The Urban Review

, Volume 41, Issue 1, pp 7–28

The Role of Language & Discourse in the Investigation of Privilege: Using Participatory Action Research to Discuss Theory, Develop Methodology, & Interrupt Power



Rooted in feminist philosophy, critical race theory, and participatory action research (PAR), I partnered with four faculty and four students at an elite, private, college preparatory day school for boys in order to examine bullying. In this article I closely examine the role of language and discourse when conducting counter hegemonic research with people who are predominantly privileged and within institutions designed to reproduce those privileges. I briefly describe the co-construction of our theory and instrument to illustrate that our close attention to language in regards to bullying both helped us understand our work and changed how we went about conducting the study. I describe how our strategic use of language to broadly define bullying helped us capture interesting data and interrupt power. And finally, I discuss our political use of language to others and suggest that while it paved a safer space for us to conduct our work it also may have restricted our work from having the power to resist co-optation and promote sustainable, systemic change.


Privilege Masculinity Participatory action research Independent schools Private schools Education Methodology Language Discourse Power Wealthy White 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Social Personality Psychology, Graduate CenterCity University of New YorkNew YorkUSA

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