This paper reports the reflective journey we undertook as the leaders of a collaborative action research project involving education practitioners and our navigation through a complex web of cooperation, conflict resolution, bargaining and defection. Drawing on these experiences, we seek to make explicit the cocktail of tensions and disordering of research contexts and practices that have remained largely disregarded both in the literature and in everyday self-accounting. By interweaving the plot-lines of ‘game,’ ‘ritual’ and ‘real’ we seek to gain an insight into the rational/irrational behaviour of the various players involved in this ethno-drama, including ourselves. Finally, we posit the claim that educational action research conceived as a ‘critical and (self-critical) collaborative inquiry’ (Zuber-Skerritt, 1996, p.85) has surrendered its democratic values to an all pervading performativity culture and conclude that collaborative action research conducted in the politicised educational contexts of today cannot be true to its ideal.
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