Resisting the Impositional Potential of Student Voice Work: Lessons for liberatory educational research from poststructuralist feminist critiques of critical pedagogy

by Alison Cook-Sather
Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education ()


Early 21st-century cautions regarding student voice work in educational research echo in striking ways some poststructuralist feminist critiques of critical pedagogies that proliferated in the early 1990s. Both warn against totalizing, undifferentiated notions of and responses to oppressed, marginalized, and/or disempowered individuals or groups while sharing a commitment to the encouragement of critical analyses of existing social conditions (within and beyond classrooms) and the advocacy of changing dominant arrangements of power and participation. In this article, I explore how conceptions of and cautions regarding two key foci of liberatory efforts—identity and voice—throw into relief the impositional potential of those efforts. I offer the conceptual framework provided by “translation” to support a rethinking of students’ and researchers’ identities, roles, and participation in educational research as one of many necessarily ongoing efforts to resist the impositional potential of student voice work.

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