Accounting to myself: How do I speak for myself, to myself, as I encourage others to do the same?

  • J McNiff St Mary’s University College

Abstract

This article is an account of my ongoing action enquiry into how I can understand and improve my practice. It is a continuation of an earlier paper (McNiff 2008a), delivered originally as a keynote presentation at the SAARDHE 2007 Conference, University of Pretoria, where I made the case that the ‘I’ should be central in educational research; that academics located in higher education should reconceptualise themselves as intellectuals whose job is challenge existing ideas and practices as a
means of contributing to the development of an open society (Popper 1945); and for the maintenance of a free academic press to enable them to publish their accounts of how they are doing so. I develop some of these themes here, showing how I act as a living example of ideas to do with the generative transformational nature of living processes, including forms of enquiry, whose existence is facilitated through the capacity of the thinker to problematise and deconstruct his/her own thinking.
I raise questions about how I can account for myself to myself, drawing on
Foucault’s (2001) discussion of parrhesia – frank and truthful talk – as a means of showing how a morally accountable life can be understood as one in which the individual is able to speak the truth to others, and, more importantly, to themselves, thus addressing Foucault’s question:
I wish to know how the reflexivity of the subject and the discourse of truth are linked
– “How can the subject tell the truth about itself?” (cited in McNicol Jardine 2005).
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