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  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: June 2012

1 - Performing qualitative cross-cultural research: an introduction


From the vantage point of the colonized, a position from which I write … the term ‘research’ is inextricably linked to European imperialism and colonialism. The word itself, ‘research’, is probably one of the dirtiest words in the indigenous world's vocabulary … It stirs up silence, it conjures up bad memories, it raises a smile that is knowing and distrustful.

(Smith 1999: 1)

Research by its very nature is inherently political; it is about the nature of power as well as access to power … The academy has been dominated by White middle-class and/or male researchers, whose political values and commitments have influenced social research, leading it to be predominantly Eurocentric, bourgeois and patriarchal in its agenda … This agenda has been informed primarily by the dominant groups, such that the ‘marginal’, the ‘powerless’ and the ‘oppressed’ have been the excessive object of study.

(Mirza 1998: 80)


Historically, cross-cultural research has been an important part of the anthropological discipline. Researchers within this discipline have worked with people in different social, cultural and geographical settings, using mainly ethnography as their method of data collection. They are known as ethnographers. They have tried to conduct their research with the hope that they can ‘interpret what is on the “inside”, through the voices of informants’ (Adler 2004: 107). This tradition continues. Although the ethnographers are performing cross-cultural research, in the past they have also been seen as the ‘takers and users’ who ‘exploit the hospitality and generosity of native people’ (Trask 1993: 7; see also Minh-Ha 1989, 2006).

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