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The complexities of community: Community-engaged research across conflict and difference

Authors: Jennifer Mokos*, Coastal Carolina University
Topics: Applied Geography, Human-Environment Geography, Qualitative Methods
Keywords: community geography, homelessness, ecological restoration, power, positionality
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In this paper, I draw upon on twelve months of ethnographic fieldwork on the ecological restoration of the Ventura River in Southern California in order to discuss the ethical complexities of conducting research across diverse sites of power and privilege. The design of this project incorporates people from multiple, conflicting positions, including people who are homeless and living in riverbottom encampments, environmental workers trying to restore the riverbottom, and social service workers trying to house the homeless. Throughout my fieldwork, various groups attempted to assert agency over my research methods and priorities, pulling me in multiple directions. However, despite this tension, this research design also afforded me the opportunity to develop trusting relationships across difference, which facilitated the opening of new (and potentially more just) socio-ecological imaginaries for the Ventura River. This paper demonstrates how one can create change across diverse positions of power, and the role that community-engaged researchers can play within this process.

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