Writing to Transgress: Knowledge Production in Feminist Participatory Action Research


  • Diana L. Gustafson Memorial University
  • Janice E. Parsons Memorial University
  • Brenda Gillingham Memorial University




participatory action research, writing practices, epistemology, critical realism, writing to transgress, knowledge production, lone mothers


The process of writing and the textual form and format that scientific knowledge takes tend to be organized by traditional rules for knowledge production that are reinforced in the publication arena. Too often participatory action researchers must adhere to scholarly writing conventions that may be at odds with the epistemic stance and discursive claims of the feminist researchers who produce them. In this article, we reflect on our experience of writing to transgress conventions for scholarly writing using a previously published paper about and with a lone mother living in poverty. In our examination of this case study we argue that our writing process and the transgressive textual form and format we used were a more authentic reflection of our epistemic stance as critical realists and more consistent with the principles and assumptions underpinning feminist participatory action research—assumptions that privilege power-sharing, voice, subjectivity and reflexivity. We also show how maternal identities and their lived experiences can be constituted differently through transgressive writing practices. We consider some benefits that may accrue to those who are willing and able to challenge disciplinary boundaries for knowledge production and the practical and ethical challenges such a venture may expose.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biographies

Diana L. Gustafson, Memorial University

Diana L. GUSTAFSON is a professor of social science and health in the Faculty of Medicine at Memorial University where she teaches advanced qualitative research methods and academic writing and contributes her methodological expertise to health-related research projects. She is also a regular guest lecturer on scholarly writing practices for the Workshops on Social Sciences Research (WSSR) at Concordia University in Montreal. In her "spare" time, Dr. GUSTAFSON is pursuing her MFA in creative writing at the University of British Columbia.

Janice E. Parsons, Memorial University

Janice E. PARSONS is an assistant professor at Memorial University, teaching primarily in the areas of critical thinking and theory, ethics, work with groups and communities, inter-professional education and leadership and social work supervision. She is also a faculty associate with the Centre for Collaborative Health Professional Education.

Brenda Gillingham, Memorial University

Brenda GILLINGHAM is is a proud Mi’kmaq woman. She is a lone mother of two amazing children. She obtained both her bachelor of arts and bachelor of social work degree from Memorial University. She looks forward to the day when the words lone, mother and poverty do not appear in the same sentence.




How to Cite

Gustafson, D. L., Parsons, J. E., & Gillingham, B. (2019). Writing to Transgress: Knowledge Production in Feminist Participatory Action Research. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 20(2). https://doi.org/10.17169/fqs-20.2.3164