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What’s so good about participation? Politics, ethics and love in Learning Together

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Ludlow, Amy 


jats:p This article tells the story of our movement towards using participatory approaches in an action research project aiming to understand the experiences and impacts of belonging to learning communities that span prison and university walls. We draw on our experiences over the past 5 years of building learning communities involving students from higher education and criminal justice organisations and describe some of our attempts to provide creative opportunities for participation and voice within research. We highlight some of the benefits that we have seen through adopting these approaches, as well as some of the discomforts that we, and our students, have experienced. We use these examples to question for whom we think participation ‘works’, whether participation is always good, or whether it can, rather, sometimes cause harm, and the extent to which participation addresses some of the ethical concerns levelled at more traditional approaches to social science research, including matters of power, purpose, positioning and personhood. Using the work of Cantillon and Lynch as an orienting framework, in the conclusions we return to their arguments to suggest that the benefits of participatory action research might not be in alleviating these ethical concerns, but rather in establishing affective links between people occupying different roles within research, thus imbuing the process with love. This has the potential to transform all of the actors, and the research itself. </jats:p>



3903 Education Systems, 39 Education, 8 Health and social care services research, 8.3 Policy, ethics, and research governance, 16 Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

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Methodological Innovations

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SAGE Publications