Research as praxis: Unlearning oppression and research journeys

Beth Blue Swadener

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter explores ways in which my interest in social justice and antioppression work has taken me through many spaces and enabled me to seek out vehicles for action, voice, and collaboration�?in research, teaching, and community work. My passion for social justice issues, full inclusion, and community organizing goes back over 20 years; indeed, some of these ideologies have been with me as long as I can recall. I borrow the title of the chapter from a paper and book (Lather, 1991) which had great influence on me as I was engaging in qualitative research and beginning to re-frame my feminist assumptions. I recall hearing Patti Lather discussing related issues at the Ethnography Forum and sensing that her many challenges to critical ethnography and feminist pedagogy were right ‘on time’ for my development as a researcher in a field which is not typically known for its contributions to critical or feminist theory, post-modern discourses, or even qualitative inquiry�?the field of early childhood education. This is changing, of course (e.g., Jipson and Hauser, 1997; Kessler and Swadener, 1992), and this chapter explores ways in which these and other issues have been at the center of my ‘research as praxis’ agenda. I have also been influenced by Concha Delgado-Gaitan’s framing of ‘the ethnography of empowerment’ (Delgado-Gaitan, 1993), Liz Ellsworth’s interrogation of critical pedagogy (Ellsworth, 1989), and Michelle Fine’s continued interrogation of ‘ethnographer as ventriloquist’ and call to move ‘beyond a colonizing discourse of the Other’ (Fine, 1994). In this chapter, I draw from personal experiences in community work, teaching social policy and anti-bias, inclusive early education, and from a critical examination of my journey as an educational researcher. I have served in various leadership capacities in volunteer groups focusing on antipoverty action and child health promotion, advocacy for and with persons with disabilities, child care/early education, and, most recently, worked with street children and their mothers in Nairobi, Kenya. I have done research on anti-bias and inclusive early childhood education, social problem-solving in kindergarten and primary settings, child and family social policy in the United States and in Kenya, and have written on the need to deconstruct the pervasive ‘at risk’ label and its deficit baggage. I have organized the chapter to examine more closely several of these themes in my research ‘as praxis’. In terms of what guides me in framing research questions and designing and carrying out research related to issues of social justice and multiculturalism, I have divided this chapter into six sections: 1 early memories; 2 race, gender and full inclusion; 3 feminist perspectives and alliance building; 4 toward authentically collaborative research; 5 social policy and equity issues in early childhood; and 6 the ‘scholarship of teaching’; each of which reflects an area in which I have conducted research or done critical scholarship. Each section, in turn, frames that topic or issue in at least three contexts: my life experience and major influences on this issue, theoretical frameworks and work which has been particularly influential in this scholarship, and brief examples of some of my work in that area. Boundaries between personal and professional experiences are intentionally blurred, as they are deeply intertwined.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationMulticultural Research
Subtitle of host publicationA Reflective Engagement with Race, Class, Gender and Sexual Orientation
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)0203980840, 9781135707651
ISBN (Print)0750708808, 9780750708807
StatePublished - Jan 1 2005
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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