This is a reflexive, exploratory paper[1] on the intellectual journey involved in investigating Participatory Action Research (PAR)[2] as a methodology for my PhD project on communal memory and missing archives as reflected in the visual arts in Nunavut. This topic forms the context and therefore the limits of my survey. The 1990s have been called the decade of Participatory Action Research (PAR). Collaborative and participatory approaches are highly recommended in research with Inuit, First Nations and Metis communities. Rapid structural changes in Nunavut are creating a dramatic shift in social dynamics, in the Territorial North in general and in Nunavut in particular (Hicks and White 2000a; Mitchell 1996), which unsettle the concept of “communities” and therefore the geography of PAR approach.  In the three decades since PAR became implanted on the research landscape, the social sciences have experienced a series of crises (Denzin and S. Lincoln 1998: 13 – 25): a crisis of representation, a crisis of identity and a linguistic turn (Geertz 1983; 1988; Marcus and Fischer 1996 [1986]; Sahlins 1972). Partly in response to this, there has been a plethora of literature on qualitative research and cultural studies, feminist and post-colonial theory, and on themes such as, civil society and post-development. This body of literature clarifies and uncovers ontological, epistemological, methodological, rhetorical and axiological assumptions of PAR (See Table 2). This diverse and potent body of literature disturbs and enriches the PAR landscape.  In this paper, I examine a renewed PAR with a greater emphasis on axiological underpinnings that are relevant to the specific context of my work with an Inuit art knowledge community.

[1] This paper is complemented by a web page


[2] PAR has been recommended by the Nunavut Research Institute (NRI), the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and Canadian Research Institute for The Advancement of Women (CRIAW), as the preferred research model for collaborations between academics and indigenous peoples. PAR has been highly praised as a research method that contributes to social change by providing a place for those people whose voices are not heard — to speak and be heard.


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