Ubuntu and constructivist grounded theory: an African methodology package

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Abstract

Conducting qualitative research in Southern Africa can present challenges for researchers seeking to explore local perspectives on health phenomena. We must address sensitive issues such as language, translation and cultural differences as well as local history, power and, possibly, colonial legacies. Our purpose in this paper is to explore the use of a Southern African philosophy, Ubuntu, as an appropriate ontology to guide qualitative nursing research, specifically constructivist grounded theory. To do so, we briefly discuss the historical problematic of Western research and its relationship to Africa and Africans. We introduce the principles of Ubuntu and its role in African society and use constructivist grounded theory as an example of a methodology that is congruent with Ubuntu. We highlight the areas of correspondence between them. The values of Ubuntu, of mutuality, interdependence, humility, solidarity and so forth could serve as a way to strengthen any research, by reminding researchers to enter the field with humility, awe and wonder at the complexity of human life.

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