Language matters: reciprocity and its multiple meanings



Publication Details

Hammersley, L. (2017). Language matters: reciprocity and its multiple meanings. In J. Sachs & L. Clark (Eds.), Learning through community engagement: Vision and practice in higher education (pp. 115-131). Singapore: Springer.


There have been strong calls from the higher education community for greater reciprocal, collaborative and mutually enriching relationships between the community and the academy. Underpinning the PACE initiative for example, is the "principle of reciprocity", a "commitment to mutually beneficial learning and engagement" and an overall aim that students make a "valuable and valued contribution to partners and the communities they serve" (PACE, PACE Strategic Plan 2014 to 2016, 2014). What is it, however, that higher education institutions, practitioners, and scholars mean by such calls and commitments to service, mutual benefit, and reciprocity? The agenda and goals of community engagement in higher education remain somewhat ambiguous, as these guiding concepts are understood and interpreted in diverse and problematic ways by different actors and institutions. This chapter invites the higher education community to deconstruct key terms used to describe community engagement activities and relationships, and encourages critical reflection on our attempts to enact them through our research and practice.

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