Activism in a troubled world: auto/biographical and narrative perspectives on struggles for the good and beautiful.
Our focus for the conference in Canterbury will be on activism, in its many forms. We wish to look at how activism has led some of us to life history and auto/biographical research, and or how our research has engaged us as activists. While activism was very present at the roots of adult education, the evolution of the field towards professionalization and more rigorous (scientific?) research has created a distance, if not a gap, between those who care and those who research.
Is activism still a value for researchers in adult education and learning? And how do we interpret it nowadays? We will create a space to interrogate activism, as a position of the researcher, as a philosophy, and as a value. It will allow us to focus on how the process and outcomes of research on adult education and learning has effects at the macro, meso and micro level, not least in ways that support learning, social justice and care for beleaguered cultures and our planet. We also wish to engage in provocative possibilities that the world of activism and research might be sufficiently different as to question what each can offer the other. Ultimately, we are asking if a life history and biography approach to researching adult formal, non-formal and informal learning can help in what the American pragmatists called a struggle for what is good and beautiful.
Previous conferences have asked delegates to consider learning lives and the role of life history and biography research in exploring the resources, personal and public, that can be drawn on to bring about hopeful change. Our research chronicles the battles of the self to resist the influence of darker forces: shadows of narcissism, patriarchy, colonialism, the seemingly insatiable desire to consume, all set within the context of a world of instant communication, and a rush to pass judgment in the clamor for ‘likes and dislikes’. Perhaps life history and auto/biography offer some hope where lives can be learned about at a deeper level. And processes of doing research provide spaces for dialogue and connectivity in diversity and thus stronger motivation towards activism. Such spaces can help us to explore questions about what is good, or good enough, as well as what is beautiful and aesthetically pleasing. We might address all this in the context of:
- What it means to be an activist and whose values we represent?
- In neoliberal times, is narrative research a source of activism in its own right?
- How do we learn to live on a planet suffering from human over consumption?
- Are academics just avoiding taking an activist stance?
- What can different lenses of gender, sexuality, culture and politics bring to our research?