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NAPA Bulletin

PRACTICING WHAT WE PREACH: THE POSSIBILITIES OF PARTICIPATORY ACTION RESEARCH WITH FAITH-BASED ORGANIZATIONS

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Abstract

This article examines the role and methodologies of the anthropologist as practitioner working in faith-based development initiatives. In particular, the author discusses attempts to use a participatory action research (PAR) model to examine the current programs, congregational participation, and future community development activities of Saint Andrew African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. The article examines how the FBO's traditional model of community development interfaced with the university research team's participatory approach and shaped the way that research was carried out. Additionally, the author discusses the varying ways that she, as an anthropologist, and her methods were positioned and the process of negotiating a mutually acceptable methodology. This FBO-university partnership revealed several key issues that have relevance for anthropologists engaged in work with FBOs and beyond. First, the model of faith-based community development shapes the possibilities of the work. Second, it shows how the anthropologist, and university partners more generally, are positioned by the organization, informs how and by whom the data is collected, what data is collected, and how it is used. Finally, there is no longer room for anthropologists to work alone; community issues and agency demands are complex and require interdisciplinary collaborative responses.

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