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The Epistemological Challenge of Higher Education Student Volunteering: “Reproductive” or “Deconstructive” Volunteering?

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Abstract:  This paper addresses student volunteering as an important socio‐cultural trend which is generally taken for granted and un‐interrogated. We explore tensions inherent in the practice and articulation of higher education student volunteering, via biographical narratives of contrasting student volunteers and employ Rose's (1993, Feminism and Geography: The Limits of Geographical Knowledge, University of Minnesota Press) theory of “paradoxical space” to unpick and understand these narratives, as this has proven a generative approach to re‐conceptualising students’ engagement with universities and communities. Building on this theoretical approach, we propose a new conceptual framework to analyse students’ learning and understanding of social justice through volunteering. This framework contrasts reproductive altruism, or volunteering which reproduces social inequalities, with a deconstructive form that provides students with resources to recognise and challenge power relations and inequality in society.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Earth Sciences and Geography, Keele University, Keele ST5 5BG, UK; 2: Faculty of Education, Rolle Building, University of Plymouth, Plymouth, PL4 8AA;

Publication date: March 1, 2012

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