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Critical reflections on practice: the changing roles of three physical geographers carrying out research in a developing country

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To date, discussions on positionality and the relationship with research collaborators have been very much in the human geography realm. In this paper, we explore issues of expertise, positionality, collaboration and participation from our perspective as physical geographers working in a developing country context. We trace our journey from identifying ourselves as top-down ‘experts’ to participatory ‘facilitators’, and the difficulties and dilemmas encountered during this journey as we coped with the contrasting challenges of academic demands and local necessities. Our experiences highlight the many assumptions we make about doing research in developing countries and the real lack of capacity in these places to undertake typical short-term research projects designed in the developed world. We conclude with a call for a longer term and deeper commitment by physical geographers to the people that we engage with in our research.

Keywords: Guyana; expertise; participation; physical geography; positionality

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Geography, Royal Holloway, University of London, Egham, Surrey TW20 0EX, Email: 2: Open Systems Research Group, The Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes MK7 6AA 3: Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, Slimbridge, Gloucester GL2 7BT

Publication date: March 1, 2009


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