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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 8: Blurring Boundaries, Reconceptualizing Research, and Self-Discoveries


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This chapter, the final chapter, explores what can be learned from the journey of an insider activist researcher seeking social transformations around issues of gender. In doing so it makes a contribution to meta-theory (Giroux, 2001) by blurring the boundaries between critically reflecting on a personal journey of discovery and discussing the implications of that study for the broader field of critical qualitative research. Such a balancing act is complicated, creating a multifocused chapter. In Chapter 8 I examine how I was able to impact on others through my research, where I was positioned at the official end point of the study, and how my learnings might be useful to others wanting to construct and conduct activist research.

Throughout the chapter I switch from the impersonal voice to the highly personal and back again as a means of sharing personal, methodological, and conceptual insights. This changing modality reinforces my ongoing commitment to multiple ways of knowing and highlights my struggle to balance goodness (S. Jones, Arminio, & Torres, 2006) and authenticity (Guba & Lincoln, 2008) with research that is partial, political, personal, and complex. Whilst not multivoiced, my approach in this final chapter is multiregistered as I alternate between the first and third persons, and critically reflective moments and a more academic prose. This chapter continues to generate more questions ← 203 | 204 → than it answers, reinforcing the never-ending journey of discovery that is so fundamenatal to bricolage...

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