Doing socially engaged research: In conversation with Ethel Tungohan @ York University

Disciplinarity in mainstream political science lures us into knowledge regimes deemed to be generalizable, large-N, objective, rational, reproducible, and valid. Yet these positivist standards often insist upon the researcher a certain sense of ‘detachment’ from the social and political worlds being studied, lest they risk being judged as unauthoritative and unscientific. It can also, in some circumstances, lead to the reproduction of unethical research practices, positioning academics as the sole holders of knowledge.

Questioning these disciplinary norms, South/South Movement is pleased to host a conversation with Ethel Tungohan around ‘doing’ socially engaged research, scholar-activism, and teaching as (im)migrant, racialized, historically marginalized, Global South academics. What does socially engaged scholarship look like in political studies? Why and how can we commit to it as a different way of co-generating knowledge? Ethel will share with us how, in the academy, she has grappled with these questions in her work on migrant labor, particularly when it comes to assessing migrant activism, as well as her experiences of being involved with Philippine feminist and migrant advocacy organizations in Canada.

About our fellow traveler:

Ethel Tungohan is the Canada Research Chair in Canadian Migration Policy, Impacts and Activism, and Assistant Professor of Politics and Social Science at York University. She has also been appointed as a Broadbent Institute Fellow. Previously, she was the Grant Notley Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Alberta’s Department of Political Science. She received her doctoral degree in Political Science and Women and Gender Studies from the University of Toronto.

Ethel specializes in socially engaged research and is actively involved in grassroots migrant organizations such as Gabriela-Ontario and Migrante-Canada. You can follow her on Twitter via @tungohan and listen to her amazing Academic Aunties podcast about surviving and maybe even thriving in the neoliberal academy.


    This virtual community event also marks the launch and first meeting of our {METHOD}OLOGY OTHERWISE research group. What would research look like if we took it out of its academic and theoretical ivory tower and grounded it in activism and community. Who should academic research be for? What does it mean to do critical and socially engaged research? How does activist research work? How can we work with indigenous and grassroots knowledges and methods in a collaborative and not appropriative way?

    These are some of the questions we raise in this group. We intend to foreground methods and methodologies that center critical/indigenous epistemologies from the Global South(s), community-grounded scholarship, feminist/queer approaches, participatory action research, knowledge cultivation ‘from below’, decolonial thinking and praxis, interpretivism, non-textual knowledges, and other standpoints that attempt to overcome the politics of academic production that privileges top-down, positivist, Eurocentric ways of knowing in social and political studies.

    To find out more and sign up to this research group, please visit this page.