It's About Us!: racialized minority girls' transformative engagement in feminist participatory action research




de Finney, Sandrine

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The sociocultural economic, and political participation of girls has become a prevalent focus of policy. research, and practice. Despite their increasing visibility in the demographic composition of Canadian society. however, racialized minority girls remain largely invisible in these debates. Monolithic discourses of girl power. 'at risk' girls. youth participation and feminist activism do not account for the complex and uneven ways in which minority girls engage as knowledge producers, advocates, and community participants within cultural contexts that foster the depoliticization and social exclusion of young women of colour. Minority girls face intersecting barriers to civic participation and social inclusion `on their own terms' related to race. gender. age, citizenship. language, class and religion, among other factors. As rapid global change reconfigures girls' local realities and thus their practices of engagement, our traditional models and discourses of participation must be expanded. To problematize the relations of power under which minority girls constitute their practices of engagement and community building. I constructed a transdisciplinary conceptual framework grounded in postcolonial and transnational feminist theories. The research examined minority girls' practices of 'transformative engagement' (TE) in a collaborative, community-based, feminist Participatory Action Research project entitled "It's About Us." The study was based in Victoria. British Columbia. a predominantly Euro-Western Canadian city. "It's About Us" responded to minority girls' requests for a minority- and girl-centered epistemic space from which to explore their experiences of gendered racialization. Expressive methods including popular theatre. photography. and art served as vehicles for their engagement. The iterative feminist research design yielded data garnered from focus groups. theatre sessions. and scripts. participant-observation, journaling and photo-ethnography. This design provided the enabling conditions to deepen and sustain the girls' practices of oppositional agency and thus the emergence of transformative engagement. I developed an Interpretive Spiral Model (ISM) to extricate the difficulties of translating a feminist conceptual framework into a sustainable girl-centered project. My findings characterize transformative engagement as a multisited. precarious, generative form of praxis, rather than a formulaic process with guaranteed outcomes. I propose that the facilitation of transformative engagement entails four intersecting strategies: border crossing into exclusionary spaces. resources. and lines of power; developing safe, strategic communities of belonging: producing disruptive. critical knowledge; and engaging in public and social action. Overall. the girls' strategies of transformative engagement reveal a spectrum of subversive, deeply contextualized, multifaceted feminisms congruent with their own needs and experiences. The transformative engagement process resulted in multiple successful outcomes including theatre and conference presentations, media and website productions, and, most notably, contribution to the creation of a network of over 100 racialized girls and women called Anti-dote. The research findings illustrate how girl-centered. feminist action research can provide avenues to support minority girls' unique practices of resistance and social change. and feature their voices more prominently in community, policy, research, and practice.



visible minorities, adolecent girls, feminism, Victoria, BC