Giancarlo Cornejo and Marten van den Berge. "From Activist Research to Promiscuous Theories and Methodologies". In: Knowledge and Change: Theory and Practice of Development Dilemmas. Eds: DEMEIJER, STREMMELAAR. The Hague: Hivos Knowledge Porgramme. 135-140.
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Sexual diversity in Peru found political expression at the beginning of the 1980s, with the formation of the Movimiento Homosexual de Lima and the Grupo de Autoconciencia Lésbico Feminista. The movement spread to include other groups, for example, transexuals, and outside the capital to other regions of the country. There are now more than 60 groups engaged in the fight for sexual diversity and gender identity in the country, with a wide range of identities, agendas, methods of action and forms of organisation.
In solidarity with their campaigns, we began a research project into the Peruvian sexual diversity movement. We wanted to break with the traditional anthropological and sociological practice of producing knowledge, which extracts information from "the subjects under research" in a way that benefits hegemonical power structures and the academics responsible for the research rather than the subjects of the research. We therefore decided to use an "activist-research" methodology in an attempt to overcome the classic dichotomy between researchers and activists, which is based on a positivist division between science and ideology and between scientific objectivity and political involvement. This involves a political commitment to the objectives of the group in struggle and aims to generate knowledge "by, with and for" that group.
We want to generate other epistemologies, knowledge and wisdom from a struggle that has been invisible for a long time and that has actually been concealed by studies into social movements. We are inspired by what Boaventura de Souza Santos calls the "sociology of absences and the sociology of emergences" (2006). We want to conduct research that “transforms impossible objects into possible objects and uses them to transform absences into presences, focusing on fragments of unsocialised social experiencies” and that at the same time "opens up a future of plural and concrete possibilities that are simultaneously utopian and realistic" (De Sousa Santos 2006).
Our research methodology provides us with a series of challenges and problems. The very concept of "social movement" is gender-bound and based on the dichotomisation of gender. Moreover, activists are not necessarily able to escape from the power relations they oppose and social movements have questioned the positions of those that aspire to "represent" or "empower" them. They remind us of the need to write with them and for them, especially in the contemporary context in which exclusion and violence are the main forms of relations. However, in order for this position to be genuinely democratic, we have to constantly ask questions. We cannot renounce our right to be critical. Activists do not form one big "happy family" and neither is the movement itself homogeneous.
As for the research itself, we have so far conducted interviews with 140 lesbian, gay, bisexuals, transexuals, sex workers and people living with HIV in 25 cities. We also intend to include participatory ethnographies about the places where the research was conducted.
We are ourselves activists in Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, Bisexual and Intersex (LGTBI) groups and we have learned in practice that we need to be radical. We feel an affinity with the theories of Monique Wittig, who said that the straight mind is common to practically all disciplines and forms the foundations of society and culture. We therefore think that the radical nature of our movement calls for promiscuous practices, promiscuous theories, promiscuous policies, promiscuous methodologies, promiscuous epistemologies and certainly promiscuous bodies.