Using Interactive and Participant Methods: A Postmodern Shift in Political Science Research?
Keywords:interactive methods, participant methods, political science, post-positivism, methodological shift
AbstractThis paper aims to discuss the main participant and interactive methods and their usefulness for the political science. These methods could provide a profound knowledge of social and political issues. Different target groups and experts hold this knowledge but it becomes accessible to researchers by involving persons belonging to those relevant groups in the scientific research. Therefore, it is not just the involvement of the researcher in the stakeholders‟ life, as in the case of the co-participant observation, but also the involvement of stakeholders in research. In addition to the potential increase in knowledge, these methods produce, as well, political, epistemological, and ethical mutations. Both researchers and other participants suffer a process of transformation, as not only levels and content of knowledge but also concerning their political attitudes and behaviours. Empathy is no longer an obstacle to science but an advantage. Thus, science is no longer a neutral, objective, and external approach to human beings, an approach accessible only to a restricted category (the researchers). The object of the study - i.e. people who are not necessarily scholars - also participates in the production of scientific knowledge. On the other hand, researchers have no longer the privileged position of those who know more and who remain unobserved observers. Scientific research becomes a mutual learning process. Hence, an important distinction of "traditional" epistemology, that of object and subject, is blurred or even erased. Consequently, participant methods are also democratic, eliminating the unequal distribution of power and authority between the two poles involved in scientific research (researchers and human “subjects”). However, there is a strong challenge to these methods, with both indisputable strengths and weaknesses. We will evaluate these issues through examples of using interactive and participant methods in the social research.
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