Participatory action research and intersectionality: a critical dialogical reflection of a study with older adults

Maaike Muntinga, Elena Bendien, Tineke Abma, Barbara Groot

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Purpose: Researchers who work in partnership with older adults in participatory studies often experience various advantages, but also complex ethical questions or even encounter obstacles during the research process. This paper aims to provide insights into the value of an intersectional lens in participatory research to understand how power plays out within a mixed research team of academic and community co-researchers. Design/methodology/approach: Four academic researchers reflected in a case-study approach in a dialogical way on two critical case examples with the most learning potential by written dialogical and via face-to-face meetings in duos or trios. This study used an intersectionality-informed analysis. Findings: This study shows that the intersectional lens helped the authors to understand the interactions of key players in the study and their different social locations. Intersections of age, gender, ethnicity/class and professional status stood out as categories in conflict. In hindsight, forms of privilege and oppression became more apparent. The authors also understood that they reproduced traditional power dynamics within the group of co-researchers and between academic and community co-researchers that did not match their mission for horizontal relations. This study showed that academics, although they wanted to work toward social inclusion and equality, were bystanders and people who reproduced power relations at several crucial moments. This was disempowering for certain older individuals and social groups and marginalized their voices and interests. Originality/value: Till now, not many scholars wrote in-depth about race- and age-related tensions in partnerships in participatory action research or related approaches, especially not about tensions in research with older people.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9-20
Number of pages12
JournalQuality in Ageing and Older Adults
Issue number1
Early online date19 Oct 2023
Publication statusPublished - 20 Feb 2024


  • Age-friendly
  • Community-based participatory research
  • Intersectionality
  • Older adults
  • Participatory action research
  • Reflexivity

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