Participatory Action Research in a Poststructuralist Vein
This paper introduces a participatory action research process that has been shaped by poststructuralist thought. We report on the stages and outcomes of a project conducted in the Latrobe Valley, Victoria, Australia, a resource region that has experienced downsizing and privatising of its major employer, the state-owned power industry. Through a participatory action research process involving community members, local Council and academic researchers the singular economic identity of the region was challenged and a more enabling representation developed. Drawing on a discourse of the diverse economy and the asset-based approach to community development the project shed light on the wide range of economic activities residents were already engaged in and the multitude of abilities and ideas they possessed. This exercise produced a new representation of the economy of the Latrobe Valley that helped to shift the vision of what was possible in the region. In the final stage of the project this alternative vision was acted on as groups turned shared ideas into projects and those who were most used to being defined as economically dependent and victims of economic circumstances increasingly came to identify as active and contributing economic subjects in the diverse economy. The paper considers the role of subjectivity, representation and micropolitics in participatory action research and concludes with a reflection on the project's strengths and weaknesses.