Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Lights, Camera...Action Research

It is dress rehearsal. Along with 20 Filipino domestic workers, a handful of Filipino American cast members, director, lights person, media and prop staff, I walk into the theater at Hunter College. Our light technician turns on the lights on the stage to see if they work and we take in a few seconds to look at one another to see if Diwang Pinay, the play about the transnational lives of domestic workers in NYC, is actually happening.

We all walk around the stage to inspect our new home for the weekend. Our light technician turns the lights off again. The stage and the theater is blacked out. She turns it on again. And as I look around at the cast members around me, I am tickled to laughter as all of the women and cast members are giving their best on-stage face, complete with drama, off-to-the-distance stares, pouts and magic in their eyes. We all realize we're doing the same face and burst out in laughter.

This play, a product of years of participatory research, was the action component of the project. For 2 years, the lives of Filipino women migrants working as domestic workers in New York City who are active in families in the Philippines was the topic of a participatory action research (PAR) project in New York City. Along with the Filipino migrants, 1.5 and second generation Filipino Americans who were youth, students and professionals in NYC also took part in learning how to do research, conducting kuwentohan or talk-story sessions, and then producing a play as a form of disseminating findings

The article, "Ang Ating Iisang Kuwento" Our Collective Story: Migrant Filipino Workers and Participatory Action Research, explores the dynamics in creating new methods through participatory action research. The article considers Filipino cultural values of kuwentohan and theater as epistemologically significant to Filipino women as they conduct research on the institutions and social forces that produce their transnational families.

With 5,000 Filipinos leaving the Philippines daily, a little than over half of them being women, this story of separation and migration will continue. The women who experience the pain of migration and who come together to hold one another, must be at the forefront of telling their stories. This article explores how scholars can partner migrants and community members to take on the task. Dr. Tere Castillo Burguete writes, “Migrants are commonly a vulnerable population, and women are part of that as an even more exposed group. It is necessary to hear their stories. It is important to know about the political potential of PAR. That is the challenge that the author of this article undertook, i.e., to pave a portion of the long road that still needs to be traveled."

This article is a one of a number of ways the findings of this PAR project is being disseminated. As you read through the article, view pictures and clips of the play, I want to continue thinking about these questions: How do PAR researchers use play, creativity and artistry as a research method? What role does art play in our research projects, for our research collaborators, for us as scholars? What can social science learn from performance? And vice versa?

I look forward to continuing this discussion with you. Please feel free to offer comments or questions below. 
Valerie Francisco

FREE access to this article for the next 30 days is available through this link. 

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