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Qual Health Res. 2009 May;19(5):708-17. doi: 10.1177/1049732309334078.

The politics of conducting research on depression in a cross-cultural context.

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  • 1University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.


Successful community engagement is often a crucial component of effective qualitative research. In this article we reflect on our experience of engaging with ethnic minority communities in a qualitative study of help seeking for depression. Community engagement emerges as a complex process that provides important insights into the way mental illness is constructed in various cultural contexts and from diverse perspectives. Contested notions of ethnicity, culture, community, and depression were the domains in which personal and public politics were played out. We worked with bilingual research assistants who provided an entrée to the community. Despite this, disparate community subgroups and influential individuals vied for input into and control of the research agenda. We conclude that negotiating the politics of these processes requires great reflexivity and is itself a powerful seam of data, adding richness to findings about the experience of mental distress in a community seeking to locate itself within mainstream society.

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