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Living Well with Others: Exploring Community-Engaged Scholarship in Canadian Higher Education Open Access


Other title
decolonial engagement
Canadian higher education
academic privilege
scholarship of engagement
neoliberalization of higher education
community-engaged scholarship
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Kajner, Tania A
Supervisor and department
Dr. Lynette Shultz, Department of Educational Policy Studies
Examining committee member and department
Dr. Carmel Borg, Department of Education Studies
Dr. Janice Wallace, Department of Educational Policy Studies
Dr. David Smith, Department of Secondary Education
Dr. Alison Taylor, Department of Educational Studies
Dr. Antonia Samek, School of Library and Information Studies
Department of Educational Policy Studies
Educational Administration and Leadership
Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
Many Canadian scholars and institutions of higher education are embracing community-engaged scholarship (CES). However, the conceptual foundations and purposes informing CES remain ambiguous. As a result, CES is marked by confusion and contested practices, demonstrating the need to move to a more theoretical exploration of the field. At the time of this study, no pan-Canadian research has been done on Canadian scholars’ conceptualization of CES. In this thesis I explore how Canadian scholars conceptualize their community-engagement work and partnerships. Positioning the study within a hermeneutic framework and using a qualitative research design that included two semi-structured interviews with each of nine scholars occupying varying social, institutional, disciplinary and geographic locations within Canadian higher education, I examine three research questions: (1) How do scholars in Canada conceptualize engaged scholarship? (2) How do engaged scholars ontologically position themselves and Others in the engagement experience? (3) How does the changing context of higher education interact with the growing interest in community-engaged scholarship in Canada? In my analysis of findings I note the extent to which CES is problematically shaped by the neoliberalization of higher education. Study participants understand CES as a way to make scholarship meaningful by ensuring it is directly and immediately useful for community ends. CES was contrasted with what I have called conventional scholarship, which was problematized by study participants because it was seen as a way of enjoying privilege and practicing scholarship that lacked accountability. Echoing the discourse of new public management, study participants emphasized the need for external accountability in scholars’ work and saw CES as one way of achieving this. I also point out that in making sense of their work, study participants depict the contradictory tensions of constructing community as an Other in a way that reflects the dominant European legacy of colonial relations while at the same time articulating forms of interaction that are decolonial. I suggest that decoloniality may offer a way forward for those scholars positioned in the Western neoliberal university, experiencing the discipline that comes with surveillance of ideas and scholarly outputs, the exclusions that support pragmatic approaches in the context of corporate time, and the sense of meaninglessness that is experienced when one’s work does not appear to contribute to the social world in positive ways. The effects of decolonial CES might serve to disrupt the neoliberal university in unknown and unexpected ways. I suggest that decolonial CES is important and needs to be nurtured if Canadian scholars are going to relate to partners in truly reciprocal and equitable ways.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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