Dialogue As Data As Dialogue: Emancipatory Methodologies for the Rural Over-studied and Under-served

Authors: Garrett Graddy-Lovelace*, American University School of International Service, Veronica Limeberry*, American University
Topics: Agricultural Geography, Quantitative Methods, Rural Geography
Keywords: agricultural biodiversity, community food security, extractive research, community-partnered research, data, rural, policy
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 12:40 PM / 2:20 PM
Room: Johnson, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Rural communities in the United States are vilified as anti-science, even as rural peoples in the US and globally are routinely studied, researched, and rendered data. The backlash to this objectification and data ‘mining’ of the Rural results in tensions around data collection and subsequent interventions. Meanwhile, rural communities remain over-studied and under-served. We engage this tension, asking: (how) can data synthesis and interpretation itself be re-oriented as a respectful, mutually beneficial, and even emancipatory process? Extractivist research enables extractive political economies and ecologies. Egalitarian research is needed for equitable policies—what role does data play? Focusing on our multi-rural-site SESYNC-NSF project on agricultural biodiversity and food security, we explore diverse pathways for fostering not only participatory but democratized research methods that acknowledge and support local practitioner expertise, needs, agency, and vision. We compare the epistemological risks and potential of data synthesis, system dynamics modelling, and network cluster analysis. The paper culminates with the role of community-partnered research and shared analysis in conceptualizing and enacting collective agrobiodiversity self-governance. Regarding agrobiodiversity's role in nourishment, what research methods and deliverables would be of use to practitioners and frontline community organizations who are seeking to inform and transform policy? (How) could data on agrobiodiversity and food security simultaneously meet the needs of rural communities, counter colonial extractive tendencies in academia, and inform transformative governance? Through analysis of data collection methods, policy outcomes, and dialogic analysis perspectives we theorize future pathways for non-extractive research methods with and for rural communities.

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