Reclaiming the Outsider-Within Space: An Auto-Ethnography

Denise Faifua


This article emerged from a personal need to reconcile the duality of my experience as a person working to raise awareness of equity issues, with that of being a female academic of mixed ethnicity. I discuss the formation of my subject as a developing sociologist, my attraction to the pre-reflexive identities of class, gender and ethnicity, and my struggle with the ambiguous nature of cultural cohesion. I move on to discuss how through conscious ways of knowing it is possible to reflexively act in ways that support substantive change. I argue outsiders-within, i.e. people like myself who grapple with such dual experiences, need not become “hot commodities in social institutions that want the illusion of difference without the difficult effort needed to change power relations” (Collins, 1999:88). Rather, I believe outsiders-within can knowingly achieve small but important substantive changes that lead to future systemic change.


Auto-ethnography; Outsider-within spaces; Equity; Formation of the subject; Pre-reflexive identities; Reflections on; Reflexive action

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