Sociology has a history of being a tool in the repertoire of colonial regimes. While some sociologists are very critical of systems of domination, their critical work has not unhinged itself from the hegemonic logics at the core of epistemology. While a subfield like the sociology of poverty and inequality can exist; that very work can perpetuate the regimes of truth under a benevolent guise. In this paper I examine the methodologies utilized in the research on inequality and poverty. The paper includes a review of knowledge production, analyzing theoretical arguments for decolonized/anti-racist methods and epistemologies; and lastly looking at what decolonized/anti-racist methodologies look like in practice, where the theory meets praxis. With this paper, I hope to lay out a framework for the production of counter-hegemonic sociologies that privileges the epistemologies of the marginalized in an aim for equitable political liberation.
WESTERN INTELLECTUAL TRADITIONS
In The Rules of the Sociological Method, Emile Durkheim emphasizes the basic tenant of sociology: the social fact. The philosophy of any society is embedded into its ideology and then reproduced and maintained through its epistemology. In “Consciencism”, Kwame Nkrumah discusses how the philosophy of a society informs the development of its ideology and then its social milieu. Nkhrumah understands philosophy as being concerned with two questions “what there is” and “‘how what there is’ is explained” (Nkrumah 1970). Through philosophy, ideology informs those within a society of what is possible, impossible, right, wrong, normal, deviant, etc.. The histories and sciences of the Western world are informed by the philosophies and ideologies of racism, patriarchy, and capitalism. The epistemologies of the social sciences sprouted from the philosophies of hegemonic domination. In Research As Resistance Susan Strega reviews the definitions of ontology and epistemology as,
…the foundations of how knowledge about “social phenomena” can and should be acquired: each has diﬀerent ideas about what should be studied, why and how it should be studied, how it should be analyzed, how it should be assessed, and what ought to be done with research results. An ontology is a theory about what the world is like—what the world consists of, and why. Another way of thinking about ontology is to think of it as a world view. The world view of the researcher shapes the research project at every level because it shapes a researcher’s epistemological foundation. An epistemology is a philosophy of what counts as knowledge and “truth”; it is a strategy by which beliefs are justiﬁed. Epistemologies are theories of knowledge that answer questions about who can be a “knower”; what tests beliefs and information must pass in order to be given the status of “knowledge”; what kinds of things can be known. All research methodologies rest on some ontological and epistemological foundation (2005).
All research is reliant upon some value system. Particular philosophies are privileged over others in ways that erases the knowledges of those on the margins. The hegemony of the dominant world view is not simply one way to view the world, its positioned as the most legitimate way to view the world.
There is no such thing as value-free science. The scientific scholarship and endeavors of the West are all built off of what the Western world values. Capitalism, racism, patriarchy, and many other dominant ideologies inform the ‘Western sense of the world’ and through their colonial regimes, they have managed to produce very particular types of knowledge that serve their imperialist white supremacist racist patriarchal capitalist purposes and interests. As social scientists we would all like to believe that we are studying phenomena that are there, un-impacted by us in any personal way. The idea of objectivity in western intellectual traditions is problematic for many reasons, but one of the main crumbling pillars is: research will never be free of personal biases or reflect universal truths. And to think there are universal truths perpetuates a particular kind of able bodied white cisgender male logic, a world where everything is measured in comparison them as the ideal type of human that everyone else aberates from. As stated by Linda Tuhiwai Smith, “…research is not an innocent or distant academic exercise but an activity that has something at take that occurs in a set of political and social conditions” (Smith 2012). Thus, we cannot separate knowledge from the contextual histories and conditions from which it is produced.
Throughout modern history select particular knowledges have been selectively valued or devalued. As stated by Patricia Hill-Collins, “Because elite White men control Western structures of knowledge validation, their interests pervade the themes, paradigms, and epistemologies of traditional scholarship” (2000). Science is not out of the reaches of the power amassed through the legacies of colonialism and capitalism. The truths that western scholarship has claimed to arrive at are consequences of power relations;
…the types of discourse which it accepts and makes function as true; the mechanisms and instances which enable one to distinguish true and false statements, the means by which each is sanctioned; the techniques and procedures accorded value in the acquisition of truth; the status of those who are charged with saying what counts as true (Esbenshade 1995).
History is a core component of the dominant epistemology, the knowledges perpetuated within history tells us how a society remembers. With that being said, history is a tool that is used to denote what is considered true in the eyes of the dominant societal group. History is just a recorded way the dominant narrative remembers/perceives an event. “History is invoked if at all, “less as a record than as a problematic constituent of identity.” Memory too becomes available for any desired ad hoc construction of identity…” (Esbenshade 1995:86). History and how we remember it constructs particular types of knowledge. When the philosophy and ideology of a society is understood, patterns begin to appear and the possibility of deciphering the logic behind those thought and behavioral patterns is increased. Within American society, White supremist racism, sexism, and classism (via capitalism) are the dominating discourses of the regime of truth. American history is filled with white-washed conceptualizations of the genocide of the native peoples as well as the genocide and enslavement of Africans. The accomplishments of people of African descent are mostly ignored until Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is mentioned. In the context of world history (dominated by the euro-ethnocentric regime of truth), Africa was a godless savage continent that did not have a history prior to colonial contact. White supremist racist ideals created the white (good, superior, civilized) and African (bad, inferior, uncivilized) binary. The White supremist racist frame of reference provides the lens/canon through which Western ideology and knowledge is constructed.
The physical and social sciences have actively aided in the development of a variety of oppressive stratifications as scientifically legitimate and accepted concepts. The ideology of Western intellectual traditions utilizes what Eduardo Bonilla-Silva and Tukufu Zuberi refer to as “White logic” (Zuberi and Bonilla-Silva 2008). White logic
…refers to a context in which White supremacy has defined the techniques and processes of reasoning about social facts. White logic assumes a historical posture that grants eternal objectivity to the views of elite Whites and condemns the views of non-Whites to perpetual subjectivity; it is the anchor of the Western imagination, which grants centrality to the knowledge, history, science, and culture of elite White men and classifies “others” as people without knowledge, history, or science, as people with folklore but not culture” (Zuberi and Bonilla-Silva 2008).
And as people living in a world where White logic dominates, “White methods” were formulated for the purpose of perpetuating White logic. Zuberi and Bonilla-Silva define “White methods” as, “…the practical tools used to manufacture empirical data and analysis to support the racial stratification in society. White methods are the various practices that have been used to produce racial knowledge since the emergence of White supremacy in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries and of the disciplines a few centuries later” (Zuberi and Bonilla-Silva 2008). White methods cannot be divorced from White logic. White logic and White methods are reflective of the White norms of Western society. The baseline from which scientists measure normal is White. This valuation informs how we conduct research, why many scholars have to fight to conduct research on communities of color without being encouraged to do a comparative study that situates people of color against Whites.
DECOLONIAL ONTOLOGIES & METHODS
Decolonized methods originates in much of First Nation and Black radical political and intellectual traditions. The respective impact that colonial histories has had on these two groups is a key factor in motivating their political, social, and historical resistance to the injustices that they have suffered and continue to suffer. According to bell hooks, “The heart of decolonization is the recognition of equality among humans” (2001). Decolonization is defined as the active resistance to the forces of colonization that perpetuates the subjugation and/or exploitation of the minds, bodies, and lands of the disenfranchised/marginalized. Decolonization is engaged for the ultimate purpose of overturning the colonial structure and realizing equitable political liberation for all.
In her introduction to Decolonized Anthropology, Faye Harrison discusses how inequalities are at the heart of the world system. According to Harrison, “A decolonized anthropology requires the development of theories based on non-Western precepts and assumptions” (Harrison 1997). All decolonized scholarship must be situated outside of what Western scholarship considers the norm. In order for decolonization to occur, the researcher must alter their perspectives, question everything, and consider different canons/lenses;
Ultimately, canon setting is a process embedded in institutionalized relations of power and authority. … Counter-hegemonic analysts must be concerned with shifting the center of authority and legitimacy from those institutions which [disempowered] people do not control to more democratically structured bases which embody the interests and priorities of ordinary folk in their diversity (Harrison 1997).
Decolonial ontologies and methods are not simply invested in counter-hegemonic canons but also in the epistemologies of the disempowered. This means if sociologists are doing research in poor predominately Black neighborhoods then they should also incorporate the epistemologies of the research participants. Valuing the experiential knowledge of research participants is crucial to decolonized scholarship and enables the researcher to move from simply extracting information to doing insurgent research that can be strategically utilized to benefit that said community.
Harrison proposes that a radical and authentic anthropology be created from the critical intellectual traditions and counter-hegemonic struggles of Third-World peoples. This chapter demonstrates the importance of understanding the impact of knowledge production within a society. Anthropology; like all social sciences, has historically and is still used today to further the exploitation of marginalized peoples around the world. Harrison states that through counter-hegemonic theory and praxis that is centered in decolonization, anthropologists can engage in a scholarship that privileges the knowledge production and narratives of un-empowered peoples and aim to produce contextually accurate political interventions that build equity for all. Through employing (1) scientific socialist political economy, (2) experiments in interpretive and reflexive ethnographic analysis, (3) intersectional/woman of color feminisms, (4) and Black radical traditions an authentic study of humankind. Social sciences for liberation offers many forms of critique a politicized deconstruction of a number of hegemonic ideologies and discourses and this can be a significant and necessary component of broader struggles for equity, social and economic justice, and far-reaching democratization.
In his article “Insurgent Research”, Adam Gaudry explains the key differences between extractive and insurgent research. Gaudry defines extractive research as a Western intellectual tradition where research is conducted in a colonial/imperialist perspective: knowledge is extracted/taken from the research subject or object and nothing is contributed to the research subject or object (2011). In extractive research the main audience and gaze is in line with the societal status quo: imperialist White supremacist racist patriarchal capitalism. Gaudry states that it is very rare that the people who participate in the research, the ‘informants’, are the primary audience when the research is disseminated. Extractive researchers deny any responsibility to the communities that they do their research work on and instead are more concerned about their contributions to their academic fields and the higher educational institution (Gaudry 2011). Gaudry defines insurgent research as research work that sees the research sample as participants and experts in their own right. Gaudry’s methods in regards to conducting insurgent research are from the expansive work on decolonizing methods which is most common among First Nation peoples and Pan African scholars. Insurgent research is aimed at producing critical counter hegemonic research work that deconstructs domination and builds politically liberating and equitable solutions for marginalized peoples.
Decolonized research methods ask critical questions and takes research participant communities’ wellbeing, concerns, and lived experiences into consideration. Not simply for the purpose of how the researcher can use the work to progressively impact their community but also with respect to the community’s engagement with the work. The paradigms utilized in a research project that inform the methodology must include the epistemologies of the said participant community. Paradigms encompass interpretative frameworks that are used to explain social phenomena (Hill-Collins 2000). The methodology includes the broad principles of how to conduct the research and how those said paradigms are applied. Hence, methodology must be contextually accurate. If you do not understand the context and paradigms of the lived experiences of the research participants then the data will not be accurate at all. According to Hill-Collins, “The level of epistemology is important because it determines which questions merit investigation, which interpretative frameworks will be used to analyze findings, and to what use any ensuing knowledge will be put” (2000). Lived experience has to be the criterion of meaning that researchers theorize from. This means even taking the way we interview and interact with research participants into consideration, ensuring that we do not downplay the importance of their epistemology. People communicate in specific ways based on their socialization and their situatedness in that given society. We must be aware of the socially constructed variables being brought to the interview by all individuals involved. It is also important for us as researchers to understand that the population that we are working with has its cultures, perspectives, lives, epistemologies, experiences, and theory systematically ignored and trivialized. We must ensure that we do not subjugate their knowledge to a discourse that is not theirs. Theory is meaningless without praxis. And if scholars are studying communities with hegemonic epistemologies, then the data being extracted is not only out of context but also theory that cannot be applied in an equitable manner and serve the very community it was taken from.
Scholars have a responsibility to the communities that they conduct research work in as well as to the academic community. Academics must produce work that can highlight the contextually accurate theories and truths in the sample, contributing to the scholarship, as well as ensure that the participant community is not harmed. Anthropologist Dana Ain-Davis discusses this in “Knowledge in Service of A Vision: Politically Engaged Anthropology” (2007). In this chapter Davis discusses the importance of politically engaged anthropology and the responsibility that anthropologists have to communities to contribute to social justice. Davis constructed a methodology that she refers to as pracademics that is an intersectional perspective that engages in theory as well as praxis. Davis argues that pracademics is based on equality, fairness, and the knowledge of marginalized populations becomes centered. Davis states that pracademics aims to utilize ‘teaching to transgress’ as a core component of its purpose, stemming from the work of bell hooks, Leith Mullings, and Faye Harrison. Much of the pracademic methodology engages in a pedagogy that sees accountability and responsibility as moral and political issues. Davis discusses the ‘how’ of conducting research which situates the research participants as participants who can engaged in grounded analysis and not simply ‘subjects’. Research is always political and scholarship should contribute to a scientific knowledge production that is committed to an emancipatory praxis.
SOCIOLOGY OF POVERTY & INEQUALITY: METHODS
As a sub discipline, the sociology of poverty and inequality investigates inequities, the outcomes of hegemony. When scholastic inquiry is geared towards such sensitive and at risk populations, we have to be reflexive and critical of ourselves, insuring that we, as social science researchers are not perpetuating or contributing to hegemonic power relations. Some poverty and inequality scholars have managed to conduct research that brings attention to the inner workings of inequality amongst the poor and the economically privileged in the United States. Annette Lareau and Mary Patillo’s work has made considerable impact on the sub discipline. Annette Lareau’s seconded edition of Unequal Childhoods included an interesting mix of methodological choices that provide a great scaffold for social justice scholars to learn from today. “Unequal Childhoods” taps into an important component of this economic privilege that also reveals how people with different economic circumstances spend their time differently and also raise their children in different fashions. Lareau provides some good examples of how to do reflexive qualitative sociological work. Because of the ethnographies that Lareau conducted, her reading audience was able to see that the typical American conceptions of what qualifies as a stable family (e.g. eating dinner together, familial events, etc.) are present among the poor, working class, and the middle class. The class differentiation lies in how the parents intervened for their children. Middle class parents were hands on, intervening whenever they thought necessary, while poor and working class parents relied on professionals to do their jobs.
One of the most important components of the second edition to Unequal Childhoods is the last chapter, where Lareau includes the responses of the members of the research participant community. Smith actually speaks of tactics such as these as key components to decolonized scholarship. As stated by Smith, “There are diverse ways of disseminating knowledge and of ensuring that research reaches the people who have helped make it. Two important ways not always addressed by scientific research are to do with ‘reporting back’ to the people and ‘sharing knowledge’. Both ways assume a principle of reciprocity and feedback” (2012). Reporting back and sharing the knowledge is a key component to conducting decolonized research and also provides the research participants the opportunity to establish their own analyses, weigh in, and insure that they and their knowledge is safe. While Lareau did do this after the release of the book, the section is still very telling, open, and raw. She provides the honest feedback of the participants, something not many Western social scientists would ever dare to do. In her reporting back chapter Lareau shares her concerns, limitations, and most importantly the community’s responses to the book. A self-reflection from Lareau that stuck with me is when she stated, “In reassessing the book for the second edition, I have concluded that relatively small changes in wording or emphasis could have made the text more accurate and less hurtful to family members” (2011). Lareau was reflexive, and took context into consideration. If reporting back and sharing knowledge is done before the finished publication of scholarly work, those relatively small changes can be made, some offenses can be avoided. But Lareau also cautions that involving participants prior to publication can be problematic. It is important as researchers that we constantly communicate our intent and purpose while conducting research and are willing to work with community members to avoid misunderstandings. While reporting back and sharing knowledge is in no way easy, it should be done, and it is up to scholars to find the best contextually accurate tactics that will make the process as painless as possible. What we cannot do is ignore the power relations within these decisions, while excluding a comment, section, or maybe even a chapter appears to be a daunting task no academic wants to take on, it does reveal the power dynamic between the researcher and the researched. We must consider how the work can impact the lives of the research participants and communicate those possibilities as clearly as possible. We may not be able to avoid all offense, pain, and disaster but we can do our best as scholars to reduce how many hegemonic interactions we contribute to and/or perpetuate.
Lareau when discussing her methodology used her White privilege to think that somehow the Black Anthropologist who made the statement about the “White perspective” was making the assumption that only in-group members can study their respective groups and outsiders are not welcome. White sociologists, White social scientists for that matter, seem to have this defensive barrier up in regards to justifying their right as researchers in PoC (people of color) communities. Lareau questioned the existence of a “White perspective” in an imperialist White supremacist racist cisheteropatriarchal capitalist society. How can any White sociologist justify their access to PoC communities by first arguing that White supremacist racism doesn’t dominate Western intellectual traditions (methods, epistemologies, theories, praxis, etc.)? There are trends and methods within all social and physical sciences that,
…have effectively peripheralized or erased significant contributions made by peoples of color and women from the cannon. These trends have served to reproduce andro- and Euro-centric biases in the assumptions, concepts, and theories at the core of the discipline. Although anthropology is preoccupied with human cultural diversity, multiple cultural perspectives–particularly Third World/non-Western/”minority” perspectives– have been distanced from sites of cross-cultural theory-validation. The underlying assumption seems to be that cultural, epistemological, and theoretical perspectives outside of the Eurocentric canon are less adequate, less “universal”, and less “scientific” –in other words, inferior…” (Harrison 1997).
The fact that Lareau could misinterpret the words of that Black anthropologist in an attempt to justify her right to conduct research work in PoC communities is one good example reflexivity on her part. Lareau still did some things right, she was interested in conducting work that was locally and contextually situated in the lives of the research participants, allowed the research participants to have their say about the book as an end product and even published some of their opinions. This is a great example of the complexity of the researchers as they situate themselves within their work. The messiness of the social world and the interactions between Lareau and the Black anthropologist in less than a two paragraph narrative reflects one of the many frustrations of a society’s racial politic coming to head in social science scholarship.
Challenging your own privileges as a researcher is vital to being a decolonized scholar. In order for reflexivity to impact your work in holistic ways, you must be critical of yourself, and aware of the ways that you can dominate. According to bell hooks,
It is necessary to remember, as we think critically about domination, that we all have the capacity to act in ways that oppress, dominate, wound (whether or not that power is institutionalized). It is necessary to remember that it is first the potential oppressor within that we must resist – the potential victim within that we must rescue – otherwise we cannot hope for an end to domination, for liberation (1989).
Every person has the capacity to oppress. We must question ourselves as scholars and constantly check our own privilege. This requires a sort of critical ally-ship on the part of the researcher. Your position within whatever community that you do research in is a partnership. Know where you are situated and your relationships to power structures and institutions. This critical view of the self not only avoids misunderstandings and power struggles between individuals but also makes the researcher aware of the ways they potentially help or do harm.
In Black Picket Fences, Mary Patillo provides readers with a detailed ethnographic description of the commonly forgotten lower middle class in Groveland (2013). Patillo’s research participants are 2nd generation Black middle class, offering an interesting canon that gives the readers a look into the stability or lack thereof in passing on the benefits of class privilege while Black and demonstrates whether or not a higher amount of economic stability reduces the impacts of American racism and racialization. A key methodological tool was Patillo’s emphasis on the importance of AAV/Black English. The presence of AAV among the residents of Groveland demonstrated that concerted cultivation is not always the case among the middle class and that racial identity may have an impact on that. This shows how context is definitely important. In poor and working class Black communities the images of the Black middle class tend to be of a Black family with some money who ascribe to the White middle class ideal but this is not always the case.
Patillo was very conscious of her outsider within status while conducting her research in Groveland. In some cases, Patillo’s outsider within status may have compromised her judgment, she even admits that some behaviors that she should have questioned were left unchallenged. Patillo referred to her outsider within status as ‘close to home ethnography’. Patillo admitted that she was not dispassionate or objective during her research, something that she hoped would enrich and not stifle the end product. In the research method chapter and the epilogue Patillo combs over the methodology of the research work, highlighting the ins and outs of her methodological decisions and then connected with paradigms and her engagement with the project. In Black Picket Fences Patillo does a good job becoming situated in the paradigms of the Groveland community members. While she is invested in their lived experience, Patillo also may have ignored how her position and the positions of the Groveland’s Black middle class impacted the poor Black neighborhoods surrounding them. This is one of the criticisms that Patillo received and discusses in the epilogue as something she ignored. Once again, it’s necessary for us to think about as many of the power dynamics that our work speaks to. Researchers who are invested in social justice and bringing attention to the truths of the lives of the disempowered need to be very aware and engaged with not simply adding to the discourse but also disrupting some of those conversations. Many academics have done poverty and inequality work with the hope that their scholarship will be added to the ever growing repertoire of policy makers and experts to use to right the wrongs we see in society but the data is hardly ever used for the purposes of helping.
BEING AN ANTI-COLONIAL RESEARCHER
Its considerably idealistic to just say that every scholar should engage in decolonial praxis and research. The road map to achieving this does not exist yet since we still live in an oppressive society and are all currently engaged in academe, which is an oppressive institution itself. Discourse about these ontologies, methodologies, and epistemologies needs to happen more consistently. This requires resistance on the part of academics as well as students. An undoing of sorts has to occur to the ‘ways’ in which academic institutions teach and in how we learn and know. A critical consciousness of all knowledge is the first requirement for being an anti-oppressive researcher. Question everything. As stated by Leslie Brown and Karen Potts,
Being an anti- oppressive researcher means that there is political purpose and action to your research work. Whether that purpose is on a broad societal level or about personal growth, by choosing to be an anti-oppressive researcher, one is making an explicit, personal commitment to social justice. Anti-oppressive research involves making explicit the political practices of creating knowledge. It means making a commitment to the people you are working with personally and professionally in order to mutually foster conditions for social justice and research. It is about paying attention to, and shifting, how power relations work in and through the processes of doing research (2005).
The idea that politics can and should be removed from scholarship in the quest for positivist objectivity has to be abandoned. Everything is political, politics is everything. In almost every interaction within a hegemonic society, you will find power relations, meaning, and value exchange. As researchers whose aim is to produce high quality scholarship, we have to be aware of the political situations, circumstances, and conditions of the populations who are impacted by our work the most. Sensitivity to the reality of lived experience and the fact that academics are privileged to have access to some kind of platform that can amplify and provide voice to the voiceless is an opportunity that should not be taken lightly. How can anyone conduct research on a community and not get involved and contribute to where the people are hurting the most in the name of objectivity? In the quest for positivist objectivity, scientists in many cases are encouraged to forsake that the research participants may be people whose lives are at stake. Why practice a ‘science’ that requires you deny the humanity of others?
PROPOSING DECOLONIAL/COUNTER-HEGEMONIC SCIENCES
As researchers it is crucial for us to constantly be thinking about creating theories and methods that contribute to developing counter hegemonic & humanistic social and physical sciences. Researchers must be consciously aware of the power dynamics, historically accurate context, and lived experience in order to not just produce high quality scholarship but also produce research that mitigates the effects of, prevent the deepening of, and ultimately eradicate systematic forms of oppression including capitalism, patriarchy, white supremacy, homo/transphobia, and other forms of oppression. This requires that we create humanistic sciences that aspire to uselessness. The aim should be to study systemic oppression so that oppression can be fully understood and then a means to combat it can be created. Critical and counter-hegemonic sciences should seek to study how racism, sexism, and classism affects oppressed populations. Research should be used as a means of establishing the public application of anti-oppressive tactics that can assist in liberating oppressed populations and eradicating systemic oppression. Knowledge should serve the purpose of contributing to the condition of the people within society not contributing to the profit motives of a few.
Michael Blakey a physical anthropologist and archaeologist discusses the importance of producing scholarship that strives for equitable political liberation in “Beyond European Enlightenment: Toward a Critical and Humanistic Human Biology”. In this chapter Michael Blakey proposes the utilization of a critical and humanistic human biology through engaging the ‘culturalness’ of biology. Blakey discusses the pre-Christian roots of naturalism in Western science as well as the many streams of Christianity that are riddled throughout the practice and ideology of what Western society deems objective or scientific. Blakey points out how Western science ignores the fact that people modify nature in both theory and practice. Science is a product of society and culture and vice versa. Nature is constantly transformed into culture and nature is culturally constructed as it is explained/interpreted. Blakey states that scientific knowledge can be viewed as a branch of ideology. Blakey discusses the importance of constructing a science that is free of biological and natural determinisms. Positivism is preventing the evolution and social change of society. Blakey’s analyses highlight the importance of acknowledging the interconnectedness of many physical and social phenomena. The separation of the ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ sciences is a problematic binary that exists in Western intellectual traditions. Critical humanistic sciences remove the obsession with binaries to look towards the multitude of contextually accurate ways of knowing.
Epistemology and ideology are key to gaining and maintaining power. If you understand the ideology of a society then it makes it easier to recognize patterns, what is significant, how valuation works, etc.. If knowledge, truths, are impacted by people, by power, influenced by context, situations, changed by factors, then shouldn’t scientific scholarship and endeavors reflect those complexities and pluralities? Shouldn’t we practice a social science that values all human existence in an equitable fashion? Shouldn’t we develop and practice sciences that thinks people are more important than profits? Shouldn’t we practice social sciences that are critical, historical, humanistic, sources “…of systematic societal criticism, rather than apology” (Blakey 1998). What will be left for us to study if we allow people to constantly be harmed? Our scholarship should serve people as well as intellectual curiosities. Critical counter-hegemonic social sciences should have four main purposes: (1) analysis, (2) mitigation, (3) prevention, and (4) positive action. These goals can assist in ensuring knowledge contributes to improving the human condition in an equitable fashion. But this also requires that we be critical and honest with ourselves. What kind of society do we want to live in? One that is more concerned with the products and profit that it makes? Or one that is concerned with the quality of people it produces?
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Davis, Dana-Ain. 2007. “Knowledge in the Service of a Vision: Politically-Engaged Anthropology.” Pp. 228-38 in Engaged Observer: Anthropology, Advocacy, and Activism, edited by Victoria Sanford and Asale Angel-Ajani. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.
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