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Peer research with young Muslims and the politics of knowledge production

Anna Vassadis (Sociology department, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia)
Ameera Karimshah (Sociology department, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia)
Anita Harris (Sociology department, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia)
Youssef Youssef (Sociology department, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia)

Qualitative Research Journal

ISSN: 1443-9883

Article publication date: 10 August 2015




The purpose of this paper is to draw on the authors’ experiences as a team made up of both “insiders” and “outsiders” in order to investigate how an insider-outsider peer research method facilitates productive forms of research into the lives of young Muslims, and to contribute to debates about ways of knowing youth. The authors aim to shift focus from a common claim that peer research methods simply improve research about youth to more deeply investigate how they enable, as well as limit, the production of particular kinds of knowledge, in this case, about Muslim youth in Australia.


The research aimed to explore how “ordinary” young Australian Muslims engage in civic life. Yet the authors were faced with the challenge of accessing and recruiting “ordinary” youth in times of Islamophobia, wherein Muslim communities expressed serious concerns about their voices being misinterpreted, misused and misappropriated. Therefore, the authors sought to utilise an approach of outsider-designed and guided research that was then shaped and executed by insider peer researchers. It is this research design and its execution that the authors interrogate in this paper.


As well as affording the authors access and the elicitation of rich, complex and high-quality data, the approach also fostered more complex stories about young Muslim identities and experiences, and enabled the authors to contest some common and homogenising representations. It also allowed opportunities for fundamental issues inherent in these kinds of qualitative research methods to be made explicit. These include the politics of performativity and issues of positionality in the peer research process. The authors suggest that the “insider” and “outsider” approach succeeded not so much because it got the authors closer to the “truth” about young Muslims’ civic lives, but because it revealed some of the mechanics of the ways stories are constructed and represented in youth research.


The originality and value of this paper lie in its contribution to a debate about the politics of knowledge production about young people and Muslims in particular, and in its effort to move forward a discussion about how to be accountable in youth research to the various communities and to one another in insider-outsider research teams.



The authors would like to thank the other members of the research team: Dr Joshua Roose, Dr Sajida Tilley, Arif Hussein, Kawthar Girach and Zahra Al Sayoud. The research was funded by the Australian Research Council.


Vassadis, A., Karimshah, A., Harris, A. and Youssef, Y. (2015), "Peer research with young Muslims and the politics of knowledge production", Qualitative Research Journal, Vol. 15 No. 3, pp. 268-281.



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Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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