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Anti-Oppression and Academia: Applying critical methodologies to study identity and student experiences in university settings

Weber, Lena LU and Hermanson, Anna LU (2015) HEKM50 20151
Human Ecology
Abstract
With increasing frequency we hear calls from activists and academics alike to tackle the structural roots of the current global social-ecological crisis. For those of us situated within academia, this provides an opportunity to critically examine how underlying processes related to the roots of this crisis manifest in and are perpetuated by our own institutions, and how to make academic programs within the ‘pipeline’ into environmental work more attractive and accessible to diverse voices. Traditional academic research often reinforces negative power structures, and so it is necessary to explore anti-oppressive research methodologies to tackle these structural roots. Thus, this thesis examines how identity shapes student experiences,... (More)
With increasing frequency we hear calls from activists and academics alike to tackle the structural roots of the current global social-ecological crisis. For those of us situated within academia, this provides an opportunity to critically examine how underlying processes related to the roots of this crisis manifest in and are perpetuated by our own institutions, and how to make academic programs within the ‘pipeline’ into environmental work more attractive and accessible to diverse voices. Traditional academic research often reinforces negative power structures, and so it is necessary to explore anti-oppressive research methodologies to tackle these structural roots. Thus, this thesis examines how identity shapes student experiences, including our own, in the context of Lund University’s master’s program in Human Ecology - Culture, Power and Sustainability (CPS), with an eye to the development of an activist-academic research collective. Via a methodological and epistemological foundation rooted in feminist theory, critical race theory, anti-oppression, queer methodologies, and participatory action research, we conducted 17 open-ended interviews and two focus groups with current and former CPS students while emphasizing ongoing consent, collaborative participation, and constant methodological self-reflection. Our results reveal a number of themes in student experiences that we connect to broader phenomena. We identify perceived institutional mis/mal-recognition of CPS due to the program’s critiques of the status quo and leftist environmentalist perspectives, but increased positive recognition of activist/leftist/politicized identities within our program’s community. Interpersonal dynamics in the classroom tended to reproduce broader power structures (such as sexism, racism, classism and ableism), which some respondents attributed to the unstructured nature of class discussion. There is a strong desire amongst respondents to engage with non-university communities and for opportunities for environmental justice-oriented practical research. We conclude by identifying potential focuses for an activist-academic research collective and recommendations for the Lund Human Ecology division with relevance for academic institutions in general. The thesis also includes considerable methodological reflections - relevant for anyone interested in conducting anti-oppressive research within their own community. (Less)
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author
Weber, Lena LU and Hermanson, Anna LU
supervisor
organization
course
HEKM50 20151
year
type
H2 - Master's Degree (Two Years)
subject
keywords
Identity, Anti-Oppression, Student Experience, Critical Race Theory, Feminist Theory, Queer Methodologies, Participatory Action Research
language
English
id
5387481
date added to LUP
2015-06-25 15:38:31
date last changed
2015-06-25 15:38:31
@misc{5387481,
  abstract     = {With increasing frequency we hear calls from activists and academics alike to tackle the structural roots of the current global social-ecological crisis. For those of us situated within academia, this provides an opportunity to critically examine how underlying processes related to the roots of this crisis manifest in and are perpetuated by our own institutions, and how to make academic programs within the ‘pipeline’ into environmental work more attractive and accessible to diverse voices. Traditional academic research often reinforces negative power structures, and so it is necessary to explore anti-oppressive research methodologies to tackle these structural roots. Thus, this thesis examines how identity shapes student experiences, including our own, in the context of Lund University’s master’s program in Human Ecology - Culture, Power and Sustainability (CPS), with an eye to the development of an activist-academic research collective. Via a methodological and epistemological foundation rooted in feminist theory, critical race theory, anti-oppression, queer methodologies, and participatory action research, we conducted 17 open-ended interviews and two focus groups with current and former CPS students while emphasizing ongoing consent, collaborative participation, and constant methodological self-reflection. Our results reveal a number of themes in student experiences that we connect to broader phenomena. We identify perceived institutional mis/mal-recognition of CPS due to the program’s critiques of the status quo and leftist environmentalist perspectives, but increased positive recognition of activist/leftist/politicized identities within our program’s community. Interpersonal dynamics in the classroom tended to reproduce broader power structures (such as sexism, racism, classism and ableism), which some respondents attributed to the unstructured nature of class discussion. There is a strong desire amongst respondents to engage with non-university communities and for opportunities for environmental justice-oriented practical research. We conclude by identifying potential focuses for an activist-academic research collective and recommendations for the Lund Human Ecology division with relevance for academic institutions in general. The thesis also includes considerable methodological reflections - relevant for anyone interested in conducting anti-oppressive research within their own community.},
  author       = {Weber, Lena and Hermanson, Anna},
  keyword      = {Identity,Anti-Oppression,Student Experience,Critical Race Theory,Feminist Theory,Queer Methodologies,Participatory Action Research},
  language     = {eng},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  title        = {Anti-Oppression and Academia: Applying critical methodologies to study identity and student experiences in university settings},
  year         = {2015},
}