Unpacking Community Participation in Research: A Systematic Literature Review of Community-based and Participatory Research in Alaska





community; participation; research politics; collaboration; systematic literature review; inequality; Indigeneity; sociology


Although concepts of “community” and “participation” have been heavily critiqued in the social sciences, they remain uncritically applied across disciplines, leading to problems that undermine both research and practice. Nevertheless, these approaches are advocated for, especially in Indigenous contexts. To assess the use of these concepts, we conducted a systematic literature review of community-based and participatory research in Alaska, USA, where social change has been rapid, having ramifications for social organization, and where participatory and community-based approaches are heavily advocated for by Alaska Native organizations. Conceptualizations of community and participation were extracted and analyzed quantitatively and qualitatively. The majority of articles showed a lack of critical consideration around both terms, although this was especially the case in reporting around community. While this lack of critical consideration could lead to issues of local elite co-opting research, an alternative interpretation is that Western sociological literature surrounding community is not transferable to Indigenous contexts.