Methods: Online individual in-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted with social work faculty (n=13) and community stakeholders (n=10) from multiple cities in the U.S. with experience in PAR/CBPR. Interviews elicited participants’ understandings, experiences, and recommendations to redress power and oppression within PAR/CBPR. Drawing from decolonial, critical race theory, and intersectionality, data was analyzed using thematic and situational analytic approaches to explore how interviewees conceptualized power and patterns of factors reinforcing or shifting power imbalances within the PAR/CBPR partnerships. Iterative readings of the data were performed by the research team followed by the development and application of a codebook. Emerging themes were identified and relationships between each theme were further examined. Situational analysis was performed through the use of mapping, memoing, and theoretical coding.
Findings: Using the river parable, findings revealed two major overarching themes in PAR/CBPR: 1) downstream approaches that reinforce hierarchies of dominance, oppression, and epistemicide; and 2) upstream approaches that promote embodiment of sentipensante praxis that disrupts epistemicide through the enactment of counterspaces and counternarratives of refusal, resistance, and self-determination. Key downstream practices that maintained colonial knowledge production processes to maximize capitalism and perpetuate normative whiteness, othering, and disembodiment included production, extraction, gatekeeping, manipulation, limited transparency, and racism. Conversely, upstream practices that sought to dismantle epistemicide included humanizing and redefining relationships, engaging in brave dialogical and vulnerable conversations, and embodiment of reflective, ethical, and accountable collaborations.
Conclusion and Implications: Findings illustrate multiple positioned actors’ diverging and converging understandings of PAR/CBPR and the ways it can potentially support or hinder the pursuit of equity and justice. In addition to confirming existing literature suggesting researchers to engage in critical reflection and action to increase awareness of social locations of power, findings suggest the integration heart-centered ethical relational commitments among all implicated actors to shift the gaze, unearth, and challenge uncontested discourses and contradictions in PAR/CBPR to achieve individual and structural transformation.