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  • Writer's pictureMadeleina Kay

Transformative Research Frameworks and Indigenous Research (Chapter 3)

Reflections on chapter 3 of Creative Research Methods - a practical guide by Helen Kara.

This chapter was of specific interest to me since my creative practice and research has a focus on social justice causes. Kara writes, 'Transformative research frameworks are a specific type of methodology that both acknowledge and seek the possibilities for transformation inherent in all research... Many of these frameworks were devised by people experiencing oppression, some of whom were further marginalised by research and researchers. The intention was to make research more equitable and ethical' (page 45). Since my MA research project is focussing on intersectional identities and the issue of marginalisation is central to this topic, so being mindful of embedding equity into the methodology I use through my project, to ensure that my research particiupants feel that they are treated with fairness and respect, and also feel like my project benefits them rather than exploits them.

When discussing Feminist research in practiece, Kara cites, 'Those and other feminist researchers around the world were challenging the established research principles of objectivity and neutrality, and asserting that the identity and context of both researchers and participants was central to the research process (Ryan-Flood and Gill 2010: 4-5)' (page 48). Since my research project is focussing on identity and I am working with participant's personal stories, I took the decision to include my positionality in my research proposal - so that the participants know about my personal identity and the context within the which I am conducting the research before they consent to participating. Attempting to maintain "impartiality" and "objectivity" by not asserting my identity would have been counter-productive, given that I am expecting my research participants to trust me with their personal information. Kara goes on to discuss, 'third-wave feminists' who 'moved beyond using the gender lens, recognising thar gender interacts with other sites of inequality such as ethnicity, sexual orientation and socioeconomic status' (page 48). She defines this as 'intersectionality (Crenshaw 1994), a concept used to acknowledge identity as both multifaceted and closely linked with its social and geographical context (Naples and Gurr 2010: 24)' (page 48). Since, my project is examining specifically this topic of intersectionality, useful to see this definition of the subject. However, she goes on to write, 'An intersectional approach does not attempt to take into account every aspect of someone's identity, but aims to accept and reflect the complexity of identity and to examine the relationships between different aspects of identity and their implications for power relations (Frost and Elichaoff 2010: 60)' (page 48). I think the key word here is 'approach', since intersectionality is the 'topic' of my research, I do intend to explore every aspect of my participant's identity. And my challenge is to create a flag which could represent the multifaceted complexity of their identity. Nonetheless, I hope that my 'approach' is also intersectional , since I aim to discuss power relations, such as experiences of discrimation, prejudice and othering, with my research participants.

Kara also discusses 'Emancipatory research' which is 'sometimes known as activist research'(page 49) which was of particular interest to me since I consider a lot of my work to fall under this term even though I had never come across the term before. She goes on to write, 'Emancipatory research develped new ethical dimensions by questioning how research is conducted and who controls its resources (Cotterell and orris 2012)' (page 50). This is something which I am being very careful to consider in my research project, since as the artist and researcher you have a certain power over your participants in how you use and present their data. This is one reason why, in the initial shaping of my project, I have decided to work with 3 close, trusted friends who I can depend upon to give me honest feedback and constructive criticism. It's also why, I intend to consult with them, every step of the way, how their personal information or likeness is presented publicly. She continues, 'A subset of activist research is 'inclusive research', a term used by researchers working with people who have learning disabilities... any person with learning disabilities can be included in research in a way that suits the individual' (pages 50-51). This is especially relevant to consider in the context of Fine Art research since such a high number of artists have dyslexia (myself included), which is one of the reasons why they prefer to communicate in visual imagery. It's often difficult to justify to "conventional" researchers how an artist's creative practice is research in and of itself, and the term 'inclusive research' helps to validate their visual research. It's also pertinent to my project, since, I am hoping to include at least one participant with a disability, neurodiversity or learning difficulty.

Kara also discusses 'Decolonising methods' which address 'conventional methods... which are rooted in Western colonial cultural ways of knowing (Gobo 2011:423-7)' (page 56). I hope that by adopting very creative approaches to collecting and presenting data through my project, that participants from diverse cultures feel safe and empowered to share their personal stories with me. Colonialism is something which I need to be particularly mindful of when tackling the topic of flags, which I intend to do during my project, since many flags have negative associations for many people due to colonialsim. Kara also writes about how the 'colonialist situation privileges English-speaking researchers' (page 57) which is a direct concern for me, since I am working with participants from diverse geogrpahical and ethnic backgrounds, who speak multiple languages whereas I can only speak English fluently. I am also not sure how this problem can be overcome in a research project that does not have funding to pay for translators. I therefore think the best thing I can do, is to be aware of my privilege in this instance.

In the chapter's conclusion, Kara writes 'The methodologies and methods discussed in this chapter explicitly aim to create positive change through research' (page 59). Given that an explicit aim of my research is to foster dialogue around how society can change to become more inclusive of intersectional identity - I think the research methods presented here will be central to my project.


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