Research, especially social-scientific studies, should be about the promotion of social justice and human dignity.
This was one of the key messages of Prof Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, Research Chair for Historical Trauma and Transformation at Stellenbosch University (SU), on Wednesday (12 June). She delivered the third Stellenbosch Forum Lecture of 2019 at the SU Museum. The title of her talk was Making the Invisible Visible: Rethinking Reflexivity in Research.
The Stellenbosch Forum lecture series provides regular opportunities to staff and students at SU, as well as interested people from the public, to learn more about the relevant, world-class research that is being done at SU.
In her speech, Gobodo-Madikizela said that “if our research is relevant, if we argue that we're doing socially-conscious research then we ought to think of the question of social justice."
“The starting point of our research is to love and care first. If you love other people and care for other people deeply enough as fellow human beings, then this is a building block for building solidarity with the other. And when we build solidarity with the other, we are able to uphold the principles of social justice."
Gobodo-Madikizela added that scholars shouldn't take away the dignity of the people they're doing their research on.
She said researchers need to take seriously the issue of reflexivity in their work.
“When we talk about reflexivity, we are talking about what the researcher brings into the research, what they bring to their analysis and how the research affects them."
According to Gobodo-Madikizela, researchers must be aware of the fact that they bring their own histories to their work. “We are bringing our whiteness, our blackness to our research. We need to be aware of how these issues play out in research."
She said it is important for researchers to ask how they're implicated in the work they do, what the consequences of their work are for research participants, whether their research promotes the dignity of the participants and what their role as witnesses, i.e. their responsibility is.
Gobodo-Madikizela added that since researchers influence the world, they need to rethink what they mean by ethics and reflexivity.
- Main photo courtesy of Pixabay.
- Photo 1: Prof Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela delivers the Stellenbosch Forum lecture.