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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Social justice : an ethnography of experiences lived and choices made Lane, Penny


My research explores the historical-social-cultural-intersubjective context of the meanings for social justice held by a small group of leaders. Drawing on dialogue theory, I hold a stance in the research that it is in our language and our relationships with ‘others’ that we re-shape and co-create understandings of our social world. In relationship we draw out from one another our lived experiences and moments of dialogue, making visible in them the underlying currents of language that weave in and through our meanings of what is just. This research foregrounds the relational and language processes through which these leaders construct meanings for social justice. Over a six month period, a series of thoughtful conversations were held within a space that was carefully created to foster relationship and trust. By eliciting stories, engaging around questions prompted by deep curiosity, and fostering reflexivity, the processual moves of making meaning for what is socially just were made visible. Key theoretical concepts were drawn from the work of Martin Buber, Paulo Freire, Mikhail Bakhtin, and Hans-Georg Gadamer. The findings these conversations elicited are shared through four landscapes: stories of awakening and deepening awareness of social (in)justice; experiences and choices in acting in socially just ways; the creation of dialogic moments and the practices that foster them; and the language and utterances that contextualize these meanings for social justice. The core premise of my research is that our meanings of social justice are evolving and living constructs and the locus for acting justly is situated in our relationships. This research offers a glimpse into how our search for meanings of social justice dwells in the day-to-day lived experiences of people. Processual practices of meaning making made visible in the research are an ability to create relational space with ‘others,’ an understanding of one’s own deeply held beliefs about one’s self and about ‘others,’ the crossing of social boundaries that bring understanding of diverse perspectives, and a holding open to the ambiguity of contesting language forces.

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