Academic writing about community-engaged research has long emphasized the importance of relationships and examined practices of relationship-building. Critical scholars have further argued that the neoliberalization of higher education distorts and narrows the quality of relationships in community-engaged research, a change that makes attending to relationships simultaneously more challenging and more important. Taking these observations as our starting point, in this reflective conceptual essay we draw from our experience as community-engaged researchers to reflect on the meaning, significance, and practices of relationship-building, particularly in the context of academic neoliberalism. We call for a reframing of relationships as an outcome (rather than simply a means) of community-engaged research, and as a network (rather than a binary) that builds collective power. Furthermore, we call on community-engaged scholars to reclaim and center relational practices. We argue that rethinking relationships in this light can be a form of resistance to academic neoliberalism.
O'Brian, D., Nygreen, K, & Sandler, J. (2022). Theorizing Relationships in Critical Community Engaged Research: Justice-Oriented Collaborations as Resistance to Neoliberalism. Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement, Volume 26, Number 3, p. 149