Participating Unequally: Student Experiences at UWC

Lindsay Anne Clowes, Tamara Shefer, Sisa Ngabaza


This paper uses Nancy Fraser’s concept of participatory parity to reflect on data gathered by and from third year students in a final year research module in the Women’s and Gender Studies Department at the University of the Western Cape in 2015. During the course students developed a research proposal, collected and shared data with other students, and then used this data to write a final (externally examinable) research report. Employing a participatory photovoice methodology, the students’ research focused on ways in which social and group identities had shaped their experiences of feeling empowered and disempowered on campus. Each student took two photos representing experiences of feeling empowered and two of feeling disempowered on campus and wrote narratives of about 300 words explaining and describing the experience foregrounded by each image. Students shared these narratives and accompanying images with each other, their teachers and the wider university community through a public exhibition in the library. In the paper we draw on Fraser’s concepts of maldistribution, misrecognition and misrepresentation to highlight constraints to equal participation identified by students.



Fraser; participatory parity; tertiary education; photovoice; empowerment; disempowerment

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