Author(s): 

Becky Clarke, Kathryn Chadwick and Patrick Williams 

This paper creates an opportunity for the authors to reflect on our collective efforts to create a space within the academy through which we can actively support communities and groups who are challenging injustice. Herein we consider the potential role of the academic in supporting sites of political or legal struggle, how we work to, with and within groups or communities attempting to resist State power. What is evident is the importance of reflexivity, considering and articulating our position, as a guiding principle. The issues we examine here are connected to our wider network beyond our collective work or institution. 

In attesting to the virtues of critical social research, we draw upon our experiences particular our ongoing work with, and contributions to, the Hillsborough and JENGbA justice campaigns. When considered together this activity reveals a number of emergent themes which give shape to our approach in contributing to ‘sites of resistance’. We understand these spaces to be the intersections where State power and its impact on the lives of those who experience injustice is revealed. The site is then both a physical space of meeting, but could also be conceptualised as a conscious space where, by coming together, individuals, families, supporters, critical lawyers and academics, and other stakeholders make sense of the injustice together. Through this collective awakening the group can draw strength and generate strategies to challenge State power. It is in these spaces that resistance can be developed, nurtured and discussed.

The principles for discussion within this paper include: ‘being there’, ‘bearing witness’ and acknowledging injustice, of our relationships to marginalised communities and powerful institutions, and the significance of positionality (Scraton, 2007). Our aim then, is to work within collective organisations in order to expose and counter the hegemonic narratives and silencing processes through research informed interjection as opposition (Hall 1986; Mathiesen, 2004). By actively disrupting these discourses we can contribute to a process of re-humanising the ‘Other’, where the complex and historically situated relationships between communities, institutions and the State can be exposed (Scott, 2013).

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