Carmen Martinez-Vargas

Published On


Page Range

pp. 75-104

Print Length

29 pages

4. Democratising Participatory Research

A Capabilitarian Conceptualisation

  • Carmen Martinez-Vargas (author)
The fourth chapter asks if, as the literature claims, the colonial challenge is central for participatory practices, how can we resolve the limitations and controversies highlighted in the previous chapter? Martinez-Vargas introduces the Capabilities Approach, linking its foundational elements with decolonial debates. This section illustrates the current commonalities between both positions and the potential of the Capabilities Approach to fill some of the gaps in the field of participatory practices. To this end, the chapter uses an open-ended version of the Capabilities Approach defended by Amartya Sen (1999; 2011) to understand the multiple ways of living beyond the Western lifestyle. This provides a theoretical foundation capable of accommodating different lifestyles around the world that do not necessarily fit into the hegemonic capitalist/neoliberal/patriarchal and heteronormative perspective.

This chapter explores the tensions and limitations of research in the academic context, and the challenges of applying participatory research in higher education institutions. The text explores the practical differences between conventional research processes and fully participatory research processes. The chapter concludes by introducing Democratic Capabilities Research (DCR) through five open-ended principles that can accommodate the variety of practices needed to democratise participatory research from a decolonial capabilities perspective.

After this chapter, the reader will have a clear understanding of where decolonial participatory research stands. Moreover, the practitioner will uphold DCR—understanding its five constitutive elements—in order to be able to put them into practice.


Carmen Martinez-Vargas