Social Movements

Reflexive Research Ethics for Environmental Health and Justice: Academics and Movement-Building

Cordner, A., Ciplet, D., Brown, P., & Morello-Frosch, R. (2012). Reflexive Research Ethics for Environmental Health and Justice: Academics and Movement-Building. Social Movement Studies, 11 (2), 161–176.

This paper is about the ethical concerns that emerge in community-engaged research drawing the author’s’ experiences in doing this kind of research in the field of health. The advantages that result from research done based on reflexive research ethics are mentioned in the article. Reflexive research ethics is a concept discussed in the paper which includes ethical guidelines and decision-making principles that depend on continual reflexivity concerning the relationships between researchers and participants. The question of ethical guidelines in times of uncertainty especially when researchers are involved in research with social movements arises and thus the need for reflexive research ethics as a method that allows the researcher to self-consciously evaluate her role in the research in relation to community participants. The impacts of the research process on social movement goals as well as the impacts of the social movement goals on the research process are discussed.

Abstract: Community-engaged research on environmental problems has reshaped researcher-participant relationships, academic-community interaction, and the role of community partners in human subjects protection and ethical oversight. We draw on our own and others’ research collaborations with environmental health and justice social movement organizations to discuss the ethical concerns that emerge in community-engaged research. In this paper we introduce the concept of reflexive research ethics: ethical guidelines and decision-making principles that depend on continual reflexivity concerning the relationships between researchers and participants. Seeing ethics in this way can help scientists conduct research that simultaneously achieves a high level of professional conduct and protects the rights, well-being, and autonomy of both researchers and the multiple publics affected by research. We highlight our research with community-based organizations in Massachusetts, California, and Alaska, and discuss the potential impacts of the community or social movement on the research process and the potential impacts of research on community or social movement goals. We conclude by discussing ways in which the ethical concerns that surface in community-engaged research have led to advances in ethical research practices. This type of work raises ethical questions whose answers are broadly relevant for social movement, environmental, and public health scholars.

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Beyond activism/academia: militant research and the radical climate and climate justice movement(s)

Russell, B. (2015), Beyond activism/academia: militant research and the radical climate and climate justice movement(s). Area, 47: 222–229

This paper looks at the problems that arise between activism and the academia and how researchers can move beyond these problems in terms of knowledge production and operations. The author introduces the article by looking at how to define knowledge production that is based on struggle. A researcher engaging in militant research must find a way to link their intellectual and their political concerns. The author argues that militant research as an approach rejects the whole problem of the academic/activist and holds the academic component as irrelevant because militant research does not take the university as referent. The author thus makes a distinction of militant research as an orientation and as a process. The approach refutes the perspective that activism and research are opposed and stresses that the most important principle for academics committed to social change is to make strategic interventions collectively with the social movements they belong to.

Abstract: The problematic of the activist/academic relationship has been a source of sustained concern for radical Geographers over the past 15 years. Drawing on my personal experience within the radical climate movement(s), this paper looks to develop on the commitments of militant research, contribute to the development of militant ethnography as a research approach and consider the subsequent implications for thinking through the activist/academic problematic. Elaborating on the epistemological distinction between ‘truth relaying’ and ‘knowledge production’, it is contended that militant research is an orientation and process synonymous with the disavowal of positivist knowledge and the construction of situated partisan knowledge(s). Rather than the (social) science of transmitting truth, research thus becomes the art of producing tools you can fight with. From this perspective, the activist/academic problematic is not a ‘neutral’ problem but a product of a certain way of knowing associated with the academy. The paper concludes that our concern should not be to navigate between (and thus reiterate) the fields of ‘activism’ and ‘academy’, but to surpass the problematic altogether. We are tasked not with reproducing the university in its current form, but reimagining it as a machine for the production of other worlds.

Youth activism and community change: New democratic possibilities for practice and policy for America’s youth

Ginwright, S. A., Noguera, P., & Cammarota, J. (Eds.). (2006). Beyond resistance!: Youth activism and community change: New democratic possibilities for practice and policy for America’s youth. Routledge.

This book is a collection of work by different researchers that was inspired by a question on how educational researchers can make actual contribution to policy on the subjects that they work on. It focuses on youth activism as a means of social change. The book’s main argument is that youth activism plays a central role in shaping democratic processes that lead to social change such as the fight to end apartheid in South Africa. The work by the authors here is based on what happens when the youth are not given a chance to take part in social movements. Under restriction and prohibition, how do young people try to push and agitate for social change, what alternative means do they use? This book is also concerned with the mechanisms that restrict active participation of the youth in social movements especially youth of colour. It offers a comprehensive discussion of how young people respond to major patterns of institutional failure in their schools and communities.

Beyond scholar activism: making strategic interventions inside and outside the neoliberal university

Autonomous Geographies Collective. (2010). Beyond scholar activism: making strategic interventions inside and outside the neoliberal university ACME 9 245–75

This paper is an account of activists engaging in action research with different communities. The paper drawing from the challenges and success of the activists recommends intervention strategies for activists and social movements. The methods, motives and experiences of academics working with social movements to fight for global justice are examined. The role and approaches of scholar activism in difficult times is discussed in view of the accounts of the activists considered. The paper argues that the goal of research is not the interpretation of the world, but the organization of transformation. To achieve this transformation through research seven principles that make up the strategy for scholar activism are recommended.

Abstract: This paper is an honest, reflexive account of action research with activists. Through a two year project called ‘Autonomous Geographies’, a team of researchers undertook case studies with three groups: self-managed social centres, tenants resisting housing privatisation, and eco-pioneers setting up a Low Impact Development. The original aim was to explore the everyday lives of activists as they attempted to resist life under capitalism and build more autonomous ways of living. The paper reflects on the messy, difficult and personally challenging research process of the project, with the failures being more instructive than the successes. By recounting this experience we provide lessons for the complex but necessary process of doing what is known as scholar activism in what we see as difficult, neo-liberal times. In particular we focus on how we can better formulate and implement strategic interventions with activists and social movements. We need to reject the false distinction between academia and wider society in conceptualisations of valid sites of struggle and knowledge production, and to find ways to research and engage collectively and politically, rather than individually. To this end, the paper offers seven principles for scholar activism that can be applied inside and outside the neo-liberal university.

Ethics, Activism and the Anti-Colonial: Social Movement Research as Resistance

Lewis, A.G. (2012) Ethics, Activism and the Anti-Colonial: Social Movement Research as Resistance. Social Movement Studies, 11:2, 227-240

This article focuses on an anti-colonial approaches to activism by identifying areas of continued colonization and centering research in these areas in terms of knowledge production. The author outlines how activism research has changed over time to move to the streets to directly engage with organized groups from the confines of academic institutions. The definitions of colonialism that influence the definitions of anti-colonial approaches in activist research are addressed. The author argues that researchers must recognize the persistence of colonialism in systems of oppression and domination and seek to include such an ethical understanding into research practice.
Ethics: this paper addresses how an ethical research practice looks like. Ethics in activist research is driven by a reflectivity that allows the researcher to step back and objectively look at his own behavior in relation to the research subjects. Questions of ethic also arise in the quest to foreground the subject’s position as well as the duo roles of researchers as activists and academics.