Publication Date: November 17, 2017
In this intensely powerful and personal new text, Michelle Fine widens the methodological imagination for students, educators, scholars, and researchers interested in crafting research with communities. Fine shares her struggles over the course of 30 years to translate research into policy and practice that can enhance the human condition and create a more just world. Animated by the presence of W.E.B. DuBois, Gloria Anzaldúa, Maxine Greene, and Audre Lorde, the book examines a wide array of critical participatory action research (PAR) projects involving school pushouts, Muslim American youth, queer youth of color, women in prison, and children navigating under-resourced schools. Throughout, Fine assists readers as they consider sensitive decisions about epistemology, ethics, politics, and methods; critical approaches to analysis and interpretation; and participatory strategies for policy development and organizing. Just Research in Contentious Times is an invaluable guide for creating successful participatory action research projects in times of inequity and uncertainty.
Michelle Fine is a distinguished professor of critical social psychology, women’s studies, and urban education at the Graduate Center, CUNY.
"Michelle Fine’s text, Just Research in Contentious Times: Widening the Methodological Imagination, is a compelling and poignant read that includes a balance of self-reflection, theory, and practice. With powerful metaphors and poetic prose, her writing is as enjoyable as it is thought-provoking."
—Teachers College Record
"Fine reawakens the spark that initially brought us to research and reminds us of the importance of doing work with a broader purpose. In her world, PAR not only leads us to a better understanding of the world around us but also spurs us on to join with movements for social change and liberation. The perspective she outlines—and the poetic voice she brings to the table—would be a welcome addition to any undergraduate or graduate course in the research methods."
—Psychology of Women Quarterly
"It is nearly impossible to capture the stunning effect of Just Research in Contentious Times. In showing how critical PAR works, the chapters create a gut punch for research and its impact on participants and on the researchers themselves. It reveals that we are all guilty and also all vulnerable."
—Yvonna Lincoln, Texas A&M University
“Just Research in Contentious Times is beyond inspiring. The powerfully illuminating stories of suppressed progressive collective inquiry and radical theorizing revealed so imaginatively in this volume is vital for engaging youth and dispossessed communities in critical research methods for democratic movement building. This book is teeming with heartfelt practical examples of what knowledge production for human freedom and justice requires of us.”
—Joyce E. King, Benjamin E. Mays Endowed Chair for Urban Teaching, Learning and Leadership, Georgia State University
“Michelle Fine’s research captures both the results of structural violence as well as the miraculous forms of resistance undergirding the precarious daily life of society’s most vulnerable citizens. Applying innovative methodologies, Dr. Fine synthesizes quantitative and qualitative data to privilege a ground-up rather than top-down analysis. This book offers the reader insight on how to capture a dynamic, balanced, and realistic portrait of people who face impossible odds.”
—William E. Cross, professor emeritus, Graduate Center, CUNY
“This lucid, bold, and thoughtful book reconceptualizes what universities, education, and research can be. It is a record, too, of a staggering amount of difficult, often painful work. This—the sensitive, dogged, creative, and hopeful practices of collaboration, contest, and negotiation documented here—is what research as social justice looks like.”
—Corinne Squire, co-director, Centre for Narrative Research, University of East London, UK
“In regards to methodology and epistemology, this is such a rich book. It can be read as a manifesto for a radical transformation of public education; as critical sociology of law from below; as a plea for a counter-hegemonic conception of human rights—the right to education in particular; as an experiment on critical participatory action research; as an exemplar of what I call the epistemologies of the south; and also as a brilliant and engaging intellectual autobiography.”
—Boaventura de Sousa Santos, University of Coimbra and University of Wisconsin-Madison, author of The Epistemologies of the South: Justice against Epistemicide
"Fine exposes the veins, hopes, promises, and obstacles confronting scholars who dream of a racial democracy that is not yet here. For this we are in her debt."
—Norman K. Denzin, University of Illinois
“Michelle Fine's book is a provocative, scholarly, personal, and inspiring invitation to critical participatory research for justice. The examples of work with various marginalized communities, to gather evidence, challenge structural violence, and open up possibilities toward liberation, are perfect antidotes to dispassionate research that often bolster the status quo. Indeed, the entire book is a gripping, powerful, reflexive counter-story about research for justice and transformation—exactly what is needed in these contentious times.”
—Christopher C. Sonn, Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia
"Fine’s writing is narrational, witty, charming, intellectually robust, and always deeply reflexive. A must-read that highlights the role of methodological creativity and pluralism in opening up vistas of imagined futures that are more just and egalitarian, and that are constantly unfolding. A quintessential, Fine piece of scholarship!"
—Garth Stevens, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Chapter 1. Loss and Desire: Bearing Witness in White, Working-Class, Suburban New Jersey
Tracing the Biography of Our Research Questions
Commitments of Critical Research
Chapter 2. Exiles Within: Wild Tongues and Critical Bifocals at the Radical Margins
Critical Bifocality: Situating Lives in Historical and Structural Analysis
Exiled from School: Re-Framing Dropouts
Exiled from Home: When Muslim American Youth Learned They Didn’t "Belong"
Critical Bifocality as Theory-Method
Chapter 3. Civics Lessons: The Color and Class of Educational Betrayal and Desire, with April Burns, María Elena Torre, and Yasser A. Payne
Learning from Those Who Endure: The Dynamics of the Focus Groups
Cumulative Inequity: Schooling Toward Alienation
Hearing Problems: A Violation of Procedural Justice
College Going, Perhaps
Chapter 4. "Wicked Problems," "Flying Monkeys," and Prec(ar)ious Lives: A Matter of Time?, with Andrew Cory Greene and Sonia Sanchez
The Cumulative Weight of Growing Up in Precarity
Building Schools for Racial, Educational, and Labor Justice
Chapter 5. Just Methods: Historic and Contemporary Laboratories of Democratic Knowledge Production
Historic Veins of Participatory Research
The Public Science Project
Echoes of Brown: Documenting the Unfulfilled Promise of Educational Integration
Do You Believe in Geneva? Critical Participatory Action Research with the Global Rights Campaign
Critical Participatory Action Research: Kneading, Translating, and Braiding Across and Within Borderlands
Chapter 6. "Speaking Words of Wisdom": Metabolizing Oppression into Intersectional Activism, Radical Wit, and Care Work, with Maria Elena Torre, David Frost, and Allison Cabana
Coloniality of Being
Queer Youth Under Siege: What's Your Issue?
The Obligations of Critical Community Inquiry
Conclusion: Critical Participatory Action Research and Democracies: Lighting the Slow Fuse of the Research Imagination
To Whom Are We Accountable? Public Science and Neoliberal Blues
Participatory Inquiry: Building Fragile Communities of Critical Knowledge and Action
"Public" at a Crossroads: Breaking Silences, Revealing Resistance, and Provoking Possibilities
About the Author
2017 APA Division 5 Distinguished Contributions to Qualitative Inquiry Award