07 SES 04 C, Analysing and Shaping Educational Discourses
“Social justice” has multiple manifestations and meanings, and it evokes diverse understandings and responses. From some perspectives, “social justice” constitutes crucial accounts of the ineluctable implications of pre-existing socioeconomic inequities and strategies of oppression. From other perspectives, “social justice” has become associated with claims for specialised support not available to other groups. For governments and policy-makers, “social justice” is increasingly politicised and difficult to manage with regard to competing demands against the backdrop of an ever more volatile world.
Likewise, “intercultural education” assumes varied forms. Interpreted literally and specifically, it can refer to different cultural groups teaching and learning about other groups’ customary practices and about how to communicate with one another appropriately. Considered more broadly, “intercultural education” acknowledges the fundamental link between formal education and divergent prospects of educational success on the part of particular community members, as well as denoting a commitment to rendering those prospects more consistent and equitable for such community members.
These conflicting approaches to “social justice” and to “intercultural education” generate specific challenges and opportunities for education researchers who recognise unequal access to provision by certain learners and who desire to avoid being complicit with the stereotyped renditions that contribute to the marginalisation of those learners. This recognition and this desire in turn help to animate researchers’ strategies for working effectively and ethically with diverse participants and other stakeholders in the research.
These challenges and opportunities are certainly evident with regard to writing and publishing research about variously marginalised communities (Danaher, Cook, Danaher, Coombes, & Danaher, 2013). In this context, if “social justice” is to move beyond the rhetorical and the theoretical, it needs to frame and inform specific understandings and actions by researchers, participants, stakeholders and those who engage with the research findings. These understandings and actions are vital elements of decision-making pertaining to the representation of particular communities, the selection and deployment of specific dissemination techniques, opportunities for co-authorship between researchers and research participants, and broader claims about research effectiveness and impact.
This argument is illustrated by reference to writing and publishing strategies that the authors and their colleagues have employed in researching about education with six variously marginalised communities: occupationally mobile groups such as circuses and fairgrounds/shows in Australia, the United Kingdom and Continental Europe; teachers providing schooling for the children of those groups; non-traditional university students in Australia; vocational students with disabilities in Australia; environmental lobbyists in Japan; and retired people in Australia. While these are clearly six highly divergent groups, they share ambivalent experiences of formal education that are simultaneously marginalising and potentially transformative. The authors contend that the strategies for writing and publishing with and about these six groups constitute an effective litmus test for the accuracy of broader assertions about “social justice” and “intercultural education”.
The paper pursues this proposition in relation to the authors’ particular specialisations within the broader research team. The paper addresses the following research question: “How can education researchers’ writing and publishing strategies contribute to ameliorating the marginalisation of Australian, British and European occupational Travellers and Japanese environmental lobbyists in ways that promote social justice and intercultural education for those communities?”. Theoretically, this account is framed by understanding marginalisation as historically constructed and contextually situated, as well as exhibiting a complex interplay between centre and periphery (Pinto-Correia & Brennan, 2008) and as involving processes of othering (Borrero, Yeh, Cruz, & Suda, 2012). The analysis is focused also on the community dimension of experiences of marginalisation (Barrett, 2015), while remembering that communities are heterogeneous and reflect diverse and sometimes conflicting interests and viewpoints.
One of the two research projects analysed in this paper focused on the educational experiences and outcomes of the occupationally mobile circus and fairground or show communities whose work involves moving from town to town respectively presenting circus performances and operating the rides and stalls that constitute “sideshow alley”. This project included the second-named author’s doctoral thesis (Danaher, 2001) about the Australian show community, and it also yielded several publications by the broader research team, including the edited book Beyond the ferris wheel (Danaher, 1998). The second-named author also conducted interviews with circus and fairground families in the United Kingdom, Belgium and the Netherlands, which contributed to two subsequent research books (Danaher, Coombes, & Kiddle, 2007; Danaher, Kenny, & Remy Leder, 2009). The other research project analysed here entailed investigating the activities of Japanese environmental lobbyists, including those opposed to whaling. This investigation encompassed the lobbyists’ informal learning and teaching strategies as they strove to influence community attitudes and public policy. The project generated the first-named author’s doctoral thesis (Danaher, 2003) and his subsequent book (Danaher, 2008). Despite the clear differences between these projects, they were both concerned with certain manifestations of marginalisation experienced by the respective groups with whom they were concerned. The circus and fairground communities exhibited challenges in accessing schooling provision that catered effectively to their distinctively mobile lifestyles. The environmental lobbyists were often positioned negatively by governmental officials, business leaders and community representatives, who portrayed them as undermining Japanese cultural traditions. Both projects were qualitative in character (Silverman, 2016), deploying semi-structured interviews and focus groups as the principal data gathering technique and hence emphasising the power of words in affording insights into the participants’ aspirations and outcomes. Both projects also derived from the interpretivist paradigm (Denscombe, 2014; Ling & Ling, 2017), which highlights the multiple ways in which individuals and groups construct their worlds and make meanings from their worldviews, while being attentive also to the play of competing interests in and interpretations of those worlds. Interview and focus group data were interrogated using selected elements of thematic analysis (Guest, MacQueen, & Namey, 2012) and discourse analysis (Rogers, 2011). Efforts were made to ensure authentic and multidimensional representations of the participants in the publications and presentations arising from each project, as well as to maximise the ethical reciprocity attending both projects.
Writing and publishing strategies intended to ameliorate the marginalisation of the occupationally mobile circus and fairground communities in Australia, the United Kingdom and Continental Europe were clustered around two distinct approaches: representations of community members’ contexts and experiences; and co-authorship between some research team members and some of the teachers working with the community members. By contrast, and drawing partly on Lindeman (2007), four specific techniques underpinned the first-named author’s interactions with Japanese environmental lobbyists: moving from marginalisation and stereotyping to agency and literacy; acknowledging participants’ and researchers’ risks; articulating participants’ and researchers’ voices; and enacting multiple researcher roles and responsibilities. Despite the diversity of these strategies, they demonstrated a shared acknowledgment of the complex interplay among marginalisation, social justice and intercultural education. Partly this complexity accentuated the difficulties attending the amelioration of marginalisation; partly it highlighted the always constrained and contained opportunities for social justice and intercultural education contributing to transformation of certain kinds of marginalisation. Certainly, education researchers have an undoubted responsibility for orienting their writing and publishing approaches towards acknowledging and where possible helping to reduce the realities of marginalisation for many participants in their research projects. The effectiveness of these approaches lies in the extent to which such projects generate new understandings of contemporary marginalisation and new practices of social justice and intercultural education that contest and unsettle that marginalisation.
Barrett, G. (2015, April). Deconstructing community. Sociologia Ruralis, 55(2), 182-204. doi: 10.1111/soru.12057 Borrero, N. E., Yeh, C. J., Cruz, C. I., & Suda, J. F. (2012). School as a context for “othering” youth and promoting cultural assets. Teachers College Record, 114(2), 1-37. Danaher, M. J. M. (2003, June). The influences on and effectiveness of environmental policy-making and implementation in Japan: The issue of wildlife preservation. Unpublished Doctor of Philosophy thesis, Faculty of Commerce and Management, Griffith University, Brisbane, Qld, Australia. Danaher, M. J. M. (2008). Environmental politics in Japan: The case of wildlife preservation. Saarbrücken, Germany: VDM Verlag. Danaher, M. J. M., Cook, J. R., Danaher, G. R., Coombes, P. N., & Danaher, P. A. (2013). Researching education with marginalized communities. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan. Danaher, P. A. (Ed.) (1998). Beyond the ferris wheel: Educating Queensland show children. Rockhampton, Qld, Australia: Central Queensland University Press. Danaher, P. A. (2001, March). Learning on the run: Traveller education for itinerant show children in coastal and western Queensland. Unpublished Doctor of Philosophy thesis, Faculty of Education and Creative Arts, Central Queensland University, Rockhampton, Qld, Australia. Danaher, P. A., Coombes, P. N., & Kiddle, C. (2007). Teaching Traveller children: Maximising learning outcomes. Stoke on Trent, UK: Trentham Books. Danaher, P. A., Kenny, M., & Remy Leder, J. (Eds.) (2009). Traveller, nomadic and migrant education (Routledge research in education vol. 24). New York, NY: Routledge. Denscombe, M. (2014). (5th ed.). The good research guide for small-scale social research projects. Maidenhead, UK: Open University Press. Guest, G., MacQueen, K. M., & Namey, E. E. (2012). Applied thematic analysis. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Lindeman, N. (2007). Creating knowledge for advocacy: The discourse of research at a conversation organization. Technical Communication Quarterly, 16(4), 431-451. Ling, L., & Ling, P. (Eds.) (2017). Methods and paradigms in education research. Hershey PA: IGI Global. Merriam, S. B., & Tisdell, E. J. (2016). Qualitative research: A guide to design and implementation (4th ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Pinto-Correia, T., & Brennan, B. (2008). Understanding marginalisation in the periphery of Europe: A multidimensional process. In F. Brouwer, T. van Rheenen, S. S. Dhillion, & A. M. Elgersma (Eds.), Sustainable land management: Strategies to cope with the marginalisation of agriculture (pp. 11-40). Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing. Rogers, R. (Ed.) (2011). An introduction to critical discourse analysis in education (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge. Silverman, D. (Ed.) (2016). Qualitative research (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
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