Feminist discourses of (dis)empowerment in an action research project involving rural women and communication technologies
Women's empowerment is a central aim of feminist action research. However, due to the many contradictory discourses of empowerment, it has become a contested concept. Drawing on poststructuralist theories of power-knowledge, discourse and subjectivity, this article critically analyses the discourses identified in an Australian feminist action research porjcect involving rural women, academics and industry partners. This project aimed to empower women to discuss and use interactive communication technologies (ICTs). This analysis highlights the contradictory effects of the egalitarian and expert discourses that were identified, and the multiple, often conflicting, subject positions that were taken up by the researchers and participants. Our analysis suggests that discourses of empowerment and disempowerment intersect and interpenetrate one another, and highlights some of the dangers and contradictions associated with feminist participatory action research. We argue that a poststructuralist appproach to analysis and critical reflexivity can lessen the "impossible burden" on academic feminists engaged in emancipatory research.