Feminist Participatory Action Research

By Amanda Muñoz Gamage (2021/2022 ASEAS Master’s Dissertation Prize recipient)

In January 2020, I completed an internship with the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) in Chiang Mai, Thailand. It was at the women’s rights organization that I was first introduced to Feminist Participatory Action Research (FPAR) as a method to advance women’s rights in the region.

During the course of my internship, we organized several trainings including a two-week long workshop in Penang, Malaysia inviting grassroots women, women  migrant workers and union leaders from all over Asia Pacific.

I was able to observe some of the many promises that theoretical conceptualizations of FPAR offer, including the seemingly egalitarian co-creation of knowledge, the redefinition of the subject-object distinction that characterizes many other forms of research and the empowerment of historically marginalized peoples.

The experience also left me with unanswered questions, which I attempt to unpack in my master’s dissertation. My research is based on in-depth interviews with FPAR practitioners and centers on how FPAR is carried out in practice.

The study is particularly interested in exploring how theory is translated into practice and delves into two main themes: I identify some of the challenges that FPAR practitioners face and categorize them into two sets of challenges (structural and methodological); and I question the assumption that participation and feminism, when combined, fit seamlessly together.

My findings offer critical points for reflection for FPAR practitioners and expands our understanding of FPAR as a participatory and feminist methodology within the specific context of human rights work in Southeast Asia.

My research was funded by the LSE (London School of Economics) Saw Swee Hock Southeast Asia Center through the Southeast Asia Student Dissertation Fieldwork Grant.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I was unable to travel to the field site. I reflect on my experience of conducting remote research in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic on the LSE Field Research Methods Lab Blog.

I am grateful to the LSE Saw Swee Hock Southeast Asia Center for its support. I thank the Department of Sociology at LSE for the nomination and extend my gratitude to ASEAS(UK) for the recognition and interest in my work.

To apply for the ASEAS Master’s Dissertation Prize visit: https://aseasuk.org/aseasuk-masters-dissertation-prize/

Image: Yasmin Che

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