I often think of collecting qualitative research as opportunities to build relationships with participants in my research projects. There are definitely times when participants don’t want to build with me, and I’m cool with that. But more times than not, with the particular research I am able to do with the workers and worker organizations that I do work with, building relationships is par for the course.
And I’ve learned that a big part of building relationships is listening and cultivating space for people to tell their stories, in all the linear and divergent and rambling and rational ways possible. The best training for this, I’d say, was being at the kitchen table with my family’s relatives and elders, rolling lumpia and shredding boiled chicken for pancit. These rich discussions in Tagalog would follow the range of melodrama, comedy, suspense and action. All of the conversations were packed with important information, even essential to my relatives’ jobs, living situations, financial standing. Kuwentuhan was where these important exchanges happened.
And so, when I’ve thought about collecting research with migrant workers and often, when we were able to be share a kitchen table or counter or living room space, I thought back to my elders’ and our kuwentuhan.
I’ve been lucky enough to work with migrant worker organizations in the past decade to collaborate on developing ‘kuwentuhan’ as a method to collect stories and experiences in the Filipino community. I published an article on it a long time ago.
But I rewrote it just recently and its available for download here and here’s the citation if you might need it, friend:
Francisco-Menchavez, Valerie. 2020. “Kuwentuhan as a Method.” In Handbook of Social Inclusion: Research and Practices in Health and Social Sciences, edited by Pranee Liamputtong, 1–23. Cham: Springer International Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-48277-0_83-1.
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