The settler myth of self-reflection: Carol Lynne D’Arcangelis, ‘Revelations of a White Settler Woman Scholar-Activist: The Fraught Promise of Self-Reflexivity’, Cultural Studies = Critical Methodologies, 2017


Abstract: Based on a metanarrative analysis of the self-reflexive process I undertook during my research into the “solidarity encounter” between Indigenous women and White women in a contemporary Canadian context, I argue that self-reflexivity is a fraught mechanism for grappling with and dismantling structural privilege. I recount how, despite my best self-reflexive efforts and expectations to the contrary, I could not completely forestall some of the ways in which my subjectivity and hence power would infuse the research—specifically, in how the specter of the liberal subject would haunt it. This haunting, I contend, is indicative of the limits of self-reflexivity when it is underpinned by modernist/liberal ideologies of subjectivity. In short, I convey the perils and promises of self-reflexivity as a mechanism for revealing researcher impact on and for leveling power relations in social justice research (and beyond). Specifically, I identify in my own practice elements of the “validated reflexive strategies” critiqued by Wanda S. Pillow. I conclude that self-reflexivity is most valuable when approached as a window into structural oppression and privilege and not only into the power of researchers as individuals. Building on Sara Ahmed’s reflexive “double turn,” I argue that radical reflexivity is a better model for avoiding the vortex of a self-reflexivity performed by modernist/liberal subjects. I propose that radical reflexivity can assist researchers to identify the ways in which our structural positions overdetermine (though never absolutely or seamlessly) the contours of our scholarly and political commitments.

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