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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Empowerment through participatory action research : a case study of participatory action research with young refugees in Dagahaley Camp, Kenya Cooper, Elizabeth


This thesis is a personal account and analysis of the methodological considerations, choices and activities that I undertook in a research project about out-of-school youths in the Dadaab Refugee Camps of Northeastern Province, Kenya. It chronicles two distinct stages of research in the camps, the first in 2003 which was a blended experience of pilot data collection and advocacy research, and the second in 2004 which was an attempt at a pure model of Participatory Action Research (PAR), as well as the personal, theoretical and practical deliberations that were a preoccupation before, during, between and following these experiences in Dadaab. The aim of this thesis is to contribute to the empirical documentation of implementing PAR as well as its potential for realizing various forms and degrees of empowerment among participants. A review of the literature that espouses and critiques PAR is included as is a review of the literature about research with refugees and in refugee camps, but the primary focus of the thesis is experiential data. Thus, the "Methodology chapter" (Chapter 5) may be thought of as the nucleus of this thesis with the rest of the paper orbiting around it to try to make sense of how the methodology should be approached and how it may have achieved some forms of empowerment. I argue that PAR can provide a social opportunity through which the realms of human agency and freedom may be expanded. For individuals and collectives as disempowered as youths in a long-term refugee camp, the values that direct PAR, which I summarize as authenticity in relationships, hold unique potential for human flourishing. An important lesson from this research experience is that the significance of synchronizing such an opportunity for human flourishing with the imagination and ambition of youth participants should not be underestimated.

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