ReROOT Output

Roundtable Discussion: Participatory research methods in migration studies: transcending inequalities and exploring potentialities of knowledge co-production

Conveners: Luce Beeckmans (Department of Architecture | Faculty of Engineering Sciences | KU Leuven)
Karel Arnaut (Department of Anthropology | Faculty of Social Sciences | KU Leuven)

Roundtable Panelists (ReROOT participants in bold):
Nishat Awan (University College London, Urban Lab)
Milena Belloni (University of Antwerp, Faculty of Social Sciences)
Shila Hadji Heydari Anaraki (KU Leuven University)
Carolien Lubberhuizen (Universiteit Utrecht en KU Leuven University)
Sarah Mekdjan (Université Grenoble, Laboratoire Pacte)
Dounia Salamé (KU Leuven University)

Description: This roundtable aims to reflect on participatory research methods in migration studies with a particular focus on visual, co-creative and action-oriented methods. This type of methods is increasingly used to break with more conventional research methods that organize the relationship between researcher and researched quite hierarchically. By subverting the inequality between the researcher and ‘the researched’ and by doing research with and for, rather than on participants, researchers give shape to a counter-hegemonic approach to knowledge production.

Participatory research methods not only seek to bring more epistemic justice in the research process, they also actively look for inclusive, collaborative, and creative ways to disclose marginalized knowledges. In this way they are also used to unlock registers of knowledges that often remain marginalized in academic milieus, such as embodied or tacit knowledges. In line with what Kindon et al. (2017) have argued, the core assumption of this roundtable is “that those who have been most systematically excluded, oppressed or denied carry specifically revealing wisdom about the history, structure, consequences and the fracture points in unjust social arrangements’ (Fine, 2008: 213). Of course, these research approaches come with their own ethical and methodological challenges and the need to rethink one’s positionalities (or example: How to bring together academic theoretical goals with more practical priorities brought forth by participants? How can research output be both accessible and meaningful to both academia, policy makers and participants? How can participants’ involvement in the research process be built and maintained in time?)

This roundtable will reflect on both the epistemological potentials and the challenges of participatory research methods in migration studies by bringing into dialogue junior researchers who have been exploring these methods in their recent research (Dounia, Shila, Carolien) and more senior researchers who have already more experience with visual, co-creative and action-oriented methods (Nishat, Sarah, Milena, Huda). The three junior researchers have been doing research for the last two years in the project named ReROOT: arrival infrastructures as sites of integration for recent newcomers (2021-2025) and engaging in building sited but multi-scaled action-oriented settings, called ‘platforms’ in which research in migration and integration is co-conducted interactively, inclusively and reflexively with a range of relevant actors. The more senior researchers (Nishat, Sarah, Milena) will not only respond to the junior’s presentations, but they will also have the opportunity to dwell on their own work.


- Fine, M. (2008). An epilogue, of sorts. In Cammarota J., Fine M. (Eds.), Revolutionizing education: Youth participatory action research in motion (pp. 213–234). New York, NY: Routledge.

- Kindon, S., Pain, R. and Kesby, M. (Eds.) (2007). Participatory action research approaches and methods: connecting people, participation and place. London: Routledge

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