The Politics of Research Design: Participatory Research on Alternative Food Sustainabilities in the Faroe Islands and São Tomé and Príncipe

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation


In this presentation I draw from initial research findings and analysis on food political visions in the Faroe Islands and in São Tomé and Príncipe, which in both cases suggest that most small-scale food producers are simultaneously influenced by development discourses as well as transition discourses.

These initial findings invite for a discussion and reflections on some methodological choices and ethical dilemmas, which one must come to terms with as a political ecology scholar-activist. For instance negotiating and finding the appropriate balance between: 1) a participatory research design (doing research that reflects the research participants’ needs and visions), and 2) the agenda of forging a social, economic and environmental paradigm shift (from development, productivism, etc. to postdevelopment, degrowth, etc.).

I discuss two different participatory research designs for the two different research contexts that my project engages in. Drawing from literature in the fields of feminist, decolonial and postcolonial methodologies, I have allowed reflections on positionality guide many of the decisions I have taken in the research design process. In one of the contexts, I am positioned as a native researcher (the Faroe Islands) and in the other context I am positioned as a white, privileged, western researcher doing research in a postcolonial context (São Tomé and Príncipe). This has resulted in two participatory project designs that use many similar methods (e.g. workshops and interviewing) but which differ fundamentally in other ways.

I present the process of developing a research design that aspires to forge alternative sustainabilities through engagement with local visions while also being reflexive about researcher positionality at different stages of the research process as well as in different research contexts.
Period21 Jun 2018
Event titlePOLLEN Biennial Conference 2018: Political Ecology, the Green Economy, and Alternative Sustainabilities
Event typeConference
LocationOslo, NorwayShow on map


  • Participatory Research
  • Reflexivity
  • Positionality
  • Postcolonialism
  • Research Ethics
  • Scholar-activism