‘I can be powerful as an individual agent’: Experiences of recently homeless women in an enabling program, transformative pedagogies and spaces of empowerment in higher education

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Sarah Kate Hattam
Snjezana Bilic


This paper reports on an action research project investigating how enabling education has the potential to empower women who have recently been homeless. The authors, both enabling practitioners and sociologists, taught a seven week intensive global sociology course to 12 women who were engaged with a women’s homeless shelter, four of whom were interviewed about their course experience. The conceptual tools we utilised to analyse the responses given by the women about their experiences are Ira Shor’s (1992) critical teaching framework, feminist pedagogies and specific elements of feminist poststructuralist theory, in discourse theory and subjectivity. The discussion details the application of pedagogical approaches that emphasise agency of the students. The study shows that providing opportunities for vulnerable and marginalised students to apply a ‘sociological imagination’ (Mills, 1959) to the study of global society can have a ‘liberating’ effect (Shor, 1992). Focusing on implementing feminist pedagogies offers female students an inclusive space to explore questions of power, identity and difference that transcends borders. Significantly, applying a critical pedagogical (Shor, 1992) approach contributed to students choosing to engage in further higher education and shift their perception of their own ‘capabilities’ (Burke, Bennett, Burgess, Gray, & Southgate, 2016). Emphasising the affirmative aspects of critical pedagogy, the paper adopts a critical lens by highlighting the discomfort produced by the ‘democratic-dialogic’ approach for some of the women in the course.

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How to Cite
Hattam, S. K., & Bilic, S. (2019). ‘I can be powerful as an individual agent’: Experiences of recently homeless women in an enabling program, transformative pedagogies and spaces of empowerment in higher education. Access: Critical Explorations of Equity in Higher Education, 6(1), 65–79. Retrieved from https://novaojs.newcastle.edu.au/ceehe/index.php/iswp/article/view/115
Research Paper


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