Thursday, March 24, 2011

After the dissertation: Beyond the 'touch and go' model of fieldwork

Done with fieldwork? Finished your dissertation? 

Turn your back and walk away from the community?...

Abandonment is standard for street girls...their mothers, fathers, siblings, or other loved ones often fail them...they are abused at a young age and left to fend for themselves...clients 'touch and go' everyday...

As activist-scholars, we should not fall into this same pattern.  As I have argued elsewhere, what is known in the academic world as 'care ethics' depends on constancy...abandonment is fatal to the reproduction of caring relations in the field and to the future of an action-research program started, in my case, as the basis of doctoral research. 

Traditional research programs in the human sciences are still bound within this 'touch and go' model...researchers 'penetrate' communities, immerse themselves and 'pull out' when the funding runs dry and when they've obtained what they need to advance in their careers.

Metaphorically speaking, scholars who follow such protocols are no better than brothel administrators or pimps that take what they need from street girls, exploit their image for personal benefit and move on to the next girl [project] when she has nothing more to offer...nothing left to showcase...

I urge activist-scholars to consider this metaphor when entering into a participatory action research endeavor... 

PAR, for me, has only just begun...


  1. A great read! Perhaps worth noting: when a scholar´s area of specialization is evaluation/development (rather than direct service), PAR can still be very useful but personal constancy may not necessarily stay relevant. PAR can be incorporated directly into organizational practices supporting direct service, but not everyone in the institution can, or should, constantly contact/connect with kids. Gracias and please keep it up Dra.!

  2. I agree with you one hundred percent. You see so many go in and help and once they get what they want they leave. It is the main reason why girls who grow up in such an environment find it hard to trust anyone or feel that no matter how hard they try to save themselves it never works out because the hand that is dealt to them puls away at some point. Hence, the reason why so may fall back to that lifestyle.

  3. I agree with what you said. So many go into fields saying that they are there to help but sooner or later they leave. It makes you wonder who can we really trust and rely on if those who say they care and are there for us so eager and quick to leave at a moments notice. Doing volunteer work with kids who leave in shelters, the elderly in homes and aids hospice it truly breaks my heart how they really dont have anyone there for them. It may not be the same situation but we all at some point in our lives go thru the exact same thing and I am sure most of have done the same to others. I am so proud of you and the work you are doing with PAR you are an amazing person, you are what I call hero the very definition of it. You are doing something so important that most us living in the US do not really know what is going on in the outside world, we become numb. It is very good to know that not all of us have succumb to this numbness but are doing something about it. So many out there need our help. The innocent boys and girls betrayed by their very family, those who traffic children and those who commit crimes against nature and humanity because of who they are and who they choose to be. I admire you and will always admire the work you. Don't ever stop what you are doing one way or another the cycle must be broken.

  4. Exactly. It would be interesting to hear how you will keep up fighting this, Amy. Keep us posted and inspire us to do the same!

  5. Over three years since the last entry - hey, keep us posted!

    1. Please see our current work in Colombia on There are different photographs and participatory videos of our work and there is also a link to academic, activist and policy briefs/articles.

    2. And thank you for writing!