Our climate resiliency research project, a collaboration between University of Rwanda and Glasgow Caledonian University, brings together a group of different and dynamic thinkers from three countries. Not many projects have botanists working alongside feminist theorists.
I recently led an online training for our research team on how to ensure gender inclusive approaches in our participatory field research and analysis. Many development scholars have moved away from thinking of their research “subjects” and now consider community members as “participants” in the project. This helps alleviate issues of “othering,” particularly important when Western investigators are working in postcolonial environments. It moves us away from thinking of community members as objects for analysis and instead see them as equal interlocutors in the back-and-forth conversation that is social understanding. Here is the recorded training.
One of the best questions from the training came from a Rwandan RA and it was about the definition of “gender.” She asked, “Is gender the construction of the male and female, or our perceptions of the male and female?” I told her, “both.” We can understand that beliefs/perceptions drive our behaviors/actions, then our behaviors/actions create events/phenomenon we view, and our views of those event/phenomen inform our beliefs/perceptions. Thus, we have a feedback loop.
beliefs/perceptions —> behaviors/actions —> events/phenomenon —> beliefs/perceptions
I believe the purpose of inclusive participatory research to create investigation outcomes that give us reason to pause in this feedback loop, to stop and consider “truths” in this cycle of knowledge creation. Sociologists call these points in a cycle “moments.” Inclusive research that is innovative and meaningful creates moments of self- and societal reflection about meaning.