Monday, July 9, 2012

Let the new Chapter begin: The startings of CARE

So July is here, and the move has finally been completed!

After awaiting with excitement for all these months, saying our goodbyes to friends, collaborators, community organizers, community partners, and students at Purdue, we have finally arrived in Singapore, and are starting to settle in.

So the work of the "Center for Culture-centered Approach to Research and Evaluation" (CARE) has also begun. This blogsite will gradually turn into the primary blog site for CARE, connecting the CARE projects with ongoing CCA projects elsewhere across the globe and gradually emerging into a resource for community members, community organizers, activists, policy makers, and program planners in engaging the culture-centered approach (CCA).

As I consider the origins of the CCA, I go back to the inspirations for CCA that I had received from primarily reading the work of Collins Airhihenbuwa. Collins had written a book, "Health and Culture: Beyond the Western Paradigm" and I came across it as I was frantically searching for an alternative entry point to understanding communication about health while in graduate school.

You see, most of the courses I was taking along with the books/journal articles I was being exposed to were rife with this undertone of Eurocentric/Americentric superiority. Embedded in these books, journal articles, and lectures was the oft circulated viewpoint that the West held the key to knowledge, that the West was the sole legitimate producer of modernist knowledge, and the West held the rational as well as the humanitarian basis for intervening in the world.

I felt lost in this world of Graduate School as I often struggled to connect the lessons being taught with my experiences growing up in the Third World.

As I would try to speak out in the classroom, I often found myself silenced. The teachers would document the data to support the specific interpretations they were recycling. How could my views of growing up in the Third World match with the empirical data and the evidence base that was being presented, often by teachers who had very limited experience in traveling outside of the narrow confines of the US?

These experiences made me question: Who gets to make knowledge claims? Using what tools? As determined by whom? Under what kinds of agendas? And with what argumentative claims that justify the "moral right and obligation" to intervene?

As I started working through these questions, I often wondered about the fundamentally unequal nature of discursive spaces and discursive sites where knowledge claims are made and the silences that are reproduced and circulated through the circulation of specific forms of evidence.

CCA therefore connects with this entry point to interrogating the silencing and erasure in dominant discursive spaces and sites, to question the discursive move through which the right of a community to speak and/or to articulate its views is fundamentally denied so that the community can be turned into an object of intervention. CCA is specifically aware of the desire to erase the other that is then intrinsically tied to manufacturing and representing knowledge about the other. The academic enterprise exists precisely through its capacity to turn the subaltern as a silent subject, incapable of speech or recognition. The core tenet of CCA therefore is listening. As academics standing/sitting in privileged vantage points of academic knowledge structures, our methodology of listening begins by seeking to deconstruct the erasures that are built into the positions of privilege we occupy. In the CCA method, this is carried out by returning to the lens of privilege and by interrogating the ways in which it manufactures silence through the assumptions, methodologies, and applications that originate from the academic centers of knowledge production. The impetus on listening therefore also becomes an impetus for deconstructing the assumptions that continue to recirculate in how we do academic work and the assumptions that we carry into our expert-driven assessments of problems, recommendations of solutions, and the evaluations of effectiveness.

Ultimately then, if there is one key focal theme that emerges out of CCA, it is this: Question the assumptions in our theories, methods, applications and examine the cultural roots of these assumptions for the ways in which they reproduce silences and oppressions.

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