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Knowledges from academic and professional research-based institutions have long been valued over the organic intellectualism of those who are most affected by educational and social inequities. Participatory research recognizes what Antonio Gramsci described as “the intellectual and political power of ‘organic intellectuals’ from whom counter-hegemonic notions derive,” which presents a “fundamental challenge to what ... John Gaventa called ‘official knowledge’ as the sole legitimate claim to truth” (Fine et al., 2004, p. 4). Unlike positivist and postpositivist epistemological traditions and research methods that rely on the objectivity and expertise of university-sanctioned researchers (Isenhart & Jurow, 2011; Noffke, 1997), participatory action research (PAR) projects are collective investigations that rely on local knowledge, combined with the desire to take individual and/or collective action (Fine et al., 2004; McIntyre, 2000). PAR with youth (YPAR) engages in rigorous research inquiries and represents a radical effort in educational research to take inquiry-based knowledge production out of the sole hands of academic institutions and include the youth who directly experience the educational contexts that scholars endeavor to understand. In this essay, we outline the foundations of YPAR and examine the distinct epistemological, methodological, and pedagogical contributions of an interdisciplinary corpus of YPAR studies and scholarship. We outline the origins and disciplines of YPAR and make a case for its role in educational research; discuss its contributions to the field and the tensions and possibilities of YPAR across disciplines; and close by proposing a YPAR critical-epistemological framework that centers youth and their communities, alongside practitioners, scholars, and researchers, as knowledge producers and change agents for social justice.


This is the author’s accepted manuscript of an article originally published in Review of Research in Education, available at DOI: 10.3102/0091732X16686948.



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