Experience and sociological imagination

Transforming the researcher's learner identity





experience, public sphere, sociological imagination, obstinacy, imploitation


Two research projects undertaken ten years ago explored the experiences of mature students’ access, progression and drop-out in higher education, relying on Habermas and Honneth for sensitizing concepts. This paper explores the implications of undertaking this research today adopting a different set of sensitizing concepts and in the process transforming the identity of the researcher. To this end, this paper moves beyond Habermas and Honneth to the critical theory of Negt and Kluge as a source of new sensitizing concepts informing a reimagined researcher and research project. Their work on experience, its dialectic nature, imploitation, obstinacy – as an alternative to resilience – and a sociological imagination are explored in order to identify possible new sensitizing concepts for researching adults returning to higher education. Implications for transformative adult education will be identified.


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Author Biography

Ted Fleming, Teachers College Columbia University, New York

Adjunct Associate Professor of Adult Education

Department of organization and leadership

Teachers College Columbia University, New York


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How to Cite

Fleming, T. (2024). Experience and sociological imagination: Transforming the researcher’s learner identity. European Journal for Research on the Education and Learning of Adults, 15(1), 13–26. https://doi.org/10.3384/rela.2000-7426.4841