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Unsettling Research

Using Critical Praxis and Activism to Create Uncomfortable Spaces

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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 2: Blurring Boundaries and Converging Fields

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BLURRING BOUNDARIES AND CONVERGING FIELDS

Working from within my own community, I set about examining what could be learned from the journey of an insider activist researcher seeking social transformations around issues of gender. I understood that my findings could make a contribution to knowledge in the fields of gender and education, social justice, and nascent activist pedagogies. I also understood that these three fields of knowledge had moments of epistemological and ontological convergence. It was within these blurred boundaries, junctures, and overlaps that I set about constructing the study. Fundamental to my approach was an understanding that there is a relationship between discursive constructions of gender in schools and discursive constructions of gender in schools’ wider communities.

The Gender Agenda

The 19th and early 20th centuries saw the birth of the feminist movement across Western societies. A central plank of this movement was women’s suffrage and making visible the invisible. The feminist movement challenged discursive constructions of gender perpetuating traditional patriarchal gender roles. It used discourses of resistance to question power inequities, class division, and capitalism (Giddens, 1984). Today the movement is known as first-wave feminism. It ← 21 | 22 → has been followed by two further discursive and ideological shifts known, respectively, as second- and third-wave feminism. First-wave feminism questioned what was seen as a hidden curriculum preparing girls for future roles as obedient, subservient, domestic service providers. Its proponents argued that women were being raised to be second-class citizens in...

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