It sounds so democratic but...: A critical approach to collaborative research

Name of applicant

Louise Jane Phillips


Roskilde University


DKK 1,074,441



Type of grant

Monograph Fellowships


Collaborative, participatory research has gained huge popularity in the past 20 years (building on the long-established tradition of action research). Here, academic researchers co-create knowledge with people with lived experience of the research topic (co-researchers) rather than carrying out research on them. With its democratic ambitions and transformative power, collaborative research sounds good! But in practice, "co-creation" is complex and full of tensions. What does co-creating knowledge entail in practice and how can we work with co-creation in collaborative research in ways that attend to the relational, ethical complexities? This book will present a critical, constructive approach to working with co-creation in the research process and the practices it is designed to further.


With this book, I offer a novel approach to critically theorizing and analyzing dynamics of inclusion and exclusion in co-creation. The approach is also constructive: it involves integrating critical analyses into ongoing collaborative research practices to generate insights into the transformative power and tensions which can help researchers to confront and tackle the relational, ethical complexities. The approach represents a doable way of working reflexively with the complexities arising from the play of power in collaborative research relations. It offers readers well-developed concepts of co-creation, critical reflexivity, power, tensional dialogue, voice, relational ethics and embodied, affective, aesthetic knowing.


The democratic, dialogic discourse of "co-creation" invokes a promise of inclusive, democratic processes harnessing the experiential, embodied knowledge of co-researchers. A key focus of the book will be on the many tensions that arise in the disconnect between the alluring promise AND complex messiness of co-creation in practice. One key tension, for instance, is between cultivating the creative, collaborative process with the use of the arts-based research methods AND producing research outputs. As a case throughout, I will draw on an ambitious Velux-funded participatory health research project on dance for Parkinson's which two fellow university researchers and I have carried out together with a large group of co-researchers (people with Parkinson's and their spouses).

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