"Sleight of Hand" or "Selling Our Soul"? Surviving and Thriving as Critical Qualitative Health Researchers in a Positivist World

  • Pia Kontos University of Toronto
  • Alisa Grigorovich University of Toronto
Keywords: qualitative health research, interdisciplinarity, mixed methods, neoliberal knowledge economy


The commodification and corporatization of research within the academy, research institutes, and professional and political sectors has ignited much attention within the critical qualitative health field. Of particular concern is that the ascendance of neoliberal rationality is increasingly making critical qualitative research transgressive and difficult to practice. We reflect on this concern by deconstructing our experiences collaborating with large teams of interdisciplinary researchers. We offer interpretation of key events, interactions, processes, and existential and material consequences, and discuss lessons learned and productive strategies for working at the margins of the health sciences. We argue for the need to engage in a comprehensive resistance agenda in order for critical qualitative health researchers to not only survive but also thrive in the health field.


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Author Biographies

Pia Kontos, University of Toronto

Pia KONTOS (corresponding author) is a senior scientist at Toronto Rehabilitation Institute- University Health Network and associate professor in the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto. She is a critical scholar committed to the transformation of long-term dementia care so it is more humanistic and socially just. She draws on the arts to enrich the lives of people living with dementia. She also creates research-based dramas to challenge structural violence in dementia care settings and to foster relational caring. She has presented and published across multiple disciplines on embodiment, relationality, ethics, and dementia.

Alisa Grigorovich, University of Toronto

Alisa Grigorovich is a postdoctoral fellow in the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto. She is a critical gerontologist whose research approaches sexuality and gender as key social determinants of health, with the aim of identifying promising practices for enhancing health at the individual and population levels. Her postdoctoral research focuses on the organization of care, ethics, and dementia with critical attention to the constitution and management of sexuality in long-term care.

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