Session 32

Methods for Health, Disabilities and Childhood Studies

Current societal change processes, such as demographic transformation, global migration, and digitization, particularly affect the health care and education sector. New phenomena, practices, and research objects therefore require a critical review of previous research methods and designs that are concerned with this change. These include phenomena such as emancipatory movements of people with disabilities, post-colonial social movements, and related theory-plural and method-integrative research approaches. Correspondingly, these recent developments also pose new challenges for empirical social research. Theoretical-conceptual, as well as methodological-empirical approaches, have to be reviewed and, if necessary, to be developed further. Many of the current social sciences methodological and theoretical approaches are best suited to analyzing individual behavior. However, as methodological discussion in the last decade has shown, health and educational research also need process-orientated research, micro-macro-analysis, comparative research, or mixed methods designs.

During the session, these and other challenges specific to health and educational research processes are discussed using examples from empirical research. The following questions, among others, are addressed: how to determine the defining the population / field of analysis in health and educational research; how to use a process-oriented methodology able to grasp current social transformation; and how to combine qualitative and quantitative methods and different theoretical schools. In doing so, the session brings together perspectives from different cultural contexts to advance a cross-cultural discussion of methodological development in Health and Educational Studies.



1.Emancipatory Research Methodology in Disability Studies

Sourav Mukhopadhyay  (University of Botswana, Botswana)

Emmanuel Mswela  (University of Botswana)

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has profoundly impacted social and educational development and provides opportunities to drive forward inclusive policy for people with disabilities. Historically, disability research predominantly focused on ‘researching for people with disabilities’ rather than ‘researching with people with disabilities. As a result, a plethora of documented disability research is situated within a medical perspective and mostly conducted by Western researchers with a western population. In that midst, voices of individuals with disabilities from the Global south are missing. Therefore, it is important to take a radical approach and use a politically sensitive perspective such as the ‘disability emancipatory paradigm’. Qualitative research approach that utilizes multiple methods is most suitable for such situations. This article undertakes to explore the use of qualitative methods about disability research. Drawing on three of our published research where we used multiple data collection methods in a qualitative research, in this study we will reflect our experiences that could be used in disability research. Multiple methods offer flexibility in conducting research and allow the researchers to make multiple assumptions about the nature of reality. Most importantly, it provides opportunity to individuals with disabilities to voice their thoughts, which are mostly not heard. We will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each method as well as the challenges in conducting the research. Furthermore, how each method could be combined to obtain multiple realities and lived experiences of individuals with disabilities will be discussed. This discussion will provide a socio-cultural dimension in disability research particularly in the context of Botswana, that could pave a way forward.


2.Positivism and constructivism in the study of health behaviours of adolescents in Botswana

Sinah Kgosietsile  (University of Botswana, Botswana)

The debate on the two dominant paradigms in social science have divided researchers into several fields of enquiry. Specifically, the juxtaposition of positivism and constructionism traditions in carrying out empirical research. The debate has also been on whether the social world can be studied using same principles as natural world. The positivists espouse a deductive logic through quantitative methods while the constructivists prefer an inductive logic through qualitative methods. Hence the debate between the two paradigms is sometimes called the qualitative-quantitative debate. To overcome the debate, most researchers adopt a mixed method with aspects of both qualitative and quantitative in one study. However, there are limited studies that combine the two when using secondary and primary data. The main aim of the paper is to illustrate how quantitative and qualitative approaches are used as reconcilable research methods in a study of health behaviours of adolescents in Botswana. The paper demonstrates how quantitative secondary data and qualitative primary data can be used in one study. The paper will also address the strengths and weaknesses of both methods and how they can complement each other. The findings of the discussion are expected to assist novice researchers to appreciate both quantitative and qualitative methods and that none is better than the other. They can complement each other when successfully combined in one study.


3.Researching the lived experience of Cancer patients in Botswana: A post-structuralism approach

Robert Mompati Molebatsi  (Department of Sociology, University of Botswana, Botswana)

Conventional interpretive methods have often missed to adequately represent the voice of patients in situations of long-term illnesses such as with cancer patients. They have lacked a genuine voice of consciousness and experience in conveying the true experience of cancer patients. The methods have seen such voice as too subjective to satisfy the requisite qualities of acceptable research. Within the health care settings, the biomedical approach expects the patient to surrender to a health care professional who exercises their expertise to bring about intervention. This study uses in-depth interviews and biographical methods on a sample of cancer patients in two sites in Botswana. The work provides a contribution, from the global south, of how agency of experience plays a meaningful role in understanding the lived experience of cancer patients. The research stems from a growing realization of the significant value of experiential voice in an ongoing event or what may be a debilitating illness. Methods that free the authentic voice of patients are gaining more ground especially within practice professions such as medicine, nursing, social work and others.


4.Interview as a social practice and the self-reflexivity to postcolonial childhood studies

Pamela Dumet Paredes  (University of Wuppertal and University of Münster, Alemania)

An expanding body of research to postcolonial childhood studies focuses on subaltern subjectivity and agency through positivistic filters. Critical postcolonial theory has shown that such approaches fail to answer questions as who speaks for whom and how, and who listens and how. Consequently, postcolonial childhood inquiries may not exclude the positioning of a researcher. Therefore, to deconstruct the interactive communication with the researched subject and to ask questions at variance to the dualist center and border is the aim of this study. It examines the interaction in interviews of indigenous children who attend bilingual intercultural schools in Ecuador. Consequently, at the first stage of the analysis are some theoretical orientations in the ascription process and its articulation with the periphery through class, race, generation, and colonial difference. This study asks questions on how meanings are constructed through language while focusing on children and their performance and their positioning in specific contexts. Secondly, linguistic structures will decipher new ascriptions. Thirdly, the study implies to consider the performative self-reflexive positioning and negotiation processes during the interview. Accordingly, a reconsidering of de-colonial turn to border thinking; while engaging in interviews with children, and the self-reflexivity adds an anchor to politics of location when speaking for and about the subalterns. I will conduct videotaped semi-structured in-depth narrative interviews with individuals and peer groups to a constructivist grounded theory. A description of meanings with an emphasis on an interactive knowledge is characteristic here, as a movement from the abstract ideal to the concrete and from the concrete to the theory. An approach that assumes a constant changing world but recognizes diverse local worlds and multiple realities and addresses how people’s actions affect their local and broader worlds. Therefore, the CTG involves a learning about the specific and the general and focus on what is new. Additionally, following Spivak’s “un-learning,” to learn on and through children’s interpretations and their interactions to relations of power is an examination mode to the theory that might open visibility to the interactive strength of the context contributions through the complex process in data.


5.Inclusive Play Spaces for Children with Special Needs: A methodological enquiry into Urban Indian context

Gaurav Raheja  (Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Roorkee, India)

Niranjana Sajan  (Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Roorkee, India)

Right to play is not necessarily an easily accessible privilege to most children either on accounts of space and social contextuality in several urban realms owing to a range of environmental barriers that need to be encountered. Children with special needs sometimes referred as children with disabilities further face greater challenges to inclusion in play spaces and require sensitization and accessibility to infrastructure that caters. Reduced green spaces in growing urban futures in India as a context pose further challenges to inclusion of children with special needs. Driven by rights-based policies from UNCRPD and UNCRC with a supportive policy by Government of India, this paper shares an insight into a methodological enquiry to identify the key barriers viz. social and spatial that impede access to children with special needs. In an ongoing COVID context, it further sheds light on experiences through case studies and in-depth surveys across families of children with special needs using digital methods of interaction. The study brings out contextual experiences of methods employed to understand children with special needs in Indian context and paves way for contextualizing inclusive attributes of play spaces for similar contexts in global south. Adopting remote methods of surveying, digital / visual tools for documentation and qualitative approaches to analyze the special needs further transform the idea. While analyzing various dimensions of play spaces and children with special needs, this paper concludes towards highlighting the key concerns in such play spaces and socio spatial approaches to make them more inclusive.


6.A relational approach to study learning trajectories of young people from postcolonial Benin

Sabrina Maurus  (Africa Multiple Cluster of Excellence, University of Bayreuth, Germany)

Issa Tamou  (Laboratoire d’Etudes et de Recherche sur les Dynamiques Sociales et le Développement Local (LASEL); Africa Multiple Cluster of Excellence, University of Bayreuth, Benin)

After colonialism, the numbers of schools and students have increased significantly in the republic of Benin, since education is largely seen as a decisive factor for development and social mobility. Although a large number of young people and their parents aspire employment in the public sector, these jobs have decreased with the neoliberal adjustment policies, while the number of school-educated youths qualifying for these jobs are increasing. Young people often experience a state of “waithood” and “educated unemployment” which has been described mostly for young men and urban contexts. In a rural context, where many young people are first generation students and where a school career up to university is an exception, we ask how young people learn to make a living in and outside schools. With backgrounds in social anthropology and educational science, our project looks at the learning trajectories and biographical processes of youths in a relational way over time and multiple constellations. We ask what kind of various relations are important in the process of how those young people who have left school early and those who have finished school learn to make a living. The beginning of our study is situated in a small rural town in northern Benin from which we follow a sample of girls and boys over a period of four years through the various constellations in which they are involved and in which learning processes might take place. Hereby, we research biographies not in retrospect but try to observe social processes of learning to make a living in real time. In this paper, we show how we combine different methods such as participant observation, interviews, questionnaires, media use, network data, etc. to create a relational research design and to triangle methodologies in what becomes a multi-sited case study that follows the young people and their paths of learning in a postcolonial space.