Elfreda Annmary Chatman in the 21st Century
At the Intersection of Critical Theory and Social Justice Imperatives
Elfreda Annmary Chatman (1942-2002) is considered a pioneer library and information science (LIS) scholar for her theory development and ethnographic approach to understand information behaviors of understudied populations (e.g., female inmates, janitors, the elderly, poor people, female retirees, etc.). This article discusses the limited contemporary relevance of her contributions to information science research in the 21st century when subjected to an epistemological assessment from critical theory and social justice imperatives. Progressive scholars operationalize this intersection in terms of action-oriented and socially relevant outcomes achieved via information-related work to extend the LIS professions beyond its historical shackles. They also encourage community-engaged scholarship and community-wide changes via partnering with and providing programs to people on society’s margins. Scrutinizing Chatman’s legacy in terms of these attributes helps extend the discourse and identify its trajectory, especially relevant in the context of today’s political and cultural climate. Some factors that influenced Chatman’s work are traced within an emerging, yet narrow, trajectory and scope of information science research of those times. Select evidence and examples discussed in this narrative illustrate some of these perceived limitations while critiquing Chatman’s contributions and still valuing their significance.
Pre-print first published online 3/28/2021
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