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Doing Critical Educational Research

A Conversation with the Research of John Smyth


John Smyth, Barry Down, Peter McInerney and Robert Hattam

John Smyth’s remarkable body of writing, research and scholarship has spanned four decades, and the urgency of our times makes it imperative to look in some depth at the breadth of his research and its trajectory, in order to see how we can connect, extend, build and enrich our understandings from it. Possibly the single most unique aspect to Smyth’s version of critical research is his passion for living and ‘doing’ what it means to be a critical pedagogue. For him, ‘doing’ is a verb that gives expression to what he believes it means to be a critical scholar. This necessitates actively listening to lives; taking on an advocacy position with informant groups; displaying a commitment to praxis; and being activist in celebrating ‘local responses’ to global issues. Smyth’s research is pursued with vigour through the lives he researches, as he interrupts and punctures ‘bad’ theory, supplanting it with more democratic alternatives, which, by his own admission, makes his research (and all research), political.


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We express our sincere appreciation to Shirley Steinberg and Peter Lang Pub- lishing, especially Chris Myers and Bernadette Shade as well as others who work behind the scenes, for the unique opportunity to bring this work into existence. We know of no other publisher who does anything as novel as what is attempted in this Teaching Contemporary Scholars series. We applaud Peter Lang Publishing for the truly remarkable space they have provided for this crucial work. When we first embarked on the process of scaffolding and writing this vol- ume, we were extremely mindful of the aim of the series which was to ‘highlight the work of those who have profoundly influenced the direction of academic work’ in challenging ‘dominant frameworks of particular disciplines’. No tall order! We hope that what we have encapsulated here lives up to that aspiration by providing an up close and ‘deeper, yet accessible’ reading of the extensive body of socially critical work of John Smyth. Above all, we hope it not only provides testi- mony to arguably one of the most feisty scholars to come out of ‘down under’, but at the same time, that the book will provide some urgent new entry points with which to negotiate and expand the research and thinking of this influential socially critical Australian scholar—if it does that, we will have succeeded spectacularly! One of the most significant defining hallmarks of John Smyth’s scholarship and research has been its enduring collaborative nature. Early on in his career...

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