"Do not monopolise your knowledge nor impose arrogantly your technique, but respect and combine your skills with the knowledge of the researched or /grassroots communities, taking them as full partners and co-researchers. Do not trust elitist versions of history and science which respond to dominant interests, but be receptive to counter-narratives and try to recapture them. Do not depend solely on your culture to interpret facts, but recover local values, traits, beliefs, and arts for action by and with the research organisations. Do not impose your own ponderous scientific style for communicating results, but diffuse and share what you have learned together with the people, in a manner that is wholly understandable and even literary and pleasant, for science should not be necessarily a mystery nor a monopoly of experts and intellectuals."

Internationally respected scholar and political activist, Colombian-born Orlando Fals-Borda is perhaps most well-known as one of Participatory Action Research’s (PAR) most influential pioneers. Disillusionment with a government that protected the privileges of a repressive oligarchy while ignoring its peasants, drew Fals-Borda beyond his bureaucratic career towards Latin America’s growing circle of alternative intellectuals and activists. Within this context he began to challenge the positivist discourses that exemplified prevailing research norms towards an approach that was inclusive, reflexive and conscious .
 
Living and working against the background of severe oppression, violence and poverty of Colombia, Fals-Borda asserted that neither academia nor knowledge is neutral and, moreover, that researchers maintain responsibility towards those they study . In line with other participation thinkers, he emphasised social research as a dialectic and transformative encounter and critiqued the domination of knowledge by the powerful. Conversely, PAR is a cyclic process of horizontal learning, acting and reflecting that combines research and theory with political participation. This combination, he argued, can help stimulate positive social change on individual, community, regional and institutional levels.
 
The work of Fals-Borda remains extremely influential across disciplines and certainly and his ideas continue to shape discussion on social research, activism and transformative dialogue. PAR in particular has come to represent the example par excellence in reflexive, inclusive and empowering research and social action, is used by communities, academia, non-government organisations and other institutions involved in development and social change.
 
Key Texts
  • Fals-Borda O 2001 ‘Participatory (Action) Research in Social Theory: Origins and Challenges’ in Bradbury H and Reason P 2001 Handbook of action research: participative inquiry and practice Sage Publications: London pp 27-37
  • Fals-Borda O (ed.) 1998 People's Participation: Challenges Ahead ITDG Publishing: New York
  • Fals-Borda O 1991 Action and Knowledge: Breaking the Monopoly with Participatory Action Research by Orlando Fals-Borda Apex Pr: New York. ailable freely online: http://www.scribd.com/doc/36035852/Fals-Borda-and-Rahman-1991-Action-and-Knowledge-Breaking-the-Monopoly-With-P
  • Fals-Borda O 1987 ‘The Application of Participatory Action-Research in Latin America’ International Sociology Volume 2 Number 4 pp 329-347. Available freely online: http://iss.sagepub.com/content/2/4/329.abstract
  • Fals-Borda O 1985 The Challenge of Social Change SAGE Publications Ltd.: London
  • Fals-Borda O 1962 Peasant Society in the Colombian Andes: A Sociological Study of Saucio
  • University of Florida Press: Gainesville.Available freely online: http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=3135265
 
Bibliography
  • Torres G 2008 ‘Muere el sociólogo Orlando Fals Borda’ Semana Online 2011 http://www.semana.com/wf_InfoArticulo.aspx?IdArt=114435
  • Fals-Borda O 2001 ‘Participatory (Action) Research in Social Theory: Origins and Challenges’ in Bradbury H and Reason P 2001 Handbook of action research: participative inquiry and practice Sage Publications: London pp 27-37
  • Fals-Borda O 1987 ‘The Application of Participatory Action-Research in Latin America’ International Sociology Volume 2 Number 4 pp 329-347
  • Gott R 2008 ‘Orlando Fals Borda: Sociologist and activist who defined peasant politics in Colombia’ The Guardian 26 August 2008 Online: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/aug/26/colombia.sociology [accessed 15 January 2011] 

 

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