The mine proposal has generated a lot of strong opposition as well as support. It is not always clear, though, that everyone completely understands the issues. As a researcher and facilitator I attempted to make use of artistic processes aimed towards clarifying some of the issues and creating space for dialogue.
Based on my preliminary fieldwork I observed that the issue is often framed as a simple conflict between jobs and economic development on one side and water and the environment on the other. I believe that the issue is more complex.
To get past the positions—the strategic political talking points on both sides—there is a need to frame the questions in ways that the issue can be viewed more broadly. A combination of qualitative research approaches (data collection and presentation) is necessary to get beyond the either/or thinking of the issue. As Slim and Thompson suggest, oral testimony and a mixture of qualitative research approaches tap into “hidden, undocumented worlds” and can be useful for “exposing the inadequacy of generalisations and revealing the rich variety of human experience” (90).
My basic goal was to design a project that would sharpen an understanding of the complexity of the issue and allow people to see beyond polarizing positions and toward an understanding at a level of core values and basic human needs.
To get at this complexity, I think that it is important to understand what it is about this issue that has gotten people so committed.
- What motivates both the support and opposition to the mine?
- What do people believe that the mine promises or threatens?
- What values do they hold?
My hypothesis is that at least among core stakeholders, members of the communities surrounding the proposed mine site, in spite of their strong opposition to each other there could exist a degree of shared values. What is it about this somewhat remote place with significant economic challenges that keeps people there and draws people in? In order to tap into an understanding of those shared values, I have chosen to frame my basic research question as an exploration of the characteristics of a cherished place.