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Unsettling Research

Using Critical Praxis and Activism to Create Uncomfortable Spaces


Sherilyn Lennon

Unsettling Research investigates what can be learned from the journey of an insider activist researcher seeking social transformations around issues of gender in an isolated rural Australian community. Unique and risky in its undertaking, the research evolves to create a new discourse in qualitative research. A seamless bricolage of autobiography/ethnography, narrative, feminist theory, critical theory, media literacy, critical pedagogy, and social theory, this work takes qualitative research to the next level. It enacts the notion of social justice, while creating a new lens through which to view action via research … research via action. The author allows the personal to establish positionality, and then works from within her position to create a meta-perspective on dialogue, action, and community manifestations of power. The analytic component of the research couples an ongoing process of coming-to-know with a need to address a community issue. By developing a conceptual framework and a process for disclosing and dislocating ideological hegemony and its associated power imbalances, the research adds to knowledge in the fields of gender and education, social justice, and nascent activist pedagogies. Whilst the particulars are located in Australia, the book creates a global lens for qualitative activist research.
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Chapter 1: The Evolution of an Activist Study


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Who Am I?

I am a white, middle-aged, middle-class female who has feminist leanings and political intentions. At the time of conducting this research I lived on a grain and cattle property with my family, 15 minutes from the rural community of Wheatville.1 Two of my children were at boarding school in the state’s capital city, and my youngest was in her final year at the local state primary school. I had met my future husband—a Wheatville farmer and landowner—during the Easter break of my first year of teaching. We met at the local picnic races and married 3 years later. My husband was the owner/manager of the property on which I lived: the property on which his older brother and grandparents had lived before him. Many of my professional female friends were also married to farming men and, likewise, their husbands had inherited the properties on which they lived from their parents.

I had lived and worked in Wheatville for more than 25 years. Over this time I had become committed and attached to the community personally, professionally, and historically. I am convinced that by marrying a member of a well-known local family, my acceptance and status within the community had been both fast-tracked and bolstered. However, in my early days in ← 1 | 2 → Wheatville I had much to learn about its customs and traditions. It took me quite a few years...

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