99 ERC SES 06 H, Ethnographic Approaches in Education
This paper is based on the reflections of a double investigation: a collaborative project and a doctoral thesis. I´m participating, at the same time, in the project “Learning paths of young university students: Concepts, strategies, technologies and contexts”, which is carried out by two research groups; Esbrina (Catalonia) and Elkarrikertuz (Basque Country), and in my `individual´ thesis, which is involved with that project and centered in a concrete dimension of that learning paths (specifically, in the corporal learning).
That means that the research process is in a constant flux between individual and collective work. We, as a group, define and decide an onto-epistemology, a concrete position regarding the investigation. We, as a group, discuss and argue about our trajectories, share doubts and fears, question our own though and ways of doing. And while all that is being, I´m also involved in the doctoral thesis, a personal road, with my own background. Thus, it can be said that the whole research is moving in an intermediate point between what “us” is and what “me” is, and implies some questions, such us; is there really a “me” and “us”? Is there a real boundary between two of them? Is the doctoral thesis lonely, as it is said? Could it be? How can we live that loneliness in a collaborative project, as part of a research community?
What is relevant to this paper is to question those limits, to the extent that both processes are happening at the same time and in the same place, in the same body. It is important to express that the `individual´ thesis is not exactly individual. It doesn´t belong only to the author (author of this paper too) but to thesis directors (co-authors of this paper) and other agents. All this issues shift the reflection to a new onto-epistemology and methodology, to a new paradigm. Reeves & Reeves (2015) refer to the acronym “VUCA” (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) to talk about the contemporary society. Knowledge could also be defined in terms of `VUCA´, accepting the constant transformation of it (Bauman, 2007). Furthermore, as Posthumanism, New Materialism and Indigenous Theories suggest, humans are not merely connected to other human and non-human agents, but, as Barad says;
To be entangled is not simply to be intertwined with another, as in the joining of separate entities, but to lack an independent, self-contained existence. Existence is not an individual affair. Individuals do not preexist their interactions; rather, individuals emerge through and as part of their entangled intra-relating (cited in Rosiek, Snyder & Pratt, 2020:5).
So, as researchers, we do inhabit that intra-action. Hickey-Moody (2016) affirms that when the subjects meet and interact at a specific moment, they are affected and undergo modifications as a consequence of their interaction and the relationship with that experience. A new subject is then appeared, that in words of Braidotti (2015) is named `the nomadic subject´, the one that frees itself from the dominant normative vision of the ego, to which she/he has become accustomed. An alternative representation of the subject, defined as a dynamic and not unitary entity.
As far as we are concerned, when talking about both, collaborative and (from now on, not an) individual research, it is precise to emphasize this `non-unitary´ concept. In fact, the nomadic subject takes place in the intermediate spaces (between `me´ and `us´, in this case). Those spaces, instead of reproducing binary oppositions, allow the flow and union of them. Consequently, the boundaries between the doctoral thesis and the collaborative project become dissolved; the spaces are mixed up; and the identities flow through them.
Postqualitative inquiry (onwards, PQI) could be, as aforementioned in the abstract, the methodological framework of these research, and indeed, of this paper. St. Pierre (2014) affirms that PQI tries to overcome the dualistic categories of humanistic thought; such as objective/subjective, human/non-human, one self/other, etc. Within PQI, both research processes adopt the Collaborative Autoethnography (onwards, CAE) as a method for many reasons. Firstly, and according to Lather (2016), CAE is one of the top-ten lessons that have emerged in the post-qualitative turn in the social sciences, so that CAE was part of the political stance taken to legitimize the use of post-qualitative methods in defining the research position (Aberasturi-Apraiz, Correa-Gorospe & Martínez-Arbelaiz, 2020). Furthermore, it reduces power differences by collaboratively transforming the interrogation, interpretation and representation of issues. CAE is critically dialogical because it generates dialog between the researcher and his or her coresearchers (Chang et al., 2013) and it invites the voices of all participants to create knowledge together. Lapadat defined CAE as an "autobiographical, autoethnographic, polyphonic approach to writing, telling, interrogating, analyzing, and collaboratively performing and writing up research on personal life challenges and on negotiating personal and professional identities" (2017:597-598). In this methodology, researchers are rendered visible in the research; they are placed at the center of the inquiry in order to expose the internal workings of their thoughts. It demands that researchers be involved and analyze their own self in order to see how they are being affected by the issue under study (Aberasturi-Apraiz, Correa-Gorospe & Martínez-Arbelaiz, 2020). And third, CAE provides strategies for creating and sustaining the research community, offering tools for examining individuals' experience and for relating them to one another. It works our empathy and affectivity and it gives value to the collaborative work, making it an important tool for professional development through the sharing of life stories. Besides, those stories are marked by differences in gender, age, race, language or professional status and reflect different personal and professional situations (Aberasturi-Apraiz, Correa-Gorospe & Martínez-Arbelaiz, 2020).
We exist in relation, so that the 'I' and 'the world' or 'the other' are inseparable (Stith & Roth, 2006; Barad, 2012). Indigenous methodologies explain it from the metaphor of the nest (Kovach, 2010), and other authors talk about the Research as an assemblage (Fox & Alldred, 2013; Deleuze & Guattari, 1988), comprehending all the entities that conform the assemblage as relational. It is a kind of net, where all is connected, entangled, and in consequence, where all the boundaries and clear limits are disappeared. And not only that, but the net is in a constant flux; “things are forever in motion, things are forever changing. There is nothing certain. The only thing that is certain is change” (De Line, 2016:2). For all of the above, the researcher's participation will not be governed in terms of “voyeur”, as a pure spectator, from a distance and avoiding intervening (Stith and Roth, 2006), nor from the “view from nowhere” (Haraway, 1988). In contrast, the ontology of the investigating subject is modified and becomes a participant in an ethical relationship with other agents (Rosiek, Snyder and Pratt, 2020; Correa-Gorospe, Aberasturi-Apraiz and Chaves-Gallastegui, 2020). Referring to Wolf´s “A room for one´s own”, could be said that the doctoral thesis is similar to an own room, where the researcher is the main responsible of the research process per se. However, that room is not isolated from the other rooms. It is a living room there (the collaborative research, in this case) which involves the whole research assemblage. As Barad (2007) reminds us, existence is not an individual affair, and therefore, research processes can´t neither be it. In conclusion, the two research projects are co-constructing knowledge, they are modifying and being modified, participating in the same living room.
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