A feminist action research inquiry into the hermeneutical injustice of ‘being silenced’ in everyday conversational life

Bayntun-Lees, Debbie (2020) A feminist action research inquiry into the hermeneutical injustice of ‘being silenced’ in everyday conversational life. DProf thesis, Middlesex University / Ashridge Business School.

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Abstract

This thesis is an exploration of women’s experiences of being ‘silenced’ in everyday organisational life. Through feminist action research, drawing upon feminist theory and philosophy, and Foucault’s work on technologies and language of power (Foucault, 1981, 1982, 1984, 1991) the complexities of how ‘social silencing’ happens are exposed.

Using first-person inquiry and co-operative inquiry methods, the women involved in this research revealed the context, dynamics, and impact of their experience of social silencing. This contributes to our understanding of interactive social experiences and also to our understanding of social experience more generally. The impact, implications, and also possibilities for finding and strengthening voice to overcome social silencing are explored and explained.

Social experiences relating to power are often structurally prejudiced against women—or those with the least amount of power—such that dominant collective interpretations of experience mask a void where the name of a distinctive social experience should be. This is due to unequal participation within groups in achieving a proper interpretation. Social silencing is such an experience. This thesis argues that women who are silenced are often put at an acute cognitive disadvantage and are unable to dissent from distorted understandings of their social experiences. In essence they are ‘wronged’ by the injustice of having some significant area of their social experience obscured, unnoticed, and unheard. This is because when a particular experience is not named, not defined, or not integrated in everyday discourse, the ability to interpret the experience and any defining language is hindered. Thus, it may not possible to discuss, report, resist, or change it. This research draws on experiences of family life in the home, teams and leaders at work, and the corporate boardroom. The findings hold important implications and relevance for leadership and organisational development, especially for practitioners working to improve quality of conversation and relationships, team effectiveness, and cultural change in organisations.

This thesis will explain the experience of social silencing as a hermeneutic injustice. A framework is offered as a means of examining personal experience and enabling those silenced to develop a critical understanding of their experience and discover ways of strengthening their voice. A range of ‘practices’ are also identified as strategies for overcoming feminine issues of identity, power and voice. These provide potential for disrupting the technologies of power that are at play and overcoming social silencing.

This thesis contributes to the identification and empowerment of those silenced. It offers practical strategies for enabling wise and confident decision-making in silencing situations. It will also facilitate critique of, and intervention in, the cultural, social and historical processes of everyday organisational life.

‘It is in the knowledge of the genuine conditions of our lives that we must draw our strength to live and our reasons for acting.’ – Simone de Beauvoir (1948, p.9).

Item Type: Thesis (DProf)
Research Areas: A. > Work and Learning Research Centre
B. > Theses
C. Collaborative Partners > Ashridge Business School
Item ID: 30603
Depositing User: Brigitte Joerg
Date Deposited: 30 Jun 2020 09:57
Last Modified: 12 Sep 2020 17:04
URI: https://eprints.mdx.ac.uk/id/eprint/30603

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