Thai Baan Methodology and Transdisciplinarity as Collaborative Research Practices: Common Ground and Divergent Directions
Keywords:Collaboration, Critical Research Methodology, Sustainable Development, Thai Baan, Transdisciplinarity
Thai Baan research was developed in the late 1990s as a counter-hegemonic, emancipatory means of knowledge production. Originally developed in the context of protests against a hydropower project, it aims at empowering socially and economically marginalized actors to create and represent their own knowledge and to regain authority in social struggles. This decolonial methodology, conceptualized by Thai academics in collaboration with non-academic actors, has remained largely unnoticed by Northern collaborative or transdisciplinary debates. Transdisciplinary research, although engaged in collaborative research designs, often remains silent on issues of power imbalances as constitutive of research processes. Criticizing the compartmentalization and limitation of academic knowledge production, transdisciplinarity realigns the scientific system of knowledge production to deal with ‘real-world problems’. During the last three decades, transdisciplinarity has unfolded into a collaborative and integrative methodology implemented in a number of fields, such as sustainability, public health, and development planning. This article systematically introduces Thai Baan and transdisciplinarity as two approaches to collaborative research practice. It introduces the context of their emergence, sheds light on the respective notions of knowledge and science, and discusses their respective methodological designs. It is argued that both would benefit from a stronger epistemological foundation in decolonizing, liberating philosophies of science to enhance collaborative action, overcome North-South divisions, and foster global dialogues in emancipatory knowledge production.
Amornsakchai, S., Annez, P., Vongvisessomjai, S., Choowaew, S., Thailand Development Research Institute, Kunurat, P., Nippanon, J., Schouten, R., Sripapatrparasite, P., Vaddhanaphuti, C., Vidthayanon, C., Wirojanagud, W., & Watana, E. (2000). Case study: Pak Mun Dam, Mekong River Basin, Thailand (World Commission on Dams (WCD), p. 191) [Final Report]. World Commision on Dams.
Angelstam, P., Andersson, K., Annerstedt, M., Axelsson, R., Elbakidze, M., Garrido, P., Grahn, P., Jönsson, K. I., Pedersen, S., Schlyter, P., Skärbäck, E., Smith, M., & Stjernquist, I. (2013). Solving problems in social–ecological systems: Definition, practice and barriers of transdisciplinary research. AMBIO, 42(2), 254–265.
Apgar, J. M., Argumedo, A., & Allen, W. (2009). Building transdisciplinarity for managing complexity: Lessons from indigenous practice. The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences: Annual Review, 4(5), 255–270.
Baird, I. G., Manorom, K., Phenow, A., & Gaja-Svasti, S. (2020). Opening the gates of the Pak Mun Dam: Fish migrations, domestic water supply, irrigation projects and politics. Water Alternatives, 13(1), 141–159.
Baker, C. (2000). Thailand’s assembly of the poor: Background, drama, reaction. South East Asia Research, 8(1), 5–29.
Bammer, G. (2016). Tools for transdisciplinary research. In D. Fam, J. Palmer, C. Riedy, & C. Mitchell (Eds.), Transdisciplinary research and practice for sustainability outcomes (pp. 63–78). London: Routledge.
Bärnthaler, R. (2020). Conflict, controversy, compromise, and compression: The pragmatics of transdisci- plinary (development) projects. Austrian Journal of South-East Asian Studies, 13(2), 193-210.
Bergmann, M., Jahn, T., Knobloch, T., Krohn, W., Pohl, C., & Schramm, E. (2012). Methods for transdiscipli- nary research: A primer for practice (English ed.). Frankfurt am Main: Campus-Verlag.
Bernstein, J. H. (2015). Transdisciplinarity: A review of its origins, development, and current issues. Journal of Research Practice, 11(1), 1-20.
Blake, D. & Buapun, P. (2010). Water resources development, wetlands-based livelihoods and notions of wellbeing: Perspectives from northeast Thailand. Journal of Lao Studies, 5(1), 1-28.
Blake, D. & Rattaphon, P. (2006). Thai Baan research – From community awareness to adaptive wetland managment in the lower Mekong basin [International Riversymposium 06]. Retrieved from http://archive.riversymposium.com/2006/index.php?element=06BLAKEDavid+PITAKTHEPSOMBUT
Chainarong, S. (n.d.). Case study for empowerment and democratisation. High level panel. Thai Baan research (villagers’ research): Local wisdom for resources management. Living River Siam Association. Retrieved from http://www.livingriversiam.org/2work/tb/tb_a7.html
Chambers, R. (1994). The origins and practice of participatory rural appraisal. World Development, 22(7), 953–969.
Chayan, V. (n.d.). Thai Baan research: An overview. Retrieved from https://www.iucn.org/downloads/thai_baan_research_an_overview_1.pdf
Chayan, V. (2003). The role of the social sciences in emerging civil society in Thailand. Asian Journal of Social Science, 31(2), 155–161.
Chayan, V., & Amporn, J. (2011). Spatial politics and economic development in the Mekong sub-region. The Regional Center for Social Science and Sustainable Development, Chiang Mai University.
Chesters, G., & Welsh, I. (2005). Complexity and social movement(s): Process and emergence in planetary action systems. Theory, Culture & Society, 22(5), 187–211.
Chilisa, B. (2012). Indigenous research methodologies. London: SAGE Publications.
Christinck, A., & Kaufmann, B. (2018). Facilitating change: Methodologies for collaborative learning with stakeholders. In M. A. Padmanabhan (Ed.), Transdisciplinary research and sustainability: Collaboration, innovation and transformation (pp. 171–190). London: Routledge.
Clarke, G. (2001). From ethnocide to ethnodevelopment? Ethnic minorities and indigenous peoples in Southeast Asia. Third World Quarterly, 22(3), 413–436.
Collins, P. H. (2000). Black feminist thought: Knowledge, consciousness, and the politics of empowerment (Rev. 10th anniversary ed). New York: Routledge.
Cooke, B., & Kothari, U. (Eds.). (2001). Participation: The new tyranny? London: Zed Books.
Cornwall, A. (2004). Spaces for transformation? Reflections on issues of power and difference in participation in development. In S. Hickey, G. Mohan (Eds.), Participation: From tyranny to transformation (pp. 75–91). London: ZED Books.
Dannecker, P. (2020). Transdisciplinarity ‘meets’ power structures: Challenges and experiences of a capacity building project on transdisciplinarity. Austrian Journal of South-East Asian Studies, 13(2), 175-192.
Della Porta, D. (2013). Can democracy be saved?: Participation, deliberation and social movements. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Erni, C. (2009). Shifting the blame? Southeast Asia’s indigenous peoples and shifting cultivation in the age of climate change. Indigenous Affairs, 1(09), 38-49.
Felt, U., Igelsböck, J., Schikowitz, A., & Völker, T. (2016). Transdisciplinary sustainability research in practice: Between imaginaries of collective experimentation and entrenched academic value orders. Science, Technology, & Human Values, 41(4), 732–761.
Foucault, M., & Gordon, C. (1980). Power/knowledge: Selected interviews and other writings, 1972-1977 (1st American ed). New York: Pantheon Books.
Freire, P., Macedo, D. P., & Shor, I. (2018). Pedagogy of the oppressed (M. B. Ramos, Trans.; 50th anniversary edition). New York: Bloomsbury Academic.
Gatenby, B., & Humphries, M. (2000). Feminist participatory action research: Methodological and ethical issues. 23, 89–105.
Gaziulusoy, A. İ., & Boyle, C. (2013). Proposing a heuristic reflective tool for reviewing literature in trans- disciplinary research for sustainability. Journal of Cleaner Production, 48, 139–147.
Gaziulusoy, A. I., Ryan, C., McGrail, S., Chandler, P., & Twomey, P. (2016). Identifying and addressing challenges faced by transdisciplinary research teams in climate change research. Journal of Cleaner Production, 123, 55–64.
Gibbons, M., Limoges, C., Nowotny, H., Schwartzman, S., Scott, P., & Trow, M. (Eds.). (1994). The new production of knowledge: The dynamics of science and research in contemporary societies. London: SAGE Publications.
Gibson-Graham, J. K. (2004). Area studies after poststructuralism. Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space, 36(3), 405–419.
Hadorn, G. H., Pohl, C., & Bammer, G. (2010). Solving problems through transdisciplinary research. In R. Frodeman, J. T. Klein & C. Mitcham & (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of interdisciplinarity (pp. 431–452). Oxford University Press.
Hadorn, G. H., Biber-Klemm, S., Grossenbacher-Mansuy, W., Hoffmann-Riem, H., Joye, D., Pohl, C., Wiesmann, U., & Zemp, E. (2008). The Emergence of transdisciplinarity as a form of research. In G. Hirsch Hadorn, J. Jäger, & Akademien der Wissenschaften Schweiz (Eds.), Handbook of transdiscipli- nary research. Dordrecht: Springer.
Haraway, D. (1988). Situated knowledges: The science question in feminism and the privilege of partial perspective. Feminist Studies, 14(3), 575–599.
Harding, S. (1993). Rethinking standpoint epistemology: What is “strong objectivity.” In L. Alcoff & E. Potter (Eds.), Feminist Epistemologies (pp. 49–82). New York: Routledge.
Heis, A. (2015). The alternative agriculture network Isan and its struggle for food sovereignty-A food regime perspective of agricultural relations of production in Northeast Thailand. Austrian Journal of South-East Asian Studies, 8(1), 67-68.
Jacob, M. (1994). Toward a methodological critique of sustainable development. The Journal of Developing Areas, 28(2), 237–252.
Klein, J. T. (2020). Sustainability and collaboration: Crossdisciplinary and cross-sector horizons. Sustainability, 12(4), 1515.
Klein, J. T. (2013). The transdisciplinary moment(um). INTEGRAL REVIEW, 9(2), 189-199.
Klein, J. T. (2009). Unity of knowledge and transdisciplinarity: Contexts of definitions, theory and the new discourse of problem solving. In G. H. Hadorn (Ed.), Unity of knowledge (in transdisciplinary research for sustainability) Vol. 1. (pp. 35–69). Oxford: EOLSS Publishers Co Ltd.
Klein, J. T., Grossenbacher-Mansuy, W., Häberli, R., Bill, A., Scholz, R. W., & Welti, M. (2001). Transdis- ciplinarity: joint problem solving among science, technology, and society: An effective way for managing complexity. Basel: Birkhäuser.
Kothari, U. (2001). Power, knowledge and social control in participatory development. In B. Cooke & U. Kothari (Eds.), Participation: The new tyranny? (pp. 139–152). London: Zed Books.
Lamb, V. (2014). Making governance “good”: The production of scale in the environmental impact assess- ment and governance of the Salween River. Conservation and Society, 12(4), 386.
Lamb, V., Middleton, C., Bright, S. J., Phoe, S. T., Myaing, N. A. A., Kham, N. H., Khay, S. A., Hom, N. S. P., Tin, N. A., Shining, N., Xiaogang, Y., Xiangxue, C., & Vaddhanaphuti, C. (2019). A state of knowledge of the Salween River: An overview of civil society research. In C. Middleton & V. Lamb (Eds.), Knowing the Salween River: Resource politics of a contested transboundary river (pp. 107–120). Cham: Springer International Publishing.
Lang, D. J., Wiek, A., Bergmann, M., Stauffacher, M., Martens, P., Moll, P., Swilling, M., & Thomas, C. J. (2012). Transdisciplinary research in sustainability science: Practice, principles, and challenges. Sustainability Science. 7(S1), 25–43.
Lawrence, R. J. (2015). Advances in transdisciplinarity: Epistemologies, methodologies and processes. Futures, 65, 1–9.
Lieven, O. & Maasen, S. (2007). Transdisciplinary research: Heralding a “New Deal” between science and society? GAIA - Ecological Perspectives on Science and Society. 16(1),35-40.
Living River Siam Association. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.livingriversiam.org/index-eng.html.
Lohmann, L. (1995). Visitors to the commons. Approaching Thailand’s “environmental” struggles from a western starting point. In B. R. Taylor (Ed.), Ecological resistance movements: The global emergence of radical and popular environmentalism (pp. 109–126). State University of New York Press.
Lorde, A. (1984). The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. In Sister outsider. Essays and speeches. Crossing Press. Retrieved from: https://www.muhlenberg.edu/media/contentassets/pdf/campuslife/SDP%20Reading%20Lorde.pdf
Maasen, S, Lengwiler, M, & Guggenheim M. (2006). Practices of transdisciplinary research: close(r) encounters of science and society. Science and Public Policy, 33(6), 394-398.
Massey, D. (1993). Questions of locality. Geography, 78(2), 142–149.
Massey, D. (1991). Flexible sexism. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 9(1), 31–57.
McKinnon, K., Gibson, K., & Malam, L. (2008). Introduction: Critical and hopeful area studies - Emerging work in Asia and the Pacific: Emerging work in Asia and the Pacific. Asia Pacific Viewpoint, 49(3), 273–280.
Mekong Watch. (2004). A river, its fish and its people: Local knowledge of the natural environment at the mouth of the Mun River (p. 16). Retrieved from: http://mekongwatch.org/english/publication/MunRiver.pdf
Missingham, B. (2002). The village of the poor confronts the state: A geography of protest in the assembly of the poor. Urban Studies, 39(9), 1647–1663.
Mobjörk, M. (2010). Consulting versus participatory transdisciplinarity: A refined classification of trans- disciplinary research. Futures, 42(8), 866–873.
Mohanty, C. T. (2013). Transnational feminist crossings: On neoliberalism and radical critique. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 38(4), 967–991.
Myint, T. (2016). Citizen science in a democracy: The case of Thai Baan research [Tocqueville Lecture Series at the Vincent and Elinor Ostrom Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis] Retrieved from: https://ostromworkshop.indiana.edu/pdf/seriespapers/2016F_Tocq/Myint%20paper.pdf.
Nguyen, N., Nastasi, W. A., Mejia, A., Stanger, A., & Madden, M. (2016). Epistemic friendships: Collective knowledge-making through transnational feminist praxis. In E. H. Chowdhury & L. Philipose (Eds.), Dissident friendships: Feminism, imperialism, and transnational solidarity. University of Illinois Press.
Nicolescu, B. (2014). Methodology of transdisciplinarity. World Futures, 70(3-4), 186 - 199.
Nicolescu, B. (2000). Basarab Nicolescu: Transdisciplinarity and complexity - Levels of reality as source of indeterminacy [CIRET]. Bulletin Interactif Du Centre International de Rechereches et Études Transdis- ciplinaires. Retrieved from: http://ciret-transdisciplinarity.org/bulletin/b15c4.php
Novy, A., Beinstein, B., & Voßemer, C. (2008). Methodologie transdisziplinärer Entwicklungsforschung. Aktion und Reflexion. Heft 2. Retrieved from https://www.pfz.at/documents/pdfs/2009/Aktion%20&%20Reflexion_%20Heft_2.pdf
Nowotny, H. (2006). The potential of transdisciplinarity. Interdisciplines. Retrieved from: http://www.helga-nowotny.eu/downloads/helga_nowotny_b59.pdf
Nowotny, H., Scott, P., & Gibbons, M. (2003). Introduction: 'Mode 2’ revisited: The new production of knowledge. Minerva, 41(3), 179–194.
Offe, C. (2012). Whose good is the common good? Philosophy & Social Criticism, 38(7), 665–684.
Padmanabhan, M. A. (Ed.). (2018). Transdisciplinary research and sustainability: Collaboration, innovation and transformation. Routledge.
Piaget, J. (1972). The epistemology of interdisciplinary relationships. In L. Apostel (Ed.), Interdisciplinarity: Problems of teaching and research in universities (pp. 127–139). Paris: OECD.
Pohl, C. (2010). From transdisciplinarity to transdisciplinary research. Transdisciplinary Journal of Engineering & Science, 1(1), 65-73.
Pohl, C. (2011). What is progress in transdisciplinary research? Futures, 43(6), 618–626.
Pohl, C., & Hirsch Hadorn, G. (2008). Methodological challenges of transdisciplinary research. Natures Sciences Sociétés, 16(2), 111–121.
Pohl, C., Truffer, B., & Hirsch Hadorn, G. (2017). Addressing wicked problems through transdisciplinary research. In R. Frodeman, J. T. Klein & C. Mitcham & (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of interdisciplinarity (pp. 319–331). Oxford University Press.
Polk, M. (2015). Transdisciplinary co-production: Designing and testing a transdisciplinary research framework for societal problem solving. Futures, 65, 110–122.
Rigg, J. (1994). Redefining the village and rural life: Lessons from South East Asia. The Geographical Journal, 160(2), 123-135.
Rigg, J. (2019). More than rural: Textures of Thailand’s agrarian transformation. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.
Rittel, H. W. J., & Webber, M. M. (1984). Planning problems are wicked problems. In N. Cross (Ed.), Developments in design methodology (pp. 135–144). Chichester: Wiley.
Rose, G. (1997). Situating knowledges: Positionality, reflexivities and other tactics. Progress in Human Geography, 21(3), 305–320.
Rosendahl, J., Zanella, M. A., Rist, S., & Weigelt, J. (2015). Scientists’ situated knowledge: Strong objectivity in transdisciplinarity. Futures, 65, 17–27.
Said, E. W. (1979). Orientalism (1st Vintage Books ed). New York: Vintage Books.
Santos, B. de S. (Ed.). (2008). Another knowledge is possible: Beyond northern epistemologies. London: Verso.
Santos, B. de S. (2007). From an epistemology of blindness to an epistemology of seeing. In B. de S. Santos. Cognitive justice in a global world: Prudent knowledges for a decent life (pp. 407–437). Lexington Books.
Sato, J. (2003). Public land for the people: The institutional basis of community forestry in Thailand. Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, 34(2), 329–346.
Schmidt, L., & Neuburger, M. (2017). Trapped between privileges and precariousness: Tracing transdisciplinary research in a postcolonial setting. Futures, 93, 54–67.
Scholz, R. W., & Steiner, G. (2015). The real type and ideal type of transdisciplinary processes: Part II - what constraints and obstacles do we meet in practice? Sustainability Science, 10(4), 653–671.
Sivaraksa, S. (1975). A socially engaged Buddhism. Thai Inter-religious Commission for Development.
Smith, L. T. (2013). Decolonizing methodologies: Research and indigenous peoples. London: ZED Books.
Spivak, G. C. (2010). Can the Subaltern speak?. In R. C. Morris (Ed.), Can the Subaltern speak? (pp. 21–78). New York: Columbia University Press.
Spivak, G. C. (1985). The Rani of Sirmur: An essay in reading the archives. History and Theory, 24(3), 247.
The Assembly of the Poor (AOP), & Southeast Asia River Network. (2002). Mae Mun: Kaan klap ma khong khon ha pla [The river Mun: Return of the fishing people]. Chiang Mai: Southeast Asia Rivers Network. (In Thai)
Tongcumpou, C., & Harvey, N. (1994). Implications of recent EIA changes in Thailand. Environmental Impact Assessment Review, 14(4), 271–294.
Whyte, W. F. (Ed.). (1991). Participatory action research. Newbury Park: Sage Publications.
How to Cite
Articles published before December 2019 are licensed under the following Creative Commons License: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported. Articles published after that date are licensed under the following Creative Commons License: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International.