This chapter explores the complexities of investigating participatory approaches as a research field. The chapter divides the field into four major research areas (industrial, development, Indigenous, and educational) in order to clarify the diverse foundational assumptions of different practices and their distinct theoretical grounds.
After the exploration of these branches, the major challenges for the field are summarised. The chapter investigates issues around individual/collective practices, the contested terms and application of participation in different practices, credibility and validity within the academic context, and the challenges arising from embracing diverse practices. This chapter focuses on the gaps between each of the four proposed branches and decoloniality, highlighting spaces where we might usefully introduce the Capabilities Approach as a theoretical frame. Thus, this chapter provides the starting point for a conceptualisation of participatory capabilities-based research, in order to resolve certain limitations of these four branches.