ACSPRI Conferences, ACSPRI Social Science Methodology Conference 2014

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“It is a narrow mind which cannot look at a subject from various points of view.” ― George Eliot, Middlemarch

Michelle Anne Elmitt, Temesgen Beyene

Building: Holme Building
Room: Cullen Room
Date: 2014-12-10 09:00 AM – 10:30 AM
Last modified: 2014-11-26


In 1996 UNESCO requested that research in Africa not be based on the dominant paradigm of western industrialisation. The UNESCO decree stated that research should be based on African values, experiences and principles. Thus, collaboration became the only option for developing a research methodology that ensures “African value systems of connectedness to the earth and ancestral spirits, and their oral traditions and indigenous knowledge systems [are] part of the methodology and research questions.”(Chilisa et al 2005, 12).
For Michelle’s doctoral research on non-biological kinship relationships, she is including fieldwork in both Western and African societies. Temesgen is experienced in ethnographic field work in Ethiopia and has agreed to an international collaboration.
Collaboration allows for the recruitment of comprehensively informed subjects, meaningful translation and empowerment of participants during the course of the project. Considerations for the involved subjects are paramount.
This paper will present the beginning of this 4 year journey of collaboration from two perspectives. One being from Michelle Elmitt, the doctoral research student, and the other being from Temesgen Beyene, the head of department of Folklore at Bahir Dar University, Ethiopia.
Presently there is a lack of framework for cross cultural postgraduate scholarship for such fieldwork that involves intimate family interactions. As such we are developing a working relationship and an agreement between faculties whereby both authors will jointly publish articles and share resources.
We will explore various complex issues in cross cultural research, including concepts of family, love and subjectivity of non-hegemonic groups. From two perspectives — assumedly oppositional regarding gender, race, age and ontological positions — we embrace the challenges, the bureaucracies and many things otherwise.
Dialogically we will explore, through the interface of love and family, the interpretive paradigm and research methodology that incorporates the needs of both academics, looking for not just what is different, but what connects social worlds across spaces. We share focus on ethnographic fieldwork and subjective narratives inside an ontological framework that can accommodate disjuncture between Western imperialist perspectives and African realities. This approach supports an undertaking to conduct “research in such a way that the worldviews of those who have suffered a long history of oppression are given space to communicate from their frames of reference and world views” (ibid. 23).

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