Privileging participation in the Pacific: Researcher reflections

Kate Saxton


This researcher reflection examines the challenges faced in using participatory action research (PAR) as a methodology when researching social work in Fiji. PAR allows for disadvantaged groups to engage in research and social action as a means to address inequity. However, PAR relies on people’s ability and desire to participate in this process of change. The epistemological roots of PAR are well suited to Western notions of democracy and power, conflicting with how society operates within Fiji. This reflection examines some of the challenges faced in conducting PAR due to this cultural clash. In conducting this research, the researcher was forced to engage in deep and, at times, confronting, reflections about identity and positionality as both a critical social worker and researcher. By using a PAR approach as the starting point for research design and implementation, the research not only failed to empower Fijian social workers but at times replicated a form of neo-colonialism.


participatory action research; neocolonialism; social work research; Pacific Islands; Indigenous; cross-cultural practice

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