Dr Lara Allen has worked extensively in international development and has the ideal mix of skills to lead the Humanitarian Centre during its 2014-15 year focused on Empowered Voices and into the future. Lara has a PhD from the University of Cambridge and was Associate Professor and Research Fellow at the (University of Witwatersrand in South Africa. In 2007, she co-founded the Tshulu Trust, which links rural communities in the Venda region of South Africa with universities. The Trust aims to improve livelihoods by sharing knowledge and building the capacity of developing communities. Lara ran the organisation for eight years. Since 2012, Lara has been head of monitoring and evaluation, research, capacity building and communications at Misean Cara, an Irish NGO, which supports development projects worldwide. She took up her post on the 6th of October 2014.
Lara Allen has tackled the subject of who has the expertise to research black South African music. This was brought out by debates claiming that white scholars cannot adequately represent black people. Allen, a young white woman, interviewed black South African musicians, Sibongile Khumalo, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Ebony, Rebecca Malope, and others.
Her experience revealed that shared identity does not furnish the ability to effectively research and represent others; only the development of investigative analytical and writing skills can assure this.
Allen asserts that the musicians were more concerned about who she was as a person and whether she had respect for them and their work and whether she could be trusted rather than being anxious about her racial identity. Rebecca Malope's responses underlined the irrelevance of racial identity in research, „I don't understand why they say no. No, it's wrong! They're wrong. How can I – if I was a journalist and then I have interview Céline Dion. Céline Dion is a white person, you understand?
Ebony commented on the issue of building rapport with informants: as long as you've got a good relationship, we've been together. And whereby you are always willing to listen to what I'm asking from you. ...but if you've got good communication then I don't think there's anything wrong with it.
Sibongile Khumalo on the other hand raised the point about the importance of the informant's culture stating that it depends how much you as a person are willing to be guided by the people who live the culture – are willing to find out exactly what is indeed happening in the culture.
Concern about respect for informants and their work is implicit in Yvonne Chaka Chaka's comment. She told Allen: in fact I would love you to do it properly...
Those other people, they just do these things and they add their sauces and creams and what have you, without even doing proper research. So I'd actually love you to do it correctly.
These comments clearly denounce shared identity as the basis for effective and responsible research and representation. Contrary to Allen's situation, Christopher Dunbar Jr. (2002), an African American scholar, worked with young African American males. Unlike Allen, Dunbar shared racial identity with his subjects. However, that did not prevent his informants from being suspicious of him and his research motives. Though Dunbar shared racial identity with his informants, he came from a different background and consequently his informants could not honestly relate their experiences with him (Dunbar, Rodriguez and Parker, 2002: 281).
These accounts attest that sharing a common racial, or in this researcher's case ethnic background, does not guarantee effective nor correct and responsible representation.
Sharing an ethnic identity with informants does not necessarily mean shared meaning, especially because of different backgrounds.
My gender too may have affected the research process. In Gender Issues in Ethnography, Warren and Hackney outline female researcher's experiences in the field. Some of these experiences include: being denied entry to certain areas or people, being adopted as children, being proposed to for marriage and sometimes being sexually abused (2002). Similarly, Terry Arandell (2007) tells of her experience while interviewing divorced men. Arandell writes how some of these men put her in her place by taking over the interview in an attempt to maintain their position as men. Some of them by contrast only spoke with her precisely because she was a woman. By Lara Allen.
Here are some of his works:
1990. Themes and Variations: The Structure of Kwela Music (South Afiican Penny Whistle Jazz, 1954-1964).
1991. The Effect of Repressive State Policies on the Development and Demise of Kwela Music: South Africa 1955-65.
1993. Pennywhistle Kwela: A Musical, Historical and Socio-Political Analysis. University of Natal.
1995. "Drumbeats, Pennywhistles and All That Jazz": The Relationship Between Urban.
1997. A common hunger to sing : a tribute to South Africa's black women of song, 1950 to 1990.
2000. Representation, gender and women in black South African popular music, 1948-1960.