Co-producing Knowledge on DENIAL in partnership with Trauma Centre, Cape Town during 2017


Background to this site

This site will be used to communicate with workshop participants and to record their thoughts and expressions arising out of the Paulo Freire style action research workshops. This is not compulsory.  Simply by participating in the workshops, individuals co-produce knowledge about the different topics.

The first few posts will introduce the project, sketch the project trajectory, and the various ways in which workshop participants can shape their participation.

Action Research Approach – decolonising qualitative research? 

As facilitator/researcher, I provide draft conceptual frameworks and concepts from previous research and multi-disciplinary literature, to frame discussions.  Participants are encouraged to critique, adapt, adopt or discard the frameworks.  All participants names appear on the author page of the final copy of the Guide in which the framework and its application is discussed (unless they choose otherwise).

The process of co-knowledge production is regarded as groundtruthing and calibration of frameworks that are adapted to the South African context.

History of the Project – an extension of lived experience, practice and scholarship

The Transdisciplinary Project for Social Justice was born out of the need to disseminate research findings to people beyond and within the academy, and across disciplines.

It draws heavily on accumulated knowledge of oppression, and its denied consequences, in an unequal (structurally violent) society, as data. This, together with empirical research served as counterpoint to knowledge found in literature to yield interplay findings – a step seldom taken in academic research. According to Edward Said, this step, known as contrapuntal analysis serves to ‘realise suppressed voices, invisible facts and other hidden elements’.

It is my belief that, given a framework within which to think about key aspects that inform our lives in an oppressive society, any person embedded in society, and who seeks to go beyond disciplinary blinders, will be able to arrive at the research findings I uncovered. One of the aims is to demystify tertiary level research processes and knowledge production.

At the same time, because the research seeks to deepen understanding about different aspects and intersections of violence and how to reduce violence in its structure, the workshops also serve as awareness and consciousness raising, and education about the structure of violence and the mechanisms of denial that limit our interventions,

All phases of this action research is trans-disciplinary in approach because –

While it is generally accepted that a single perspective [discipline] might ‘yield more brilliant insights for the study of some phenomena’ (Kellner, 1995:99), this research required a flexible approach to capture multiple perspectives, micro-macro, conceptual and empirical aspects of the research data.’ (see p. 32 of )

Previous phases of this action research consisted of –

  1. An examination of the inadequacy of our training as conflict resolution practitioners in South Africa’s unequal, transitional context.
  2. PhD research conducted during 2008-2012 in which macro level denial was shown to be replicated at the micro level, and how these patterns contribute to four related gaps which are contextual-conceptual-training-practice related.
  3. Groundtruthing of a conceptual framework ‘The structure of invisible/visible violence’ with a transdisciplinary spectrum of people was done during 2016, in partnership with the University of Cape Town.  This culminated in finalisation of the ‘Open Guide to a ‘deeper, wider and longer’ analysis of violence which was in draft form. All participants’ names appeared as co-knowledge producers. (See ).
  4. During the planned fourth phase, starting on 10 May 2017, a newly adapted conceptual framework and a draft guide on Denial will be groundtruthed with a transdisciplinary spectrum of people, in partnership with the Trauma Centre in Cape Town. Again Paulo Freire methodology will be used to groundtruth and calibrate this new guide.

Dr Sarah Malotane Henkeman

*The next post will make reference to Paulo Freire’s work which was banned in South Africa during Apartheid and secretly typed and spread by activists.  At the heart of his work is the notion that people are ‘knowers’  and do not need to be spoonfed as if they have empty heads!  That’s what the apartheid regime was scared of, it did not want to lose its grip on the minds of the oppressed.


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