The Entanglements of Ethnography and Participatory Action Research (PAR) in Educational Research in North America
- Margaret EisenhartMargaret EisenhartUniversity of Colorado
The traditions of ethnography and participatory action research (PAR) have different roots and different priorities, but their trajectories have become entangled in educational research over the past halfcentury. In many ways, ethnography and PAR are compatible. Both make participants’ perspectives central to the research. Both rely primarily on qualitative methods. Both are ethically committed to appreciating cultural differences and promoting the welfare of the groups they work with. Taken together, each adds something important to the other: PAR offers ethnography a “stance toward research” that is more democratic and action-oriented than traditional ethnography; ethnography lends PAR legitimacy as a research approach. Nonetheless, differences between the two create contradictions and tensions when they are combined. While educational researchers remain enthusiastic about the potential of combining activism with cultural analysis, it is important not to collapse ethnography and participatory action research, or privilege one over the other, but to find productive ways to move forward with the tensions between them.