more. The process has also been to the detriment of humanity’s overall knowledge base.

The still-dominant model of knowledge creation today has its roots in seventeenth-century Europe, as wealthy ‘gentlemen’ founded institutions dedicated to the study of what was then called ‘natural philosophy’ - notably the Royal Society in London. The basic approach, crafted in a very specific social and historical context, has come to be known as ‘the scientific method’. Viewed in some circles as the only route to reliable knowledge, it has often been accorded an overweening power to sideline any research that deviates from its formulaic strictures.

The limitations of this prescriptive approach are increasingly recognised, yet the uncritical application of scientific or even quasi-scientific methods to inappropriate fields of study – sometimes referred to as ‘scientism’ – is still evident within the academy and beyond. It is the widespread belief in, and misuse of, methods of investigation that were originally designed for the study of phenomena of the physical universe that sustains the resistance to the adoption of participatory approaches by those in research institutions today.

Dr Wakeford will outline some of the pioneering instances of participatory action research within academia and beyond. These approaches, based on dialogue among people with widely differing perspectives, have already demonstrated their potential to transform the process by which knowledge is generated and understood, thereby contributing to struggles for greater social justice and transformations towards environmental sustainability.

About the speaker:

Tom Wakeford is an action researcher and participatory worker. He has attempted to make use of his skills and privilege as a white middle-class man with a science doctorate and experience of working in neoliberal universities to open up spaces for those who have been oppressed and whose knowledge has been marginalised. Tom acknowledges his debt to those individuals and organisations working at the grassroots who have helped him along the way. Formerly a biologist, he is the author and co-editor of articles and books on a range of issues including Everyday Experts (2017), People’s Knowledge: Escaping the White-Walled Labyrinth (2016), Empowered Participation (2008), Liaisons of Life (2001) and Science for the Earth (1995). Tom is on the editorial advisory boards of the journals Citizen Science: Theory and Practice and Action Research. He is Reader in Public Science at the Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience, Coventry University and a member of the external advisory board of the Wellcome Centre for Cultures of Environments and Health at the University of Exeter.

Register for your free place here: http://bit.ly/wccehtwsem

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