Transferring Research Design from the United States to India: Focusing on Positionality Emily January Petersen, Brigham Young University, @Januaryemily

“Our definitions, descriptions, and interpretations of third world women’s engagement with feminism must necessarily be simultaneously historically specific and dynamic, not frozen in time in the form of a spectacle” (Mohanty, 1999, p. 6).
Positionality Consideration 1: We asked about what was important to us, as Western feminists, but not necessarily important to them. Therefore, we began interpreting their responses from a Western feminist perspective.
Inversion Thesis: “[T]hose who are subject to structures of domination that systematically marginalize and oppress them may, in face, be epistemically privileged in some crucial respects. They may know different things, or know some things better than those who are comparatively privileged (socially, politically), by virtue of what they typically experience and how they understand their experience” (Wylie, 2004, p. 339).
“[I]n community-based research, messiness is not (necessarily) a sign of improper rigor or a poorly designed study. We posit that well-designed, well-conducted community-based research encounters unexpected challenges and serendipitous surprises because power is not centralized with researchers and because complex, dynamic local contexts are informing the work” (Walton, Zraly, & Mugengana, 2015, p. 63).
Positionality Consideration 2: Because I knew “everything there was to know” about women in technical communication within a U.S. context, I assumed that positioned me accurately for India.
Positionality Consideration 3: We made assumptions about India and class, and our ignorance was revealed. Not all women and people of the Global South are oppressed, nor do they consider themselves to be oppressed.

“We are a privileged bunch here.”

“I think you are interviewing quite a privileged lot of us.”

Positionality Consideration 4: Finding commonalities among our positions helped us to make connections and better understand class and culture.
“I used think women that live in Western countries have far better lives than what we have here but...I started realizing that no matter where you go in the world women are the same. Women have the same hearts. They have the same fears. They have the same ambitions. And they have the same worries.”
Research design does not necessarily transfer contexts without new reading in the literature.
Methods need to be examined before transferring contexts.
Stories from different contexts/positions are best told by those within the context.
"We must keep in mind that the history of international research by Western scholars mimics the colonial enterprise; data, like natural resources, have been extracted, turned into written products, and either sold back to the original country or rendered completely irrelevant to the people who supplied the data in the first place, serving only the interests of the scholar and [the] discipline" (Crabtree & Sapp, p. 28).

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