19 SES 04 B, Methodological Reflections, Positionality and Accountability
During the last twenty years, educational researchers inspired by the feminist poststructuralist thinking, such as Bronwyn Davies (2000; 2004), Patti Lather (1997), Elizabeth Adams St. Pierre and Wanda S. Pillow (2000) have been exploring research and the researching subjects in the situations where research techniques and conventions adopted from the natural sciences have broken down in the social sciences and humanities, and been proven to be even harmful and sustaining injustices. They have criticized the modern (Western) language of humanism, which includes assumptions about the rational individual, about objective truths, and transparent meanings. They have – from several different perspectives – troubled well-established research-related concepts such as knowledge, truth, reality, science, progress and subject. At the same time, the interests of feminist research on gender, sexuality, power and equality have become mobile and renegotiated. In some ways, the struggle on concepts is a central way of the politicization of research, the point at which the politics of research is localized (Ikävalko 2016; Kurki 2018).
Our understanding of the concepts mentioned above have limited our research, but we have also had the opportunity to set their meanings questioned by putting them “under erasure” (Derrida 1967/1974; see also Spivak 1974). This means using the concepts but at the same time trying to escape their received meanings and breaking the hierarchies in the language and thinking they produces, such as male/female, white/black, reason/emotion (St. Pierre 2009; Davies 2004).
In our discussion here, we explore the ways we think and conduct ethnographic research. We ask, for example, what ethnographic data is, and how to write about data as something that is not separated from us as researchers but also as something that is difficult to be described numerically as it is not clearly defined entity. We also ask how to think about ethnographic research and our assumptions on research when many concepts related to research, such as knowledge, truth, data and the field, are troubled in the feminist, ethnographical and poststructural discussions. How to call into question us as the researching subjects as it may not be possible to uncover the single author/doer/researcher behind the theorisations and analysis? What might happen when the researching subject breaks down and becomes reconstituted together with her data? Maybe then, we would destabilise the juxtaposition of the researcher and the researched, the knower and the known, and start asking after the terms of the formation of knowledge, and maybe even locating knowledge outside the walls of the university and other institutions.
We look for ways to exceed the feelings which for us as researchers were born on the one hand when reading about the positivist ways of doing research in the literature of qualitative research methodology where the researcher collects the data from the field which is a place somewhere outside and from which the researcher moves in and out; and on the other, from the criticism expressed by the feminist research on such an understanding of knowledge and research. We discuss with each other and with some thinkers important to us, such as Rosi Braidotti, Bronwyn Davies, Gilles Deleuze, Michel Foucault and Elizabeth Adams St. Pierre. We set our experiences and methodological deliberations about ethnographic inquiry in the discussion with them. We ask how to avoid getting trapped in the paths of thinking? What might happen if academic conventions would start moving out of alignment, and conducting research changing? What might happen when/if (academic) writing would start looking for uncertainties and exploratory relationships between differences, and would try and test what is behind the visible and the taken-for-granted? How to write research that is wandering and nomadic, research that dances front, back and sideways? We discuss the possibilities of nomadic ethnographic research, and suggest that resistance can begin when new spaces to think, write and do start to open up. Spaces that do not seek financial gain or pursue predetermined goals. We look for nomadic research, which can be considered as opening up for the unknown (Braidotti 2011; Solnit 2000). We think that nomadic research challenges and opposes all kinds of calculations, forecasting, modelling and direct exploitability, and as such, the requirement of the market. Patti Lather (2010) points out that for example deliberately meandering and poetic writing can be a way to challenge the claim to produce research that is applicable to practice, for educational administration, for example.
Nomadic, identity-opposing research and writing is experimental, fleeing the instrumentalism of action. It is resistance, firstly, because as a metaphor for conducting research drifting challenges the authority of the researcher and the primacy of academic knowledge. Secondly, as a metaphor for thinking, it opposes predictability, predetermined goals and pragmatic – in other words, easily commercialized – research results. Thirdly, as activism, nomadic research is not intended to speak on behalf of others or to resettle in other’s position, but to do together, acknowledging and recognizing one’s current positioning and creating alliances. Nomadic orientation can be thought as resistance to all-pervasive economy, which on the one hand demand individuality and specialization, but at the same time harnessing of all human desires for commercial use. In this case, individuality becomes unquestioned and mandatory standard, which, however, reduces to brands and trademarks. According to Braidotti (2011), nomadic philosophy is a discursive practice that is committed to the movement of thinking. It opposes the dichotomous and dualistic thinking, and offers an alternative to the discourses of liberal individualism. As political thinking nomadism is an expression of a heterogeneous subject, a subject that is defined by complex movements.
Braidotti, R. (2011). Nomadic theory. The portable Rosi Braidotti. New York: Columbia University Press. Davies, B. (2000). A body of writing 1990–1999. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press. Davies, B. (2004). Introduction: poststructuralist lines of flight in Australia. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 17(1), 3–9. Derrida, J. (1967/1974). Of grammatology. Trans. Spivak, G. C. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. Ikävalko, E. (2016). Vaikenemisia ja vastarintaa. Valtasuhteet ja toiminnan mahdollisuudet oppilaitosten tasa-arvosuunnittelussa. (Silences and resistance. Power relations and possibilities of agency in gender equality planning in educational institutions) Kasvatustieteellisiä tutkimuksia 270. Helsingin yliopisto. Kurki, T. (forthcoming). Gendered, racialised and precarious politics and practices of migration and integration. Kasvatustieteellisiä tutkimuksia. Helsingin yliopisto. Lather, P. (1997). Drawing the line at angels: Working the ruins of feminist ethnography. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 10(3), 285–304. Solnit, R. (2000). Wanderlust: a history of walking. London: Penguin Books. Spivak, G. C. (1987/2006). In other worlds. New York: Routledge. St. Pierre, E. A. (2009). Afterword. Decentering the voice in qualitative inquiry. In Jackson, A. Y. & Mazzei, L. A. (eds.) Voice in qualitative inquiry. Challenging conventional, interpretative and critical conceptions in qualitative research. New York: Routledge, 221–236. St. Pierre, E. A. & Pillow, W. S. (2000). Introduction: inquiry among the ruins. In St. Pierre, E. A. & Pillow, W. S. (eds.) Working the ruins. Feminist poststructural theory and methods in education. New York: Routledge, 1–24.
00. Central Events (Keynotes, EERA-Panel, EERJ Round Table, Invited Sessions)
Network 1. Continuing Professional Development: Learning for Individuals, Leaders, and Organisations
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