19 SES 07, Making Inequality: Ontologies of research into pedagogy in high poverty contexts
A student in a school on the remote northern tip of Australia receives lessons in reading using material developed by a publishing house that operates out of New York. The lessons are intended to improve performance on a national test produced by an assessment regulator based in a capital city over 3000 kilometres away. The test is marked by a global educational business that operates out of London, producing evaluations that compare the academic performance of differentially situated individual students, schools, communities, states and nations. In assessing the experiences of young people in this school, what are the appropriate categories for analysis, and what are the spatial and relational coordinates to be mapped? What are the implications for ethnographers seeking to understand these relationships of space-time-discourses-matter-bodies? Donna Haraway (1997) and others have critiqued processes that turn material-social practices, such as space, class, race, or gender into real things inside containers. Drawing primarily upon the work of Karen Barad (2007), we consider the implications for ethnographers of dislocating a container model of space and the Cartesian division of subject/ object, exploring the possibilities that emerge for reconceptualising dynamics of power for considerations of educational inequality. Socio-economic status, race, ethnicity, and a range of other categories have been used during the last half-decade to mount arguments about the differential effects of schooling on groups of young people. In the 1960s and 70s, when the links between place, pedagogy and people were first established in the UK, US and Australia, efforts were made to develop appropriate measuring instruments, collect the data, and establish the relationships that gave meaning to the concept of inequality in education, that made this difference matter. These meaning-making processes have over time drawn upon various epistemologies to attend to different types of knowledge-producing relationships, such as cause and effect, or power and knowledge. These projects while different are representational ontologies; they are based upon a separation between what exists and how it is known to exist. In this paper, we discuss how a non-representational ontology might account for schooling and its effects in different ways. What changes when processes intended to reflect what is real are replaced by performative understandings of knowledge-making? Such a diffractive methodology takes account of how ethnographers are part of the world’s differential becoming, not only in ways that have material consequences but that engage in (re)configuring the world.
Barad, K. M. (2007). Meeting the universe halfway: quantum physics and the entanglement of matter and meaning. Durham: Duke University Press. Haraway, D. J. (1997). Modest₋Witness@Second₋Millennium.FemaleMan₋Meets₋OncoMouse: feminism and technoscience; with paintings by Lynn M. Randolph. New York; London: Routledge.
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