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Conceptions of difference within theories of Social Justice: implications for higher education research

Research output: Contribution to conference - Without ISBN/ISSN Conference paperpeer-review

Publication date2014
<mark>Original language</mark>English


In this paper I explore ‘Making a Difference’ within the context of research into higher education and social justice. Part of an ongoing project looking to connect theories of social justice with approaches to social justice research, this paper focuses on both ‘Making a Difference’ and how we understand difference in social justice terms. Key to my argument is that the ways in which one conceptualises a theory of social justice, including the nature of difference, has implications for the ways in which one then approaches research into higher education and social justice. I explore this by contrasting key aspects within the theories of social justice literature – such as between a procedural approach and the capabilities approach, and between a focus on redistrubtion or on recognition. I then consider how the position one adopts in relation to these aspects of social justice can (should?) influence how one researches social justice. My analysis draws upon Saunder’s (2014) think piece, particularly the irony of official, hegemonic calls for higher education research to ‘make a difference’ that are actually grounded in highly standardised notions of what counts as difference. As such, I also take up Saunders’ notion of usefulness; in my case, in terms of a useful contribution to greater social justice.