Just Research in Contentious Times



Book Title:  Just Research in Contentious Times: Widening the Methodological Imagination
Author:  Michelle Fine
Publisher:  Teachers College Press
List Price:   $36.30
Format:  Soft cover, 144 pages
Publication Date:   2018
ISBN: 978-0-8077-5873-1
Reviewer: Valentina Rada, MBA, PMP, PMI-ACP




Just Research in Contentious Times is a book that outlines ways to design successful and impactful participatory research projects. Fine, the author of the book, is a second-generation immigrant from Europe. She comes from a middle-class Jewish family and her roots are highly portraited on who she further became: a mother, a teacher, a writer, a researcher. The book starts as a novel about her family and childhood and how Jewish culture and customs put a fingerprint on her life.

In the book the author portraits the true meaning of researchers, that of being caring and empathetic with others, of giving back more than receiving. Fine provides in her book thoughtful ways to present her epistemology and ontology, and how participatory research could be performed in constructive ways for its participants.

Overview of Book’s Structure

The book is structured key six areas that help a novice researcher better understand the meaning of critical participatory research: 1) Loss and Desire: Bearing Witness in White, Working-Class, Suburban New Jersey. That talks about author’s origins and impact of her research; 2) Exiles Within: Wild Tongues and Critical Bifocals at the Radical Margins. Research on how Muslim American youth adapts in the US after 9/11 attacks; 3) Civics Lessons: The Color and Class of Educational Betrayal and Desire. Students perception over education system, instructors and other students; 4) “Wicked Problems,” Flying Monkeys,” and Prec(ar)ious Lives: A Matter of Time? School disruptions, teachers’ turnover and long-term substitutes impact on students’ lives and academics; 5) Just Methods. Historic and Contemporary Laboratories of Democratic Knowledge Production. Tracing racial patterns of inequity; 6) “Speaking Words of Wisdom”: Metabolizing Oppression into Intersectional Activism, Radical Wit, and Care Work.; Conclusion: Critical Participatory Action Research and Democracies: Lighting the Slow Fuse of the Research Imagination.


As the author presents a couple of researches in the book, one major point is dedicated to community participatory research of how immigrants, those of different color or different sexual orientation adapt to the US culture. She calls them as “exiled within” (Fine, 2017, p. 11). She even goes deeper with her study participants and objective, around the dropout in crisis in high schools. It is touching her high school memory of the percent dropouts when she graduated. Her research instruments were unique and original. The identity maps she used to research feelings of acculturation of young American Muslims. The results were emotional, these young people reported high level of discrimination, but most sadly depression, anxiety. They see themselves less American and less engaged.


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About the Reviewer

Valentina Rada

Texas, USA


Valentina Rada’s professional experience includes twenty years of experience in market research, retail and restaurant industries as research analyst and project manager. She is a Project Management Professional and an Agile Certified Practitioner. She has a Master in Business Administration from the University of the Incarnate Word. She is currently pursuing her education as a PhD student in Organizational Leadership at the University of the Incarnate Word.

Valentina can be reached at valirada@hotmail.com or www.linkedin.com/in/valentina-rada

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