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I am an action researcher, educator, feminist, and scholar-activist. In my practice, I join others in imagining, articulating, and experimenting with forms of thought/action that support ever greater emancipation, social justice, and planetary regeneration. I am also a mother, gardener, nature lover, and migrant from the Global South, now settled in the UK, with decades of experience living in what Gloria Anzaldúa (1987) refers to as the borderlands. From this position, I am committed to multiple ways of knowing and approaches to inquiry that support the co-creation of radical educational and organisational alternatives. My aim in this work is to contribute to collective resistance and transformation of myriad forms of oppression, including ecocide, colonialism, racism, capitalism, and hetero-patriarchy.
My current work explores how we come to know in ways that are distinct from those officially sanctioned by Western science or Global North perspectives. Through connecting with and making space for ways of knowing that are diverse, holistic, and relational—grounded in relationship with other beings, with place, and with multiple aspects of being—I contribute to reclaiming epistemic power and justice, and thus to alternative preferred futures. In doing so, I build on the wisdom of diverse writers, teachers, and knowledge-keepers (human and more-than-human) who offer radical lenses for perceiving and experiencing anew the relational reality in which we co-exist. More than an intellectual project, this represents a deeply personal, political, and practical inquiry.
My roots are in action research, a democratic and participative orientation to knowledge-creation which purposefully brings together action and reflection, theory and practice, the experience of oppression with the possibility of agency. Much of my work has focused on how participatory inquiry can contribute towards opening democratic spaces within, alongside, and beyond the academy, as a means of resisting and challenging the capture of education and knowledge creation by neoliberal, colonialist, and patriarchal logics.
Alongside my training as an organisational scholar and action researcher, my work is shaped by environmental philosophy and ecology, critical and feminist theory, Indigenous wisdom and decolonial perspectives from the Global South. Inspired by anticipation studies, I work with notions of ‘the future’ as a space that can be pluralistically imagined and simultaneously inhabited in the here and now, in ways that create sites for radical potentiality, hopeful action, and mindful encounters with the present.
Summary of research themes and interests
- Action research, participatory, feminist, and arts-based inquiry methods
- Multiple ways of knowing; recognition and resurgence of different ways of knowing
- Alternative forms of education (including place-based education) and democratisation of knowledge-creation
- Social movements, social activism, and prefigurative practice seeking to challenge existing structures of power and privilege
- Activist bodies and affect – the place of hope, joy, anxiety, and dread in supporting and constraining embodied agency and political action
- Ecological sustainability and eco-philosophies for planetary healing
- Anticipation, futures, and critical utopias
I welcome expressions of interest from those wishing to undertake PhD research in related areas.
I have successfully supervised several PhD students to completion, and have been awarded the Bristol Teaching Award for Outstanding Doctoral Supervision.
Biographical details and affiliations
I am a middle class, cisgender, straight, non-disabled female, of combined European and Indigenous American descent, fluent in Spanish and English. I was born in Argentina during the military dictatorship of the 1970s, and my early childhood unfolded against a background of socio-economic and political unrest. My family and I left Argentina for the Middle East when I was a child, where I completed my schooling in international, multicultural settings, before emigrating to the UK in 1997. Together with my Irish husband, our young son, and our spaniel, I have made my home in rural South Devon (UK), near the sea and moors. I have known both considerable privilege and marginalisation, as well as opportunity, pain, and confusion, in my experience of existing in the borderlands.
In 2006, I completed my PhD at the Centre for Action Research in Professional Practice at the University of Bath. My thesis was entitled Repose: A personal and relational foundation for responding to ecological challenges. Thereafter, I was appointed to a lectureship at the Centre for Leadership Studies at the University of Exeter before joining the School of Economics, Finance and Management at the University of Bristol in 2008. I am employed as a Senior Lecturer in Management at the recently established University of Bristol School of Management.
I co-founded ARCIO (Action Research and Critical Inquiry in Organisations) in 2010, a research centre at the University of Bristol that works across a number of research themes in the School of Management and beyond. Members of ARCIO are committed to researching in participative and/or capacity-building ways in organisations and communities, to develop emancipatory forms of organising focused on issues of social justice, democracy, gender, inclusivity, political activism, and sustainability. This is explicitly framed within critiques of neoliberalism and 'business as usual'. ARCIO draws on critical theory/inquiry, arts-based, narrative, and/or feminist methods in research and scholarship.
From 2006-2016, I served as Associate Editor (now Affiliate Editor) of the international, peer-reviewed, interdisciplinary journal, Action Research, and co-founded the AR+ global network of action research practitioners. I was also on the Editorial Board of the Encyclopedia of Action Research (2014), published by Sage, and served on the Scientific Committee for the 2nd International Conference on Anticipation, held in London in 2017.
From 2017-2020 I served as Director of PolicyBristol, which aims to enhance the influence and impact of research from across the University of Bristol on policy and practice at the local, national and international level. PolicyBristol specialises in bringing together academic, policymaker and practitioner expertise in innovative collaborations, so as to solve real world challenges and make positive contributions towards a more just and sustainable society. Read about how you can work with PolicyBristol here.
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1/03/22 → 31/07/22
Towards ever more extended epistemologies: pluriversality and decolonisation of knowledges in participatory inquiryGaya, P. C., 2021, Handbook of Participatory Inquiry. Burns, D., Howard, J. & Ospina, S. (eds.). First Edition ed. SAGE Publications Ltd
Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceeding › Chapter in a book
Carpe the academy: Dismantling higher education and prefiguring critical utopias through action researchGayá, P. & Brydon-Miller, M., Nov 2017, In: Futures. 94, p. 34-44 11 p.
Research output: Contribution to journal › Article (Academic Journal) › peer-reviewOpen AccessFile9 Citations (Scopus)541 Downloads (Pure)
Gaya, P. C. & Phillips, M. E., 1 Nov 2016, In: Organization. 23, 6, p. 803-824 22 p.
Research output: Contribution to journal › Article (Academic Journal) › peer-reviewOpen AccessFile15 Citations (Scopus)496 Downloads (Pure)