Original Research - Special Collection: Youth marginalisation as a faith-based concern

Research as freedom: Using a continuum of interactive, participatory and emancipatory methods for addressing youth marginality

Sharlene Swartz, Anye Nyamnjoh
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 74, No 3 | a5063 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v74i3.5063 | © 2018 Sharlene Swartz, Anye Nyamnjoh | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 01 May 2018 | Published: 18 October 2018

About the author(s)

Sharlene Swartz, Human and Social Development Research Programme, Human Sciences Research Council, South Africa; and, Department of Philosophy, University of Fort Hare, South Africa
Anye Nyamnjoh, Human and Social Development Research Programme, Human Sciences Research Council, South Africa; and, Politics and International Studies, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom


This article offers an analysis of a continuum along which interactive, participatory and emancipatory inquiries may be placed in critical qualitative research with a social justice focus. It draws on critical distinctions to make the argument that labelling research ‘participatory’ hides both interactive approaches and those that might be seen to be emancipatory in the vein of Paolo Freire and Stanley Biggs. To support the argument for a continuum of engaged research, four recent research studies from South Africa, Cameroon, Nigeria and Sierra Leone that address youth marginality and views on an array of topics are discussed with a view to articulating divergences and convergences in approaches. Included are considerations around adapting research for specific audiences and participants, the location of power, research ethics, as well as the demystification and democratisation of knowledge ownership and generation, and the nature of collaboration. The article offers tentative criteria by which research may be located along the suggested continuum and argues that an emancipatory approach, whilst being key to bringing about change or freedom, is a difficult but not impossible aim to achieve in research.


Emancipatory research; critical qualitative methods; research continuum; social justice research; South Africa


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