Participatory research: still a one-sided research agenda?
Despite the prevalence of the term over the last two decades, scholars have not agreed on a definition of, or approach towards, participation, although critiques have emphasised that participation is not an equal process for all parties involved. By reviewing the literature and giving examples from fieldwork carried out in Lebanon, this article agrees with the common critique around participation and reflects over the limitations resulting from inherent power imbalances between researchers and participants and among community members. It also argues that the “glorification of methods” alone disguises the politics and the one-sided nature of participatory research and disregards the question of to what extent participants are involved in the construction of the methodology. This article suggests that – despite the pressure from funders to find out innovative methods – participatory researchers would benefit from understanding participants’ own ways of conceptualising and investigating a phenomenon, in order to build their methodology. This article explores these questions, particularly in research with migrants and refugees.