Melissa Browning, Ph.D.
Atlanta, Georgia USA

Melissa Browning is a theologian, ethicist, and activist who studies congregational and community-based responses to injustice. Melissa teaches at McAfee School of Theology at Mercer University where she is the Assistant Professor of Contextual Ministry. For the past 17 years Melissa’s study and fieldwork has been tied to East Africa. Her recent book, "Risky Marriage: HIV and Intimate Relationships in Tanzania," builds on a year of fieldwork completed in Mwanza, Tanzania where women were asked to re-imagine Christian marriage as a space of safety and health for women. Melissa is also active in death penalty abolitionist work in Georgia and is an ordained Baptist minister.

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Epistemological Privilege and Research

By on September 11, 2013

“Epistemological Privilege and Collaborative Research: A Reflection on Researching as an Outsider,” Practical Matters, (, May 2013.

Ethnographic researchers often work outside of the boundaries of their own social location and lived experience. Yet when we cross the borders of our own lived knowledge, we are faced with the question of who has epistemological privilege in the research. This article attempts to answer this question by putting two lived experiences in dialogue: the story of a researcher (an outsider) and of a research participant (an insider). The author argues that solidarity with research participants must be a goal of the researcher. Thus, the researcher must abdicate the privilege of academic mobility and come to view research participants as collaborators, not mere subjects. The author advocates use of the participatory action research model is a methodology towards privileging the lived experience of research collaborators.


Click here to view the journal article and film at the Practical Matters website.