Studying the Development of Athens Metro and the GreekDisability Movement: Neutrality, Reflexivity, and Epistemological Choice
2007 (English)In: Society for Social Studies of Science Annual Meeting October, Montreal, Canada, 2007Conference paper (Other academic)
Is it really the only task of science and technology studies (S&TS) to observe, deconstruct and criticize? In February 1987 the Greek government announced an invitation to tender for the design and construction of the new Athens metro. Thirteen years later, in January 2000 the first two lines began operation. The construction of the metro consisted of numerous preliminary studies, different public organizations which dealt with its development and several controversies concerning its design. One of these controversies referred to the issue whether the metro would be accessible to disabled people or not.
Studying sociotechnical controversies, such as the implementation of accessibility provision in the new Athens Metro, often implicitly stipulates certain neutrality on the part of the researcher. But what happens to neutrality when the researcher becomes a part of the controversy or sympathizes with one of the opposing sides? The identity of the researcher also influences the choice of an epistemological standpoint. Moreover, the choice of conducting an investigation of the process of developing and applying disability facilities on the Athens metro is in its very nature political. By this I mean that the study contributes to an ongoing debate concerning issues of exclusion and discrimination against disabled people. As a result, the methodological framework of this project also includes elements of an emancipatory research paradigm. An emancipatory paradigm requires strong commitment from the researcher to the interests and needs of disabled people. In this study, disabled people were given an active methodological role. Doing research on disability implied that I undertook research that could be of practical benefit to the self-empowerment of disabled people and/or the appraisal of disabling barriers. At the same time, it would be almost impossible for me to dissociate myself from being viewed by disability organizations as an ally in their struggle. However, I am not a disabled person myself and my able-bodied position does not allow for adopting a disability standpoint in every respect. Several of my disabled informants who were representatives of disability organizations perceived my work as a means to express complaints regarding the oppression that people with disabilities face in Greece, to promote their claims and demands, and to make their voices heard. In other words, these informants attempted to deploy my work in their effort to achieve a better hearing for their claims. This does not signify the capturing of my research since it constitutes a conscious methodological choice that I made in accordance with the emancipatory research paradigm. What I am advocating is more democratic participation in the processes that contribute to the configuration of the built environment and more policy initiatives for reducing disabilities.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
emancipatory research, neutrality, involvement, epistemological standpoint, hybridity, capture, disability organizations, advocacy, S&TS
History of Technology
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-21088OAI: oai:DiVA.org:liu-21088DiVA: diva2:240549