Dei, G. J. S. (2005). Chapter One: Critical Issues in Anti-racist Research Methodologies: AN INTRODUCTION. Counterpoints, 252, 1–27.

Dave Harris

[Usual stuff discussing the problems and emergence of antiracist methodologies for the first 10 pages, in the form of questions what is to be done and so on]

Conceptualising antiracist research:

Antiracist research is operationalised as 'research on racial domination and social oppression' and has the objective 'providing local subjects with an opportunity to speak about their experiences within the broader context of structural and institutional forces of society' [call that an objective?] (11). It focuses on local resistance to oppression and here the objective is 'to create healthy spaces in which subjects can collaborate with researchers to understand the nature of social oppression' it also 'proceeds with some basic ideas about the working relations among subjects with a shared objective for common goal'. Thus it requires a 'new paradigm shift away from colonial research to a genuine relational approach' it aims to uncover power relationships in 'knowledge production, interrogation, validation, and dissemination'. It involves 'genuine collaboration', and 'working on a shared collective vision based on mutual trust and respect and meaningful dialogue among all partners'. It should not infantilise or patronise or denigrate subjects. It affirms the knowledge base of the subjects of study and also them as subjects that resist oppression. It means 'working with the idea of multiple and collective origins… [And]… Collaborative dimensions of knowledge… All parties involved can make substantive contributions to research (even if not necessarily as equal partners)'.

Researchers must develop 'understandings that personal characteristics influence the success of research and meaningful partnerships with subjects of study'. Racial identities [self-assigned?] of researchers and subjects are important considerations, so 'antiracist research links the issue of identity to knowledge production. This suggests that who we are, our educational and personal histories and experiences, all shape how we make sense of our world and interpret social reality'. We must also have a persistent commitment 'to working cooperatively' (12). We have to work with tensions and trade-offs and negotiate research agendas, evaluation and the dissemination and use of research information. Research means locals give researchers the right to go into their communities and the responsibility to work collectively to produce knowledge that speaks to the complexities of the lived experiences [and then to publish and gain the credit?]. It is also meaningful if objectives and processes 'lead to social transformation and there is genuine power-sharing among the various stakeholders' (12) [woolly liberal discourse here].

It is misleading if we ask what antiracism actually supports. Better to ask what it actually opposes. There is no intention to 'replace one flawed system with another' rather to ensure that 'the body politic remains vigilant against any and all forms of oppression'. Antiracism is 'for holistic interconnection among all forms of life' [blimey -- starfish?] since all things are connected. We must replace hegemony with one that allows each of us to flourish in ways that we may not even begin to imagine [although all put in negative forms we must not replace hegemonic orders with ones that do not allow us to flourish].

We must learn from the history and context of existing research, how research findings have been misapplied, and the contributions of subjects ignored, how research information has been used for academic imperialism and domination, and knowledge production used in hegemony, how ethnographic and discursive authority has been granted to the researcher denying local intellectual agency and disempowering local subjects. Antiracism research challenges these 'colonial and imperial relationships' [so local academic ones then?], and stops it being parasitic. It obliges researchers to assist subjects in resisting colonising relationships and subverting hegemonic ways of knowing [it's all one struggle] it interrogates positivist accounts of authentic valid empirical knowledge it asks who is speaking and for whom. It raises questions about the contexts of knowledge production and the sources and uses of research data. [So who is this article and book speaking for exactly?]

Antiracist research 'assumes [!] that there is institutional racism in mainstream social science research' (13). We can see this in the topics of study, the way concepts and methodologies are privileged, who is allowed and validates the research and what and how and how particular structures allow for the production and dissemination of certain knowledges [someone called Smith, 1999 is cited here]. Then there is the history of institutional racism which governs [!] the Academy. We need an ethical code [liberal crap again] for researching race and social oppression and dealing with local marginalised communities, one which acknowledges the impact of racism on our own frameworks and methodologies. These principles should guide our entire conduct of research. We need to seek full representation and the inclusion of varied experiences.

So we should be explicitly committed to promote antiracist objectives and particularly to challenge domination and power relationships through the promotion of social justice, equity and fairness [liberal again] this means making minority ties,  people's perspectives [anyone's? representatives?] on the issues of race social justice and oppression, salient and central, challenging exploitative relations especially the tendency of dominant research to perform, stereotype and label and re-victimise marginal people. We should also recognise the idea of interlocking oppressions, differential privileges, simultaneity of oppressions and privileges and how our lived experiences are complex 'imbrications' of 'race, gender, sexuality and class identities'. We should bring to the fore power relations that govern social interactions of researchers and subjects and how research is differently validated depending on whether it emerges from dominant or minoritise scholars. We should make sure the 'epistemic saliency' of minorititzed bodies is maintained and multiple perspectives valued. We should also respect the rights of individuals and groups to withhold or withdraw information.

We must always be transparent to our subjects [classical problems here — explain Marxism to them or Foucault?]. Researchers must be held responsible by the communities they purport to study as well as by their disciplines. Relevancy is key, as defined by those researched not by researchers and funders of the project [I can see problems here]. Relevance and responsibility are linked, meaning that researchers must not place subjects in any oppressive or dominating situations or disseminate knowledge that could cause injury or 'undue harm' to communities and social groups. These are limits to academic freedom — 'rights must be matched with appropriate responsibilities'. [All very 'shouldy' and idealistic -- no idea how to actually do any of this]

Affirming an Epistemic Community

'Antiracist research supports the idea of an epistemic community' [whether one exists or not?] (14). 'It is generally felt that racism is endemic in all [!] societies [even epistemic communities?] ' so there is no need to prove or disprove its existence but instead understand its nature or extent and consequences and the various ways it plays out together with other oppressions. The concept of community explains how both identities and experiences are shared and collective. He is aware that critical scholarship often sees this as essentialist, so we must be careful not to see community as too static or homogenous. Nevertheless the term can be 'an enabler or a mobilising force in the fight for social justice', and we must be aware that complex processes are at work through which various ideologies are produced and sustained, and these are 'linked to material conditions [weasel]'. So a community can be 'a vehicle for perpetuating ideologies of race class gender and sexuality'— we must be sophisticated enough to pick up these tensions and contradictions and ambiguities.

Several definitions of community are available — spatial, affective/relational, and moral community, for example. Each of these shows the tension, struggles, ambiguities and contradictions, 'and yet the integrity of a collective membership is maintained' (15) [very naïve]. Communities offer multiple affinities and allegiances in complex ways and reinforce processes of inclusion and exclusion. Local communities often present competing interests, oppressions and marginalities, but also preserve local knowledges and make them relevant [so why not do some empirical research to sort this out?] The emphasis here seems to be 'to redress multiple forms of oppression', to see how colonial and empirical relationships and ideologies interface, and operate in various linked forms of exploitation, both locally through intertwined discourses of race, class and gender, and globally. We must reject liberal notions of individuality and 'interrogate the problematic post-modernist take on the autonomous differentiated subject' [so little bit of academic space clearing here as well — all terribly condensed and elementary]

The pursuit of Antiracist Research: Specific Methodological Approaches

We must fully and actively involve the subjects at all stages [jhow can they beinvolved in research design or funding applications?]. This is more than collaboration. Locals have to identify the major issues of interest. We need a team approach including designing research approaches and strategies. All must find research to be relevant. 'Specific learning and research objectives'must be carefully delineated. He takes one of his own collective examples, based on trying to understand schooling experiences in Ontario. He drew on his own experiences as a parent and then as a member of the local community group. The problem was disengagement of black youth in schools. He discussed which questions needed to be researched and also turned to some of the scholars. He discussed it with other groups, some in other cities, and reviewed the literature. He evaluated the existing explanations and swapped notes with other academics and researchers. Then he got to ask a lot of gripping questions like what to do with competing interests and understandings [and doesn't say how he got to answer them, only that this somehow proves his point that is good to show the different interests].

He might have focused on issues of domination and participant action research [it is not at all clear how this came to be the focus if it was one]. Easier to get back to the general issues about how jolly nice it is to involve people helped to develop their own ideas and share ideas about research design, think up new ideas to defuse findings and discuss problems with the community, train local people in research methods [not colonising them?]. It seems to have got political as well because he also tried to 'challenge the extent of intellectual aggression to which racially minority sized communities have been subjected (18).

It's all very general though referring back to epistemic communities who can take on colonisers and expose how race works, including how it works through dominant methodologies and epistemologies. Scheurich and Young are cited here (19) [hardly the stuff of discussion and community groups, I would have thought].

Then we get on to review the different contributions in the book. The stress again is on local community involvement and power-sharing, to overcome local scepticism of academic research. Apparently the contributions are practical and pragmatic, although they seem to go over the same old issues about Eurocentric knowledge and its appalling binaries, the key assumptions of conventional research, how indigenous folk are other and made invisible. One involves anticolonial research projects initiated by aboriginal peoples. Another seems to be deeply indebted to Scheurich and Young and advocates comparative study. The final ones look at case studies in the church and in school/education.