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Diversity Articles and Publications

Spaces for Diversity:
Perspectives from a Canadian University College

A Thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirement for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy

Adrienne S. Chan
University of Kent at Canterbury, U.K.   2001


This thesis documents the narrative auto/biographies of ten educators working in a Canadian university college. The research focussed on the stories, roles and actions of these educators working in a context of diversity and change. Diversity is defined as a complex set of intersecting categories that belie single identities and demarcations. Narrative auto/biographical methods relied on an interdisciplinary framework that challenged traditional disciplinary boundaries.

Through their narratives, individuals revealed their own personal, social complexity and diversity. Power relations were at the core of institutional discourses and these were challenged by each of the educators. The core of the thesis is built on case studies developed from the narratives of each educator, their autobiographical reflections, and my observations of an institutional diversity committee.

The thesis argues that individual and collective agency and voice are instrumental in creating spaces for diversity. Each space that is gained to advance the cause of diversity is incremental to systemic institutional change. Agency arises out of four concepts: personal experiences of difference, working from contested spaces, making connections between personal experiences and public roles, and developing a 'sense of self'. Sense of self is defined in terms of personal authenticity and in a developmental process supported by colleagues, family, and mentors. Agency was manifested in advocacy, activism and resistance. Educators came from positions of vulnerability as well as strength, complexity and difference.

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© Copyright 2002   A.S. Chan, Ph.D. & Associates


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