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Title: Power, emotions and embodied knowledges: doing PAR with poor young people in El Salvador
Authors: Van Wijnendaele, Barbara
Advisors: Ansell, N
Smith, F
Keywords: Participation;Emotion;Empowerment;Central America
Issue Date: 2011
Publisher: Brunel University
Abstract: From March 2006 until March 2008 I worked and did research with young people in El Salvador. I coordinated a local youth participation project in the capital, where, at the same time, I conducted fieldwork for my PhD research. The youth project aimed at empowering young people through participatory action research (PAR) and, together with the young participants, I critically reflected on the empowering impact of this participatory process. While participatory researchers and practitioners traditionally stress the importance of critical consciousness and critical discourse as the principal motors for individual and social transformation, my research with the young people particularly confronted me with the power of emotions and embodied knowledges. This research focuses in particular on the politics of emotions; their role in confirming exclusion and oppression and in facilitating empowerment and resistance. In this thesis, I bring together different bodies of theory. I start from the critical literature on PAR and from a poststructuralist account of power and empowerment. I build on an understanding of emotions as socio-culturally constructed and, at the same time, as deeply embodied phenomena. I look into emotional geographies considering emotions as relational and as always functioning within power relations and I use non-representational theory to challenge the privilege of cognition by focussing on practical and embodied knowledges and explicitly recognising their political and empowering potential. I conclude that although participatory researchers have increasingly extended and refined their understanding of power and empowerment, they still focus too much on critical reflection, discourse and conscious/linguistic representation as key to personal and social change. This focus has distracted their attention from the way power works through emotions and embodied knowledges. I believe that participatory researchers should become more sensitive still to the subtleties of power by paying more explicit attention to how emotions and embodied knowledges function within power relations to reproduce or challenge the existing status quo. Such a focus also opens new doors to new ways of empowerment (and politics) by considering alternative methods and media directly engaging with the power of emotions and embodied knowledges to shape the social world.
Description: This thesis was submitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy and awarded by Brunel University
Appears in Collections:Human Geography
Dept of Life Sciences Theses

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