Process, Perception and Power: Notes from ‘Participatory’ Research in a Zimbabwean Resettlement Area


Goebel, Allison. 1998. “Process, Perception and Power: Notes from ‘Participatory’ Research in a Zimbabwean Resettlement Area.” Development and Change 29: 277-305.

Author: Allison Goebel


The increased popularity of 'participatory' methods in research, development projects, and rural extension in developing countries, has not consistently been accompanied by a critical evaluation of the quality and reliability of knowledge created and extracted in the process. In this article, the author employs her own research using Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) in a Zimbabwean Resettlement Area, to examine how knowledge is created through this type of research act, and how later research may be used to turn back and 'make sense' of PRA data. The article explores how power relations among participants are both revealed and concealed in PRA, focusing specifically on the implications for gendered perspectives. The paper also highlights the dynamic, contested and often contradictory nature of 'local knowledge' itself. Apparently transparent chunks of 'local reality' gleaned through PRA can turn out to be part of complex webs of multiple ideologies and practices. The author argues that while participatory methodologies may offer effective ways of beginning a research project, adoption of short PRA workshops in academic or project related research could lead to dangerously faulty representations of complex social worlds.

Topics: Gender, Gendered Power Relations Regions: Africa, Southern Africa Countries: Zimbabwe

Year: 1998

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