How can research serve liberatory and emancipatory ends? In the early 1970s, a group of Colombian intellectuals led by the pioneering sociologist Orlando Fals Borda created a research-activist collective called La Rosca de Investigación y Acción Social (Circle of Research and Social Action) that developed a method of collaboration known as Participatory Action Research. In her recently-published book Cowards Don’t Make History: Orlando Fals Borda and the Origins of Participatory Action Research (Duke University Press, 2020), Joanne Rappaport examines the development of Participatory Action Research on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, where Fals Borda and his colleagues collaborated with the National Peasant Users Association. By coordinating research priorities with peasant leaders, studying the history of peasant struggles and preparing accessible materials for an organizational readership, activist-researchers transformed research into a political organizing tool.
Professor Rappaport’s talk will introduce the participatory methods of knowledge construction developed by Fals Borda and his colleagues in 1970s Colombia, with particular attention to the role that visuality and graphic storytelling played in their work. The presentation will be followed by a discussion of the continuing relevance and potential applications of Participatory Action Research in other contexts, including Charlottesville.
Joanne Rappaport is an anthropologist in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at Georgetown University. Professor Rappaport’s research interests include ethnicity, historical anthropology, new social movements, literacy, race, collaborative research methodologies, and Andean ethnography and ethnohistory. She has published four single-authored books, as well as teaching in the Ethnoeducation Program of the Universidad del Cauca (Colombia) and the Community Pedagogy Program of the Autonomous Indigenous Intercultural University sponsored by the Consejo Regional Indígena del Cauca (CRIC). She has also collaborated with the Casa del Pensamiento, a research unit of the Asociación de Cabildos Indígenas del Norte del Cauca (ACIN). Professor Rappaport is currently working with Altais Comics on a graphic history based on her study of Fals Borda.