Spectrums of Participation: A Framework of Possibility for Participatory Inquiry and Inquirers

  • Meagan Call-Cummings George Mason University
  • Karen Ross University of Massachusetts-Boston
Keywords: participation, participatory action research, epistemology, constraints, ideal type


Using examples from our own inquiry experiences, we seek to identify the ontological and epistemological commitments we have as participatory researchers and to discuss how participation in social inquiry can look different in varied contexts. We turn to foundational literature on participatory action research as well as philosophies and theories of participation to unpack assumptions that may underlie our expectations of what "counts" as "good" participation. Our goal is to add nuance to and push back against binary conceptualizations of participation and to move toward understanding participation as a set of epistemological commitments rather than a set of methods that, if used, may somehow add up to a sum of "good enough." Ultimately, our goal is to contribute to ongoing discussions around the possibilities of participation for those who may be drawn to participatory inquiry but who may feel like it is not viable because of various constraints.


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Author Biographies

Meagan Call-Cummings, George Mason University

Meagan CALL-CUMMINGS (PhD, Indiana University, Bloomington) is an associate professor of research methods at George Mason University's School of Education. In her research, she most often takes critical, feminist, participatory, and anti-racist forms and in her writing she centers questions of ethics and validity. She is currently working with colleagues on a book under contract with Sage on critical participatory inquiry, due to be available in early 2023.

Karen Ross, University of Massachusetts-Boston

Karen ROSS is an associate professor in the Conflict Resolution Programs at the University of Massachusetts-Boston. In her research, she focuses on questions at the intersection of grassroots peace-building, dialogue, education, and social activism. She is particularly interested in methodological and conceptual issues related to democratizing the knowledge production process and to assessing the impact of endeavors aimed at nonviolent social change.

How to Cite
Call-Cummings, M., & Ross, K. (2022). Spectrums of Participation: A Framework of Possibility for Participatory Inquiry and Inquirers. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 23(3). https://doi.org/10.17169/fqs-23.3.3825
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