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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 5: Deepening Understandings and Beginning to Unsettle Things


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As my research gained momentum, it became evident that the reflexive dyadic interviews (Kincheloe & Berry, 2004) I was using were doing more than just excavating the What is? of gender beliefs and practices in and across Wheatville. They were also providing spaces for a collaborative rethink of long-held beliefs and assumptions about gender to occur. In making “asymmetries of power and privilege” (McLaren, 2003b, p. 193) transparent, those of us involved in the research act could not help but question them. We began to resee, reflect on, and rethink previously unquestioned social norms, assumptions, and discursive constructions. This led to a reimagining of what could or should be. Such reconceptualizations transgressed into elements of the second phase of the inquiry, intervention, and self-discovery cycle (see Figure 4.1, p. 59)—What could or should be? and What can I do about it? The blurring of paradigmatic boundaries between critical ethnographic practices and critical consciousness-raising is in keeping with the complexity and interconnectivity that is fundamental to bricolage.

This chapter hones and extends the broad sociodiagnostic critique begun in Chapter 1. As it is an extensive chapter, it has been divided into two sections. Part A presents multiple sources of evidence exploring how gender was being constituted and performed in Wheatville’s schools; Part B explores ← 83 | 84 → how gender was being constituted and performed in and across the wider community of Wheatville. The two parts of the...

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