Criticality in Participatory Action Research

For the past couple of days I’ve had the pleasure of attending sessions at Durham University’s Centre for Social Justice and Community Action, which has been brilliant. Visitors Caitlin Cahill, Karen Schwartz and Shauna Butterwick have been giving presentations and provoking discussions on what participation means within the current climate of participatory culture so prevalent within the rhetoric of neo-liberalist societies. There is some moving and inspiring work going on across the pond that is dealing with criticality of race, gender and class differences within institutions and communities and the challenges of embracing the transformational potential of participation. All the discussions really resonated with how researchers within large institutions are constantly challenged about the long-term nature of participation within community, and the expectations of producing work that has impact that is recognised as relevant. Caitlin described her work around policing within black and latino communities and how this creates problematic evidence, constructing ‘problem’ areas through stop and search in order to later make a case for gentrification and re-development.

Caitlin described the work she is engaged with in communities using data and making films to challenge the police to re-consider stopandfriskapptheir approaches to stop and search. (See this blog that talks about different aspects of the project – including this stop and frisk app pictured .

Karen discussed her work with indigenous communities in Canada and work around OCAP – Ownership, Control, Access and Possession) as principles to guide community research within the context of First Nation cultures.

Shauna discussed the very moving autobiographical work she has been doing with a Muslim student around critical race theory and understanding white institutional racism and her own complicity as a white woman of privilege.

Food for thought in the considering how the digital is being mobilised in such work.

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