Serving ourselves: How the discourse on community engagement privileges the university over the community
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Using methods of discourse analysis, I analyzed examples of the word “community” from 25 of the most recent articles in the Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning. This analysis uncovered a variety of ways in which the university appears to be privileged over the community in the discourse of higher education community-based engagement. This paper discusses four themes emerging from the analysis that represent this privileging: community as a means by which the university enhances its academic work; community as a recipient of influence by the university; community as a place which the university makes better; and community as a factor in the financial interest of the university. By identifying these subtle yet troubling themes, I aim to inspire more community-focused research as well as to encourage scholars to reflect critically on how their discourses shape an evolving understanding of community-engaged practice.
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