Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy


Health and Rehabilitation Sciences


Prof. Debbie Laliberte Rudman


Widespread appeals to advance a social justice agenda have emerged within health-related fields. However, expressing a commitment to social justice has created tensions within occupational science and therapy as scholars attempt to enact social transformative scholarship while at the same time having roots within health sciences, a field largely dominated by positivist/postpositivist thinking. The broader intent of this thesis is to inform further development of occupation-based social transformative scholarship aligned with the critical paradigm.

This doctoral dissertation is comprised of five integrated manuscripts, in addition to introduction and discussion chapters. Chapter two examines the increasing use of critical perspectives and outlines the ways in which these perspectives have challenged the assumptions underlying occupation. Chapter three introduces critical reflexivity and critical epistemology, illustrating their importance in examining the beliefs guiding occupation-based work that attempt to promote occupational justice. Chapter four introduces transformative scholarship and raises three problematics to illustrate the dangers of relying on positivist/postpositivist assumptions in frameworks promoting social transformation. Chapter five presents a critical dialogical approach as one way forward in expanding research that can inform social transformation by incorporating dialogue and examination of taken-for-granted understandings that shape practice.

Chapter six examines the experiences of individuals attempting to enact occupation-based social transformative practices by using a critical dialogical approach. A critical discourse analysis that deconstructs and situates participants’ experiences within larger discourses is presented. The findings illustrate how discourses and contextual forces create tensions for social transformative practices, and how individuals negotiate and/or resist these tensions. Chapter seven highlights the implications of this thesis for occupational science and therapy, other professions, and critical qualitative inquiry.

This thesis contributes to the ongoing discussions about the theoretical underpinnings and approaches that occupational science and therapy need to embrace to move forward in critically-informed and socially responsive ways. It adds to this body of knowledge through illustrating how knowledge and practice are shaped by broader forces that can frame attempts to enact transformative work in ways that obscure the structural causes of inequities. Additionally, it contributes to epistemological and methodological discussions that seek to develop appropriate ways to move in transformative directions.