Encyclopedia Entry

Participatory Action Research (PAR)

Steve Jordan

Participatory action research (PAR) has its origins in the second half of the 20th century. Traditionally, its genesis has been traced back to work conducted by the social psychologist Kurt Lewin in the 1940s and 1950s, particularly in his development of action research. However, although Lewin's work has been influential, contemporary approaches to PAR have increasingly been shaped by several other intellectual traditions, including Marxism, feminism, postpositivism, and Paulo Freire's approach to principles of adult education. Thus, while action research introduced the notion that academic and professional researchers could legitimately collaborate with individuals and groups while maintaining their integrity as experts, PAR has continuously sought to critique and challenge the researcher–researched relation through its emphasis on the politics of participation in the research process. It is perhaps this single issue that has made PAR one of the most contentious methodologies in social research today and therefore of significant relevance to ...

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