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Theorising participatory practice and alienation in health research: A materialist approach

Blencowe, Claire, Brigstocke, Julian and Noorani, Tehseen 2015. Theorising participatory practice and alienation in health research: A materialist approach. Social Theory and Health 13 (3-4) , pp. 397-417. 10.1057/sth.2015.23

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Health inequalities research has shown a growing interest in participatory ways of working. However, the theoretical ideas underpinning mainstream approaches to participation remain underexplored. This article contributes to theorising participatory practice for the kind of egalitarian politics to which many of those focused on reducing health inequalities are committed. First, we argue that the ambitions of participatory practice should be concentrated on ‘overcoming alienation’, rather than ‘attaining freedom from power’. An over-emphasis on negative freedom may help to explain a worrying confluence between participatory democracy and neo-liberal marketization agendas – we look instead to traditions of participatory practice that emphasize positive freedom and capacities for collaboration. Second, we discuss some such perspectives though consideration of critical pedagogy, but highlighting the role of materialised relations of authority, spaces, objects and encounters. Third, we explore the relationship between objectivity and alienation, arguing that participatory politics, against alienation, can look to reclaim objectivity for participatory, lively, practice. We then seek to show that participatory practice can play a role in creating common knowledge and culture, and in fostering a sense of public ownership over objective knowledge and institutions concerned with health. We conclude by asking what this looks like in practice, drawing some ‘rules of thumb’ for participatory practice in health inequalities research from existing inspiring examples.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Geography and Planning (GEOPL)
Subjects: R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
Uncontrolled Keywords: alienation; participation; power; critical pedagogy; materialism; health inequalities
Additional Information: This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) licence
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
ISSN: 1477-8211
Funders: AHRC
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 13 Nov 2020 11:45

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