On Being Critical: Uniting Theory and Practice through Emancipatory Action Research

December 2007

Source: Educational Action Research, Volume 15, Issue 4  December 2007, pages 597 - 611.

This paper engages with some of the specific issues that challenge critical practice. The author's argument is related to the Carr and Kemmis debate on 'staying critical'.

The author refers to critical practice as any practice that has a transformative social justice intention, and which happens in a range of contexts from grassroots community activism to more institutionalised settings, such as hospitals or schools.

This paper is founded on emancipatory action research developed over many years in grassroots practice. It is the author's view that emancipatory action research, committed to the practice of social justice, with the intention of bringing about social change, is a necessary component of critical practice. In fact, I would go so far as to say that emancipatory action research is the glue that binds critical praxis in a unity of theory and action.

However, all too often collective action for change is not followed through to its greatest potential, and practice remains contextualised in the immediate, local and specific making critical connections with the structural roots of oppression from which inequalities emanate. The result is that we constantly fixate on symptoms, and leave the root causes free to perpetuate oppressions.
At the same time, we find ourselves in a globalised world marked by intensifying social divisions.  The author's intention is to raise a few issues which present challenges to get beyond sticking points in critical practice as we face times in which there is an accelerating urgency to 'become critical'.

Updated: Dec. 31, 2007