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The Personal is Political: Developing new subjectivities through participatory action research

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Participatory action research (PAR) is gaining critical attention from scholars across the social sciences, and in the field of geography more specifically, as it promises a viable alternative for researchers concerned with social justice. If most of the benefits of PAR are identified in terms of its potential as a vehicle for social change and action, PAR's role in personal change is less understood. This paper considers the development of new subjectivities in a PAR process from a post-structural perspective. My objective is to reframe and connect the social justice orientation of PAR to a feminist post-structural project which emphasizes the fluidity and multiplicity of subject positions as the basis for personal (and social) transformation. Analysis draws upon collaborative research conducted with six young women in New York City and their project Makes Me Mad: Stereotypes of young urban womyn of color. Discussion addresses the role of critical reflection, dialogue, emotion, and narrative in the participatory research process. Building upon critical educator/theorist Paolo Freire's contributions to PAR, I address issues of power, scale, and the politics of location in order to contribute to understandings of spatial praxis.
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Keywords: Paolo Freire; Participatory action research; post-structuralism; subjectivity; young women of color

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Utah, USA

Publication date: June 1, 2007

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