Thai Baan Methodology and Transdisciplinarity as Collaborative Research Practices: Common Ground and Divergent Directions


  • Alexandra Heis University of Vienna
  • Vaddhanaphuti Chayan Chiang Mai University



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.

Author Biographies

Alexandra Heis, University of Vienna

Alexandra Heis is a PhD candidate at the Department of Development Studies, University of Vienna. Her research interests include social science methodology, transdisciplinarity, collaborative research, rural development, urban studies, critical migration research, and intersectionality.

Vaddhanaphuti Chayan, Chiang Mai University

Chayan Vaddhanaphuti serves as the director for the Regional Center for Social Science and Sustainable Development (RCSD) and the Center for Ethnic Studies and Development (CESD), Faculty of Social Sciences, Chiang Mai University. He is a renowned Thai scholar and activist and co-developed Thai Baan research in the early 2000s. His fields of interests include development studies, multiculturalism, ethnic relation, ethnic identity, cross-border issues, knowledge and power, health social science, resource management, and regionalization of development in the Mekong sub-region.


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