Refusal

R-Words: Refusing Research

Tuck, E. and K.W. Yang. (2014b). ‘R-Words: Refusing Research’ in D. Paris and M. T. Winn (Eds.) Humanizing Research: Decolonizing Qualitative Inquiry with youth and Communities. Thousand Oakes, CA: Sage Publications.

In this paper, Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang develop their three ‘axioms’ or guidelines for refusal, which are briefly mentioned in Tuck in Yang (2014a). The authors suggest that refusals are conducted in three parts: 1) first a research participant refuses to engage in a particular conversation; 2) a researcher agrees to also refuse; and 3) as a result, Indigenous sovereignty over a particular knowledge claim is maintained. After doing so, the chapter examines what it means to engage with ethnographic refusals ‘generatively’, as per Simpson (2007). They suggest that all refusals are generative because they redirect the focus of research towards processes of power, thus decentering narratives of damage or destruction. Doing so sets limits to what issues are known by, and therefore responded to, through a logic of settler colonialism.

Editor’s note: This is an amazing text.

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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).

Participation: The new tyranny?

Cooke, Bill, and Uma Kothari. Participation: The new tyranny?. Zed Books, 2001.

Abstract: This book is about participatory development’s potential for tyranny, showing how it can lead to the unjust and illegitimate exercise of power. It is the first book-length treatment to address the gulf between the almost universally fashionable rhetoric of participation, which promises empowerment and appropriate development on the one hand, and what actually happens when consultants and activists promote and practise participatory development, on the other.The contributors, all social scientists and development specialists, come from various disciplines and a wide variety of hands on experience. Their aim is to provide a sharp contrast to the seductive claims of participation, and to warn its advocates of the pitfalls and limitations of participatory development. The book also challenges participatory practitioners and theorists to reassess their own role in promoting a set of practices which are at best naive about questions of power, and at worst serve systematically to reinforce, rather than overthrow, existing inequalities. For the recipients of participatory development this book provides critical insights into the history, institutions, and day-to-day activities through which participation is ‘done to’ them. It provides them with a range of arguments which support the legitimate decision not to participate on others’ terms.This rigorous and provocative understanding of participatory development is one which donors, academics and practitioners will find hard to ignore.