Researching Social Justice in Higher Education from Both Insider and Outsider Perspectives

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


When conducting research in higher education for, or about, social justice , issues of power are usually surfaced. This often involves studying students, women, second-language speakers, or any mix of these and other attributes along familiar axes of difference. As noted by Trowler (2014:43), it is a “political choice” to study relatively marginalised or vulnerable populations, to redress the partiality (in both senses) of accounts which spotlight the advantaged. However, this choice highlights differences in positionality between those researched and the researcher – even where subjectivities may be common to both, but potentially exacerbated with increased difference.

bell hooks (1990:341-1) cautions against the appropriation of the subaltern’s experience by the researcher, often resulting in injustices of recognition and, potentially, of distribution . Such injustices have led to researched populations including First Nations in Canada, Australia and South Africa issuing codes of ethics with which any researchers are obliged to comply as a condition of access.

This raises the question of how well “close up” research can adequately address differentials of power to the satisfaction of both researcher and researched, and how well “inside out” research (conceived, conducted and communicated by endogenous researchers) provides a solution to these issues. This chapter considers these matters, drawing on three studies which involve different degrees of “insiderness” (involving dimensions of location, time and subjectivities) and proposes an orientation toward “situated sensitivity” in conducting such research.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLocating Social Justice in Higher Education Research
EditorsJan McArthur, Paul Ashwin
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherBloomsbury Academic
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9781350086760, 9781350086777
ISBN (Print)9781350086753, 9781350209695
Publication statusPublished - 19 Mar 2020
Externally publishedYes


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