Second chapter of the Book: Adapting Gender and Development to Local Religious Contexts – A Decolonial Approach to Domestic Violence in Ethiopia by Romina Istratii

Since the 1970s, development practitioners have steadily embraced participatory and community-centred methods of analysis, influenced by various forms of activist research, the penetration of anthropology in development practice and the emergence of rapid rural appraisal methods for the identification and alleviation of local issues. This proliferation of more critical and inclusive approaches notwithstanding, much gender and development theory and practice is characterised by a persistent lack of recognition for the epistemic power of the theorist/practitioner and fails to make sufficiently transparent how epistemological situatedness and personal positionality inform research, analysis and practice. More importantly, within development studies and practice the process of linguistic and ‘cosmological’ translation has received minimal attention. Chapter 2 engages critically with feminist epistemologies and phenomenological approaches in religious studies to propose a theology-informed, participatory ethnographic approach that is more reflexive of the epistemological situatedness of all theory and pays due attention to the process of translation in view of the personal identity of the researcher. It presents the approach that was taken in the study of conjugal abuse in Northern Ethiopia, with emphasis being placed on safety issues in domestic violence research of this kind, issues of transparency around the positionality of the researcher in the process of researching and communicating the fieldwork experience, and challenges of interpreting and translating research participants’ discourses.

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