Living life as inquiry - a systemic practice for change agents

Gearty, Margaret and Marshall, Judi (2021) Living life as inquiry - a systemic practice for change agents. Systemic Practice and Action Research, 34. pp. 441-462. ISSN 1094-429X

Text (Gearty Marshall Systemic Practice and Action Research 2020 Author Final Version)
Gearty_Marshall_Systemic_Practice_and_Action_Research_2020_Author_Final_Version.pdf - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial.

Download (4MB)


The practical orientation of action research, together with its embedded and participative principles, means it is particularly suited to complex, interconnected questions and ‘real life’ systemic issues. In the realm of first-person action research, Judi Marshall’s (1999) influential article “Living Life as Inquiry” described how such research can extend to one’s whole life whereby professional and personal questions can be set within politically relevant frames. Over the past two decades, many students and researchers have worked with and drawn much imaginative inspiration from the idea of living life as inquiry (LLI). However little has been written to describe how the practice develops and the many forms it can take. This article draws on our extensive experience as inquirers ourselves and as educators, working with students and change agents motivated to address social and environmental concerns. Twenty years after the original article we have conducted a reflective review that included surveying the literature, and working in depth with a range of stories and current practices. From this comes a textured expansion of the language and practice of living life as inquiry as it is approached from the specificity of people’s lives. Through narrative and visual textures, we present views into the many different ways LLI is developed through day-to-day practices of experimentation, data gathering, artistic exploration, intervention and reflection. We explore what this means for quality in the enactment of inquiry. The article draws particular attention to the embodied nature of inquiry and seeks to capture its fleeting, processual quality.

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
Systemic Practice and Action Research
Uncontrolled Keywords:
ID Code:
Deposited By:
Deposited On:
17 Nov 2020 12:00
Last Modified:
21 Sep 2023 02:58