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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 6: Using Activist Dialogues to Unsettle and Transform Thinking


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This chapter describes my activist journey as I moved beyond contemplating What could or should be? to address the What can I do about it? and How do others see me as a result of what I’ve done? questions from the cycle of inquiry, intervention, and self-discovery introduced in Chapter 3. Chapter 6 favors a more literary style than the other chapters. Adapting this style personalizes my experiences for the reader. I tell my story using a journal entry format which includes what I did, how others responded to me, and how this in turn made me feel, resee, and react. My critical and feminist lenses are foregrounded as I invoke autoethnographic techniques and critically reflective practices to deepen understandings of the risks and rewards of being an insider activist researcher.

Specifically, I set out to discover what transformative thinking or action was possible through a communal unsettling of phallocentric discourses of white male entitlement. Whilst others’ views are represented in this chapter—via a selection of media articles and interviews—the emphasis is on understanding how I positioned others and was positioned by others as a result of my social activism. This phase of the research act was informed by theories of public pedagogy, resistance, and radical feminism. As an activist researcher I drew on Butler’s (2004) work to combine theoretical knowledge with a ← 149 | 150 → practical process of intervention capable of inspiring social...

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