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Decolonising Participatory Methods with Children and Young People in International Research Collaborations: Reflections from a Participatory Arts-Based Project with Afrocolombian and Indigenous Young People in Colombia

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Decolonising Curriculum Knowledge


In projects with children and young people globally, participatory methodologies have received much critical attention. They have been celebrated for their potential to centre the agendas and resources of children and young people themselves and to produce knowledge collaboratively. They are often seen to remedy some of the intergenerational power imbalances between young people and adults, as well as the broader power imbalances of social research. In this chapter, we reflect on our experiences of working on a collaborative project involving Afrocolombian and indigenous young people in Chocó, Colombia, and a team of artists, educators and researchers located in different cities in Colombia and the United Kingdom. We address questions around the place of participatory methodologies in such projects: What happens to participatory methodologies as they become subsumed into global knowledge politics and research relations? How do these structural issues translate into relationships and methods ‘on the ground’? How are they shaped by the positionality of those involved? How can we preserve their emancipatory potential as we work within these particular structures of power? We suggest that ongoing efforts to decolonise participatory methodologies need to be at the heart of international research collaborations, to avoid the co-optation of participatory methodologies into processes of neoliberal knowledge production and neo-colonisation. We conclude that participatory methodologies have the potential to decolonise knowledges, yet particular knowledges and approaches are also needed to decolonise participatory methodologies.

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  1. 1.

    We recognise that the terms Global North and Global South are problematic, as they are often used as euphemisms for other, more valuing terms (e.g., ‘Third World’). Some countries, such as Australia and New Zealand (geographically located in the Southern Hemisphere which may be considered as pertaining to the Global South), tend not to be included within this term. We use them here in consistency with the rest of this edited collection, and to recognise the fact that there are indeed historical relations of colonialism and exploitation across countries in the Global North and South, that continue to shape global geopolitics today.

  2. 2.

    This chapter was written by the ‘adult’ research team, and the young co-researchers have not been involved in the writing. For further discussion, see later in this chapter.

  3. 3.

    The socio-political dimensions of this fund have been illustrated by recent reductions of official development assistance (ODA) budgets and subsequent funding cuts to new and ongoing research projects in the United Kingdom (see for example Tomley, 2021).

  4. 4.

    While the UK-based team members identified as white, ethnic and racial identity is complex in Colombia. There is a strong cultural narrative of mestizaje (‘race mixture’) which suggests that everyone is of mixed racial heritage, to varying degrees, and promotes a narrative of multiculturalism that prioritises socio-economic over racial elements of stratification. Nevertheless, skin colour-based hierarchies and racism are a significant element of the distribution of social advantages and disadvantages (Restrepo, 2018; Valle, 2018).


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The research presented in this chapter was funded through AHRC GCRF Changing the Story and a SFC GCRF Global Impact Accelerator Grant.

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Correspondence to Marlies Kustatscher .

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Kustatscher, M., Calderón, E., Tisdall, E.K.M., Evanko, W.A., Gomez Serna, J.M. (2022). Decolonising Participatory Methods with Children and Young People in International Research Collaborations: Reflections from a Participatory Arts-Based Project with Afrocolombian and Indigenous Young People in Colombia. In: Moncrieffe, M.L. (eds) Decolonising Curriculum Knowledge. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

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