Simon Darnell

University of Toronto
A Researcher from the Start: The limits of participatory methods
A Researcher from the Start: The limits of participatory methods
This presentation offers some critical self-reflections gleaned from a participatory study with youth in Toronto. The study, funded by the Ontario government, explored the ways in which young people living in Toronto make sense of sport, and whether/how sport connects to their everyday lives or social development, broadly defined. Employing the tenets of participatory action research (PAR), we focused particularly on youth who identify as racialized and/or Indigenous, and sought to create an environment in which they could and would describe their sporting experiences. In the end, however, we learned very little about the sporting experiences of Indigenous youth in Toronto. What we did learn was that our ostensible commitment to PAR did not do much to overcome our own colonial subjectivities and/or ways of seeing/knowing. Consequently, we were not viewed as collaborators by Indigenous participants; participants showed little interest in ‘sharing their stories’ with us; and they ultimately ‘voted with their feet’ by not showing up to participate in the research process. No amount of rapport building – or remuneration – overcame this. Based on these experiences, we reflect on the need to decolonize methodologists (more so than methodologies) in order to move forward towards the co-production of knowledge within anti-colonial research.

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