Democratising Participatory Research: Pathways to Social Justice from the South - cover image


Carmen Martinez-Vargas;

Published On





  • English

Print Length

260 pages (xii+248)


Paperback156 x 18 x 234 mm(6.14" x 0.71" x 9.21")
Hardback156 x 22 x 234 mm(6.14" x 0.88" x 9.21")


Paperback1101g (38.84oz)
Hardback1490g (52.56oz)



OCLC Number





  • KCR
  • KCP
  • JHBC
  • JHBL
  • HPS
  • HPQ
  • HBTR


  • SOC045000
  • SOC053000
  • SOC050000
  • POL024000
  • POL029000
  • POL045000


  • HM520


  • participatory research
  • social justice
  • intersectionality
  • Global South
  • colonialism
  • research
  • democracy
  • Capabilities Approach
  • Democratic Capabilities Research
  • South Africa
  • Global North

Democratising Participatory Research

Pathways to Social Justice from the South

  • Carmen Martinez-Vargas (author)
In this book Carmen Martinez-Vargas explores how academic participatory research and the way it is carried out can contribute to more, or less, social justice. Adopting theoretical and empirical approaches, and addressing multiple complex, intersectional issues, this book offers inspiration for scholars and practitioners to open up alternative pathways to social justice, viewed through a Global South lens.

Martinez-Vargas examines the colonial roots of research and emphasises the importance of problematising current practices and limitations in order to establish more just and democratic participatory research practices. Although practitioners have been challenging the Western roots of research and participatory research for decades, their goals can be compromised by pluralities and contradictions in the field. This book aims not to replicate past participatory research approaches, but to offer an innovative theoretical foundation—the Capabilities Approach—and an innovative participatory practice called ‘Democratic Capabilities Research’.

Democratising Participatory Research is not only timely and relevant in South Africa, but also in the Global North owing to the current crisis of values jeopardising the peaceful existence of diverse societies. The book gives essential recommendations for capabilities and human development scholars to reframe their perspectives and uses of the Capabilities Approach, as well as for participatory practitioners to critically reflect on their practices and their often limited conceptualisation of participation.


Thank you for this important work, which provides a solid theoretical and historical foundation for a DCR approach to participatory research in the Global South (and beyond). I'm looking forward to citing this work, enacting it within my own research, and using it in my methodologies courses with graduate students. I readily see how this book will contribute to the emerging but sparse literature that is striving to move participatory research away from the confines of western epistemologies and methods.

Prof Christine Rogers Stanton

Montana State University


In this context, Martínez-Vargas presents a broad theoretical landscape, highlighting prominent authors of participatory approaches, their most relevant research contributions, ideas, and singularities. A unique aspect of this book is the invitation, in different moments of the text, to propose pluralist understandings of participatory approaches: not as a homogenous “participatory perspective”, but as a constellation of academic and political views which share family characteristics. This pluralist view offers an understanding of the changing and contextual character of participatory social theories. Specifically, it helps identify connections and elective affinities among four families of participatory approaches: a) an “industrial family”, or perspectives related to the world of labour; b) a “development family”, or approaches linked to debates on development and social change; c) an “indigenous family”, or views interested in intercultural and decolonial dialogues, and d) an “educational family”, or tendencies focused in democracy production of knowledge in pedagogical environments.In analysing these families of participatory views, the author recovers the academic sources, the central problems for social research, and the different understandings of the relationship between theories and practices.

César Osorio Sánchez

Journal of Human Development and Capabilities , 2024. doi:10.1080/19452829.2024.2330175

Full Review


Carmen Martinez-Vargas

Post-Doctoral Research Fellow Higher Education and Human Development Research Group at University of the Free State