Self Determined Participatory Action of Marginalized Groups: The streets of São Paulo

non (autoritarian//hierarchical)//attitude

KEYWORDS non-authoritative, non-hierarchic , motivation, emancipatory, self-determination

Non-authoritarian and non-hierarchical attitude shall pervade the ground on which this research is elaborated on. They are interrelated and fundamentally important for me due to the fact that they represent certain attitudes I try to follow in my personal practice and that I do not want to exclude from research practice. Those attitudes are reflected by the choosen approach to research that is mainly determined by Action Research [AR] as I will explain in more detail later on (p.??) .

non-hierarchical praxis

The fact that research is often embedded in an existing academic framework already represents an implicit hierarchy which could, and often lead(s) to situations where research agents [scholars and research projects for instance] primarily follow their own agenda and logic, in their terms of participation, constraints and benefits.

One example is the question that I have been asked (p.??) in São Paulo, in how far academic research with marginalized people really supports the struggle of the ‚participants‘, whose role is basically limited to the provision of information utilized by the scholar. The Scholar writes his or her thesis and through its completion, he or she gains a degree that offers better possibilities on the [academic] job market and career outlooks while the participants still do not see any improvement of their situation.

One could argue that through the scholars’ then more powerful position, he or she can direct more [institutional] power to provoke those transformation that research was lacking but for me personally this is no sufficient argument. Gaining a better position for instance has a more or less immediate effect on ones own life while trying to realize social change through institutions takes a long time with unpredictable outcome, if there is an outcome that leads to proficient transformation at all. One can question the role of institutions as ‚change-makers‘ and agents of transformation in general if one looks at decades of aid and development projects that did not lead to any large scale and sustainable transformation of social inequalities existing all over the world.

Therefore I would like to question the terms under which participation in [research] actions is defined and realized. Is it exerted as a simple justification for the realization of inherently unjust research or [development] projects or is it exerted as an non-hierarchical and emancipatory approach to exercise self-determination in research but also in struggle? The notion of participation is relevant for me in the context of social struggle but also for research in general. I would like to leave the academic space in order to enter the streets and join the people, to realize this thesis from a different standpoint, from the standpoint of the streets and its people.

Coming back to the notion of non-hierarchical practice I perceive another implicit power hierarchy embedded in the academic framework of my research because I can go abroad, made possible through scholarship, a situation barely realisable by those that shall participate in or which are addressed by particular research action(s), hence the status of a foreign research agent automatically implies a difference in status of the research agent itself and those that shall participate in the agent’s actions [if intended at all].

This situation is described plastically with a quote of a guy from the streets I met and talked with (p.??), in a small and shady street in the centre of São Paulo:

Tell me, what does a guy from the first world do here inthe third world? Why are you here? Don’t you have problems to solve and analyse in your country? (own Source, 2010)

non-authoritarian praxis

Non-authoritarian attitude is the practice I am affiliated with. Here, a contradiction arise because I would like to experience and get insight into those situations that finally would be incorporated into research. I would like to get in touch with the people and become active in their struggle, because I feel solidary with their struggle, because I would like to realize research actions as part of this struggle. In order to do this, to get in touch, to experience, I would never impose acts of authoritative actions upon those that share their information, that share their trust in me. Neither through implicit or explicit actions, nor in oppressive or seductive ways.

Apart from the question of access, thus access to the people, their reality, their struggle, the question of access to the research’ outcome is related to a non-hierarchically attitude as well.

The rhizomatic map that my thesis represents is composed of personal narrations (p.72) and theorizing (p.141) drawn on theory conceptualized in books, journals or available on the internet. I would like to question the way this sets of information are [or have to be] made accessible by academia.

Little is openly [thus freely accessible] published in academic circles due to an elitist attitude and the commodification of knowledge and information, where knowledge, even though elaborated and produced in public institutions or based on peoples knowledge, remains behind impermeable walls, remains solely accessible to those agents that have produced and appropriated that knowledge, that have the necessary[monetary] resources to access academic journals or that possess the necessary access rights and status [as student, scholar, scientist, professor] in order to do so.

This situation describes another facet of purpose and demand on my research action(s), here as a demand of free distribution and open accessibility to the thesis’ outcome.

Another notion of rather practical nature is the time frame reserved for thesis writing and research action(s). The initially designated and official period for research actions and theorizing had to be 5 month, 2 to 3 reserved for empirical research abroad, the remaining time reserved for writing this work, the final thesis.

Now, I exceeded those specifications due to the fact that research action(s) in SãoPaulo already lasted 6 month. Writing this thesis took another 6 month [not full time].Thus again I return to the question of constraints and benefits the academic research agent is accepting and seeking (p.25) .

Looking back at the time that has been passed since I arrived in São Paulo, I have realized that if I had followed the strict time setting imposed on me, I wouldn’t have had time to reflect >on< and adjust >to< the situation I entered. I would not have time for self-organisation of my research action(s), to get in touch with the people nor to build relations among us. Such a situation would then probably have led to a work that just followed the logic of acquiring an academic title or developing a technical fix while leaving context, approach, praxis and effect of conducted research actions rather insignificant, just as necessary means to the anticipated end.

The concept of participation as non-authoritarian and non-hierarchical praxis also composes the thesis title, thus represents the intended approach to research actions (p.27) in São Paulo. Participation is not an uncontested concept as shown later. Through its deconstruction and reconstruction I would like to get a grasp on its various meanings. Participation in non-authoritarian and non-hierarchical research actions and struggle, and as subject of theorizing is therefore another objective of this thesis.

list//motivations//demands << non (autoritarian//hierarchical)//attitude >> action//activist/research

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