Power Relations

Style Guide for Intersectional Writing

Hanna Thomas and Anna Hirsch. (2016). A Progressive’s Style Guide. Sum of Us.

Language has politics. Writing in a style that is inclusive and ethical is a skill, and this excellent text offers guidelines and examples of language for writing for diverse, intersectional audiences. There are sections for different topics, such as age, disability, economy, health, Immigration, and Indigeneity, among many others, and each section begins with guiding principles.


National Standards for Community Engagement

Scottish Community Development Centre. (n.d.). National Standards for Community EngagementCommunities Scotland. 

The Scottish Community Development Centre developed this set of national standards as a means of assuring good public process between communities and agencies. The standards are seen as a fundamental part of community planning while acknowledging the importance of increasing inclusion of minorities and disadvantaged populations. The standards were originally developed in 2005 and have been in wide use in Scotland. The standards address how organizations with a public-interest focus can improve: involvement of stakeholders, overcoming barriers in participation, project planning, methods assessment, team collaboration, information sharing practices, implementing feedback mechanisms, and more. There is a focus on measuring indicators and community-led action research though implementation guidelines are lacking.

Unbecoming claims: Pedagogies of refusal in qualitative research

Tuck, E. and K.W. Yang. (2014a). Unbecoming claims: Pedagogies of refusal in qualitative research. Qualitative Inquiry 20 (6): 811-818.

This paper examines ‘refusal’ as an anti-colonial method for analyzing and communicating research data. The researchers draw on the work of Indigenous scholars, to argue that so-called ‘objective’ methods of ethnographic data analysis are colonial in that they reduce individuals and experiences to ‘objects’ that are extracted and claimed by the academy. Specifically, the authors assume that: 1) Studies focusing on the pain of marginalized groups are exploitative and unhelpful; 2) That there are some forms of knowledge that should be kept out of the academy; and 3) Research might not be the most appropriate intervention to a given situation. Using these points as a guide, the article provides concrete examples of how refusal can be incorporated into research design (to focus on institutions and power, rather than the ‘social problems’ of marginalized groups), data collection (being attentive to the refusals made by study participants) and analysis (to refuse to report these refusals within the academy).

‘Up the Anthropologist: Perspectives Gained from ‘studying up’

Nader, L. (1969) ‘Up the Anthropologist: Perspectives Gained from ‘studying up’’pp. 284–311 inD. Hyms (ed) Reinventing Anthropology. New York: Random House

‘Studying up’ is an approach that includes the perspectives of those at the middle and the upper ends of a stratified society as well as (or rather than) those in the lower end in trying to understand the working of a particular society. To understand how power is exercised, the author recommends that anthropologists study all levels of society including those previously not studied. The main argument is that it is important for the people to understand who shapes attitudes and who controls institutional structures and this can be done through the ‘studying up’ approach. The essay also includes reasons why this approach should be adopted by anthropologists. The author points out what might happen if anthropologists were to study the colonizers rather than the colonized, the culture of power rather than the culture of the powerless and the culture of affluence rather than the culture of poverty. By investigating how the powerful urban society works it is possible to understand how this might have a corresponding effect on the other groups of people at the society. The consequences of not studying up as well as down are also discussed.

Ethical problems that arise while applying the ‘studying up’ approach are mentioned. There often arises confusion when studying one’s own society; the author here asks whether there is one different ethic for studying up and another one for studying down. The ethics that should be applied while studying the public, the private and foreign cultures are discussed in detail.

Negotiating the challenges of participatory action research: Relationships, power, participation, change and credibility

Grant, J., Nelson, G., & Mitchell, T. (2008). Negotiating the challenges of participatory action research: Relationships, power, participation, change and credibility. In P. Reason & H. Bradbury (eds). The SAGE Handbook of Action Research. SAGE Publications.

Abstract: In this chapter we explore some of the issues that researchers and participants face when engaging in participatory action research (PAR). We suggest negotiation processes and skills that may be helpful in co-creating meaningful research accounts that arise from the lived experiences of communities as well as the subjectivity of ourselves as researchers. We reflect on power issues, self-reflexivity and the potential to develop credible accounts that can be transformative and transgressive. We consider PAR challenges, negotiation processes, and identified skills for building relationships, acknowledging and sharing power, encouraging participation, making change, and establishing credible accounts. As we discuss each area of challenge, we present vignettes from our own research that serve as examples of the challenges and possible strategies for achieving the goals of participatory research.

The Ethical Dilemmas of International Human Rights and Humanitarian NGOs

Daniel A. Bell & Joseph H. Carens, “The Ethical Dilemmas of International Human Rights and Humanitarian NGOs: Reflections on A Dialogue Between Practitioners and Theorists,” 26 HUM. RTS. Q. 300 (2004)

The paper focuses on the different ethical problems that humanitarian organizations face such as conflicts between human rights principles and local cultural norms and how these problems limit their work. Its main aim is analyzing the approaches that different humanitarian organizations use to deal with ethical issues and the advantages and disadvantages of each of these approaches. This, it suggests, is beneficial for practitioners working in this kind of organizations. It also argues that since the goal of political theory is to guide action then it must understand the choices that those involved in human rights work confront daily in their work. By looking at the four ethical dilemmas in depth the paper ends by saying that most responses to ethical dilemmas will depend on the context at hand. 

Feminism and Method: Ethnography, Discourse Analysis, and Activist Research

Naples, Nancy A. (2003) Feminism and Method: Ethnography, Discourse Analysis, and Activist Research. New York: Routledge.

The text is divided into five parts, this book focuses on feminism in terms of methodology and the practice of reflective practice in research. It also covers activism in terms of empowerment and resistance as well as looking at the limits of participatory research for researchers using feminist methodology. Such questions that confront any researcher using the feminist approach is how to deal with the imbalance of power between the researcher and the researched, the responsibility that a researcher have for the research participants and the effects on participatory techniques on the analysis during research. The question of a distinctive feminist method of inquiry is addressed in the methodology section. By looking at feminist methodology as an approach of knowledge production the author makes recommendations on how to avoid exploitative research practices and how to counter inequities in the knowledge production process. The book is written in consultation with other feminist researchers and it draws from feminist research work by the author.