- Otros Saberes: Collaborative Research on Indigenous and Afro-Descendant Cultural Politics ed. by Charles R. Hale, Lynn Stephen
This is an edited volume that brings together nine chapters by six teams of researcher-activists and activist-researchers, including an introduction by the editors and an epilogue. The goal of the work is to reveal methodological insights as well as findings on research projects in indigenous and Afro-descendant cultural politics through collaborative research. The Otros Saberes initiative was conceived as a project of the Latin American Studies Association (lasa) in 2004 with the objective of promoting collaborative research between civil society and academic-based intellectuals and contributing to critiques and reformulations in the field of Latin American Studies. The six research projects that form the core of the initiative bring together a diverse group of Afro-descendent and indigenous collaborations with academics. Across teams, and within each team, the diversity in theoretical and political trajectories of researchers contributed to varying degrees of knowledge and internal cohesion of the groups. The focus of each research project [End Page 215] is on the life of the community, organization, or social movement concerned in the different countries in the region. Written in English, Spanish, and Portuguese, this book stems from specific political and cultural commitments where participatory action research and the concept of citizen-researcher are at the center of the studies.
In the introduction the authors offer a brief history of the initiative as well as summaries of each chapter in the volume. The key point is that all chapters in the book engage with at least one of the three dimensions of reformulation and critique of Latin American Studies presented by Hale and Stephen. The first dimension displaces the “us”-studying-“them” (2) framework and substitutes for it a horizontal collaboration approach where there is “power-sensitive” dialogue between scholars in the North and in the South. The second dimension focuses on the elite and state-centric frame of Latin American studies, which according to the authors is responsible for emphasizing some perspectives and making others invisible. The study of indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples is an example of involving intellectuals of historically marginalized groups for innovative scholarship. And the third dimension takes on the scholarly keywords “objectivity” and “positivism.” The sharp divide between the production of scholarly knowledge and the objects of the study contributes to power inequities outside the world of academia. In addition the authors emphasize the danger in the traditional dualism that has existed in Latin American research. The final product (this edited volume) is not only the presentation of insightful findings in each of the studies undertaken by the teams but also the questioning of how researchers define “expertise” and especially how academics include knowledge producers in the process of decolonizing knowledge and incorporating hybrid ways of knowing.
Following the introduction, Keisha-Khan Y. Perry and Joanne Rappaport make a case in chapter 2 for the need for collaborative research in Latin America. These authors argue that the present political context in the region is characterized by the resurgence of identity-based movements, hence the relevance of looking at black and indigenous knowledge. Taking on collaborative research methodologies will not come without obstacles. It is important, the authors argue, to recognize that collaborative research as presented in this volume is deeply political. The end goal of many of these research teams is transformation, and Rappaport and Perry recognize that each political organization will [End Page 216] have a particular need but that the presence of “organic intellectuals” may foster a protagonist attitude among community researchers.
Chapters 3–8 take readers on a tour of the region where comparative findings illustrate four analytic themes: visibility; mapping territoriality; coloniality and decolonizing epistemologies; and personal discovery, identities, and leadership development. The projects described are characterized by the variation in their findings and the common goal of the commitment to disseminate knowledge. In the case of the Wajãpi in Brazil (chapter 3), the team...