Difference, Diversity, and Social Justice

led by Professors Heather Piper and John Schostak

Who are we?

As part of ESRI, in our research group both individual and collective research interests and outputs coalesce around a shared interest in the theoretical problematics around 'social justice', and also its practical realisation. This focus encompasses processes at work in both formal and informal educational contexts and spaces, as well as cognate settings in social and caring provision and practice.

The group incorporates colleagues with expertise in a wide range of disciplines (education, sociology, psychology, philosophy, social policy, sport) and with professional and practice backgrounds in a variety of areas (schools, higher education, social work, childcare and child protection, youth work, therapy and crisis support, policing and the city, coaching). The eclectic range of research interests across the group is matched by the intellectual and theoretical perspectives applied by members in their inclusive yet expansive research practice. The focus is on substantive research on difference and diversity in areas of educational, social and related policy and provision, and also on the nature of research itself - its ethical status and radical potential as a mechanism, indeed an engine, for social justice and change.

The group have a shared commitment to equality, respect, and social justice in education and social life yet are also committed to problematizing discourses of 'social justice', 'diversity' and 'difference' as these circulate in policy contexts and attach to particular subjects, agendas and places/spaces - at a global, national, and local level. We seek to intervene by unpicking and reclaiming these terms, through engaging in meaningful research and dissemination activities which interrogate how 'difference' and 'diversity' work across spaces (real, imagined and contested), and by attending to the intersections of class, gender, race, ethnicity, age and place in relation to equality and social justice. As a result, the work and outputs of the group are characterised by a critical and even transgressive approach to mainstream discourses and practices, and a mission to produce research which has an impact beyond the academy - and thus 'make a difference'.

In pursuit of these imperatives, the Difference, Diversity and Social Justice research group is always ready to welcome new partners and to consider new areas of work. We are particularly committed to extending our networks beyond academic communities and to engage with practitioners, policy makers, charities, young people and other organisations and individuals as partners in research, 'knowledge exchange' and dialogue.

This research group includes professorial staff with a spread of responsibilities for research, teaching and supervision (John Schostak, Heather Piper ); other experienced research staff whose principal responsibilities lie in research and dissemination ( Kim Allen, Geoff Bright, Cathie Pearce, Lorna Roberts Stepahnie Daza, Alexandre Pais, Sylvie Allendyke, James Duggan); colleagues who combine a major focus on teaching with an active commitment to research and publication ( Janet Batsleer, Bill Taylor, Peter Hick); and a growing and diverse group of doctoral students, many of whom design synergy into their research from substantial prior professional and related experience (Simon Fletcher, Cassie Earl, Gail Davidge, Joanna Dennis, Amir Mokhtarzadeh).

Current and recent research projects and publications from colleagues associated with the group include:

Making a difference through:

  • Radical Research Design (Schostak)
  • Engaging in Action Research (Schostak)
  • Co-operative education in neoliberal society (Schostak)
  • Intergenerational community based co-research (Bright)
  • Problematising mainstream discourse around safeguarding and risk (Heather Piper)

Exploring the different and the diverse:

  • Equality issues and 'subjects of difference' in Higher Education (Allen)
  • Critical discussions of Citizenship Education (Piper)
  • Problematising ‘diversity’ discourses in higher education and the creative industries (Allen)
  • Moral panic and touching behaviours in education and childcare (Piper)
  • Touch and fear in sports coaching and physical education (Piper and Taylor)
  • Risk and false allegations of abuse, in loco parentis (Piper)
  • Animal abuse and violence to humans (Piper)
  • Sports coaches and professionalism (Taylor)
  • PE teachers and the politics of touch (Fletcher)
  • The absent presence of race in education policy, practice, and teacher education (Roberts)
  • Teachers' and managers' performance and identity (Hammersley-Fletcher)
  • Anorexia, health, and unhealthy femininity in the virtual and the real (Allendyke)
  • Performativity in the youth support sector (Bright)

Social Justice:

  • Researching violence, democracy, rights and social justice (Schostak)
  • The misapplication of ethics approval in 'sensitive' social and educational research (Piper)
  • Class and gender inequalities, celebrity culture and young people’s aspirations and imagined futures (Allen)
  • School disaffection, refusal and resistance in post industrial communities (Bright)
  • Youth transitions and inequalities of class and place (Allen, Bright)
  • Youth voice and participation, and defending youth work (Batsleer)
  • Feminist therapeutic responses to domestic violence (Healicon)
  • 'Special' children, 'normal' children - recovery and independence (Mills)
  • Race, interculturality, equality and teacher education (Hick and Roberts)

Other research Groups and Centres
The research group seeks to engage in dialogue and research with a range of organisations, associations research centres and individual scholars working outside of MMU.These include significant organisations with which members work as associate members or frequent collaborators:

Key journals
Beyond wide inputs as referees and reviewers for relevant journals, group members actually edit, fulfil invited editorships for special issues, and are editorial board members for journals including: