Transfiguring relations - Theorizing political change in the everyday

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What is the relationship between social action initiatives and theory? In this paper we suggest that. like social action. theory is a means of intervening in social problems and is integrally linked with future possibilities. Devising the means of effective intervention requires the ability to understand and harness people`s ways of actively striving to deal with the social problems which emerge in their everyday lives. Such efforts involve communicating across difference. For example, regarding the problems of HIV prevention and positive living. gay men in Sydney are positioned differently from each other in relation to the virus. sexual practice, understanding and use of biomedical developments in the development of safe-sex strategies. How do everyday struggles to communicate across difference feed into effective social action. and what is the role of theory in supporting and driving these efforts? In this paper we consider the limitations of notions of intersubjectivity which overemphasize the role of `mutual recognition` in the development of relationships between actors. Talk of `mutual recognition` overlooks the fact that communication is essentially ambiguous. The result is a failure to theorize the emergence of productive connections between people which work through openness to this ambiguity. The absence of recognition can give rise to confusion. but it also an important element in the development of new ways of connecting with others. In turn, the mechanisms of socio-political change can be affected through the development of new forms of connection between actors. That is, modes of intersubjectivity which are based on misrecognition and difference can function as transfiguring relations, opening new possibilities for actively tackling social problems. We argue that effective social action harnesses transfiguring relations. This approach to social action demands that we develop our understanding of social relations, and take account of the productive rol
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Stephenson, Niamh
Kippax, Susan
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