Third Annual Workshops on Research Methodology and Ethics Shrcc/Ford Project Diaspora Islam and Gender August 7-21st, 2004 York University, Toronto Ontario For its 3rd Annual Educational/Training Workshops on Research Methodology and Ethics, the Ford/SSHRC project, Diaspora Islam and Gender (DIG), hosted a delegation of 14 students, scholars and community workers from Palestine and Jordan. For two weeks in August, delegates led by Dr. Fadwa Labadi participated in workshops which grappled with issues of gender and family relations and the foundations of research methodology and ethics, as well as policy development and intervention in regard to family relations and spousal violence. Participants met daily in Atkinson‟s Harry Leith room for two 3-hour workshops. The workshops ranged from general treatments of research and methodology, to more esoteric examinations of particular case studies and specific databases. An overview of comparative and systematic methodological approaches to research was offered by Dr. Saeed Rahnema of York University, a co-investigator of DIG project. Dr.Wendy Cukier (Ryerson University) provided participants the opportunity to share their own research interests in a seminar format, and implemented two full workshops for an introduction to research methods. Michelle Lowry, Senior Research Assistant of the DIG Project and Dr. Marianne Vardalos, the project‟s Executive Coordinator, presented introductions to Feminist Research and Feminist Methodology, respectively, contextualizing these within preceding discussions of methodology. Another introduction was that of Prof. Abbie Bakan from the Queen‟s University, whose workshop comprised of a preamble on Women in Development in both theory and practice. Such broad introductory workshops were balanced with more intensive sessions. Prof. Mark Goodman, the second project co-investigator, gave a detailed presentation of the methodology used in the DIG project. His co-presenters, Behzad Ghotb, Input Team Coordinator, and Michelle Lowry, spoke of the specific phases of data collection which they oversee. Afsaneh Hojabri, the Project Coordinator for Montreal, shared touching details of the life histories unearthed during oral interviews, revealing the humanity encountered in the research process. Salam Hamdan, formerly of Al Quds University and now working for the Palestinian National Authority, highlighted the challenges of conducting research for the DIG project while under occupation. Another case study included a workshop presented by Dr. Farhad Nomani (American University of Paris), who presented evidence of women‟s increased economic marginalization after the Iranian revolution and predicted similar outcomes for other secular nations experiencing an escalation in reactionary religiosity. Dr. Susan Babbitt (Queen‟s University), an associate of the DIG project, offered a thought-provoking workshop on ethical issues in research and the question of meta- ethical considerations implicit in cross-cultural and inter-cultural research. Such ethical issues permeated many other discussions addressing the human condition and the imperative to ameliorate it by asking the question “better for whom?” An emerging theme over the two-week period was that of redefinition, the need to reconsider concepts that have become appropriated by the status quo. Yves Savoie of the Toronto Family Services Association (FSA) deconstructed the notions of „community‟ and „civil society‟ in an era of mass accumulation and „tied aid‟. As well, York‟s Fahim Quadir, in his workshops titled Redefining ‘Development’ in the New Millennium & Learning from the People: Critical Issues and Concepts in Developmental Research, problematized the terms „development‟ and „progress‟ as deeply rooted in colonialism and imperialism. Hanadi Loubani challenged the efficacy of NGOs and the Women‟s Movement in Palestine by citing the everyday-lived resistances of women as more effectual than most organized efforts. As well, Fereshte Ghashghai challenged the various acronyms used by NGOs to differentiate themselves from the private sector and delineate their special role in development initiatives. In addition to the conceptual and theoretical topics introduced by researchers were pragmatic themes of family violence and NGO management. In the workshop titled Domestic Violence: Policy & Practice in Canada, Parvin Samadzadeh and Soheila Pashang of Toronto‟s Family Services Association (FSA) gave concrete examples of the challenges faced by new immigrants in unfamiliar power-relations and how these often lead to an increase in domestic violence. As well, John Shields of Ryerson University spoke about the increasing dependence of the state on non-governmental organizations to implement social programs like those offered by the FSA. Jehad Aliweiwi, former President of the Arab Federation and a valued DIG associate in the community, rounded off the workshops by speaking of the specific case of Palestinian immigrants in Canada and his personal experience in the diaspora. The delegation‟s introduction to York University incorporated a campus tour which included greetings from Carol Irving of York International, Rosalyn Reid of the VP Research & Innovation's Office, and Deanna Santos from the Centre for Human Rights. The delegates also got a look at the Senate Chamber and the observatory by night. Nerina Femia and others working at the York English Language Institute organized a number of interesting tours including a trip to the CN tower, City Hall, a Blue Jays game and a memorable bus tour to Niagara Falls. The delegation was also hosted by the wider community beginning with a Welcome Reception organized by the volunteers of The Palestine House Educational and Cultural Centre (a non-profit organization). Established in June 1992, the center serves as an educational, social and cultural centre to the Palestinian community and to all Canadians at large. As well, the Palestinian Solidarity Organization, led by Sara Karmi, planned an afternoon Meet & Greet at High Park which brought together the delegation with Palestinians living in Toronto. A coalition of student groups hosted a picnic on the Vari Hall greens to introduce the participants to the various associations on campus committed to social and cultural understanding and an appreciation of difference. Finally, the DIG project hosted a Farewell Dinner to honour the workshop participants and organizers. The workshops were greatly successful and enlightening, providing a forum in which views, perspectives and experiences could be exchanged in a respectful manner. There is great promise that the participants will return to their home countries and incorporate the knowledge they acquired during their visit. By the same token, the facilitators of the workshops felt indebted to the participants whose experiences, imagination and constructive zest added an unforgettable intellectual vitality to the York campus for the two weeks of their visit.
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