Social Justice through Collaborative Action Research

I have been at the collaborative action research network conference for the last three days. A paradoxical experience – I am both delighted to be among action researcher colleagues working for social justice and painfully aware of the privilege going to a ‘conference’ represents.

The conference has offered a dizzying array of rich and wonderful papers and experiences. I have a few highlights to share in an attempt to wider the accessibility of such events.

Professor Margaret Ledwith implored us to all understand people in context: “Can we really claim to practice PAR with its commitment to social and environmental justice without contextualising that practice within the political context which shapes people’s personal experiences?”

Professor Helen Young made a call for the knowledges of arts processes to be embedded into life and research on the grounds that: “I make and therefore I think”.

Professors Sarah Banks and Mary Brydon-Miller presented erudite discussion of the complex and nuanced area of ethics in participatory action research and that there are no simple answers or checklists capable of guiding action.

Michael Wrentschur ran an image drama workshop that provided rich tools for exploring lived realities without the constraints of language.

Gary Mottam and Susan Dawson shared innovative use of WhatsApp to deliver seminars to people who cannot travel to events, to provoke professional learning, and to capture research data along the way.

Theodora Agapogolu described the challenges she has faced entering a Turkish Muslim Roma ‘ghetto’ in Greece and I was impressed by her courage to do so against the advice of advisors, supervisors and family, and the great impact that courage has manifested.

Michaela Harrison gave a theoretically dynamite presentation on using a Deleuzian and Guttarian ‘Implicated Reading’ of texts – wow! Bringing learning journals and popular culture texts together to allow for the creation of ‘possible realities by producing new articulations of disparate phenomena’ (as cited by Alvermann, 2000: 116).

Lou Mycroft and Kay Sidebottom presented their ‘nomadic ethics’ informed by posthuman ethics. This had the most impact on me out of all the sessions with the potential it promises for bringing about an alternative world through research “Posthuman research is an enactment of knowing being that emerges in the event of doing research itself. In opening new means to integrate thinking and doing, it offers an invitation to come as you are and to experiment, invent and create” Taylor, 2016.

Theory and practice, structures and agency, and speaking to power in order to achieve social justice pervaded the conference. I am leaving further rejuvenated and inspired to make a difference in my own small way with the communities I am connected to, through emancipatory practice, to bring about social justice.

Thank you to CARN for a sustaining community of practice.


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