International Research Conference, Lancaster UK, 18 - 20 July 2016
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Close Up, or Inside Out?

Vicki Trowler, University of Edinburgh


McArthur’s HECU 8 Thinkpiece foregrounds recognition as a mechanism of social in/justice: “To deny or misrepresent recognition to another is to do injustice”. Fraser (2013:176) distinguishes between “injustices of distribution and injustices of recognition” stressing that while the latter are not reducible to the former, they are also not “merely cultural. In the context of HE research, injustices of recognition can translate into injustices of distribution, should mis/recognition in re/presentation be translated uncritically into policy.

One can conduct research into Social Justice in Higher Education, and / or one can conduct research for Social Justice in Higher Education. Depending on one’s orientation, one could argue that these ought – or ought not – to be the same. If one sets aside the myth of objectivity and steps outside of a positivist paradigm, one is further confronted with the question of whether research into social justice issues in HE can – or ought – to be studied from outside, or from within.

Trowler notes that “it is a political choice to turn the spotlight onto the marginalised”, and that it is important as an antidote to the partiality (in both senses) of accounts that consider only the experiences of the advantaged.

Issues of mis/recognition are pivotal in the re/presentation of marginalised, subaltern, or less powerful subjects. One way to challenge that is through truly endogenous research – not just “close up”, but “inside out”. This, however, presents its own challenges, since those subjects do not have access to the hegemonic discourse.

The “constraints” under which a knowledge worker tries to convince others of the reliability and validity of their claims, in constructing new knowledge can place the endogenous researcher in a conflicted position.

This paper will explore these issues through three different instantiations of researcher positionality, from three different studies: the first, a study of the perceptions of students who defined themselves as “non-traditional” within their own study contexts, where the researcher shared aspects of their subjectivities with several of the students being studied, but did not share their institutional locations; the second, a study of representations of a student-led decolonisation movement, where there researcher had shared an organisational location (and social transformation programme) with those being studied, but did not share fundamental subjectivities with them; and the third, a truly endogenous study of the “subordinate estate” of a university, where the researcher shared both the organisational location and key subjectivities with those being studied.


Social justice, endogenous research, researcher positionality

Link to Full Paper (If submitted)


Conference Organisers

Paul Trowler
Lancaster University, UK

Alice Jesmont
Lancaster University, UK

Malcolm Tight
Lancaster University, UK

Paul Ashwin
Lancaster University, UK

Murray Saunders
Lancaster University, UK

Chrissie Boughey
Rhodes University, South Africa

Suellen Shay
University of Cape Town, SA

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