33 SES 11 A, Ethics, Practice and Gender Bias in Science
Modernist research ethics tends to apply instrumental, deontological and advocacy approaches that maintain the separation of human researcher and the human or non-human researched. In contrast, post humanistic ethics includes nonhuman entities when considering “who matters and what counts” when questioning education research practices, methods, data analysis and interpretations. The potential and possibilities for a discussion of post humanistic ethics in science education is reflected in the multiplicity of theories and approaches to utilizing the ‘unsettled and unsettling terrain’ on which science education research is based. Using Barad's theory, we assume that ethics are contextual and entangled, framed from the dynamic relationalities of becoming, of which we are part in the research process rather than as the traditional right response to an 'exteriorized other'. Ethics are not a separate element of human action but are emergent as the intra-actions of research produce casual structures that foster material-discursive practices which are reworked by researchers in their efforts to frame what matters and what is excluded from mattering. This paper will discuss the ethical implications for science education researchers when the human and non-human are entangled, and we take seriously “who matters and what counts” (Taylor, 2017, p. 5).
Barad described ethics as an "accountability for the lively relationalities of becoming, of which we are a part" (2012, p. 69) rather than the more familiar form of, "right responses to a radically exteriorized other". With These quotes illustrate how Barad captured both existing modernist understandings of ethics, which separate the researcher from the researched as the "exteriorized other", and post-human ethics, which make a claim for accountability based on human entanglement with the world. Fundamental to Baradian theory is the assumption that matter has agency, entities are not independent or privileged but come into being when they intra-act with each other, establishing agential realism (Barad, 2007). Being ethical in this context means being responsive to the “pattern and murmurings” of matter with which we are entangled (Barad, 2014, p. 3).
The emergence of postmodernism and the rejection of all grand narratives resulted in a critical scrutiny of three significant forms of modernity ethics: teleological, deontological, and utilitarian (Lyotard, 1984). Lyotard (1984) argued that rather than being a source of human freedom, modernity had supported the emergence of a modern West that was imperialistic and used its capacity with science and technology to subjugate other people. The progress narrative that is integral to modernity implies a homogeneity that hides internal inequities applied to categories such as gender, race, class and sexual orientation. These approaches, deontological, teleological and utilitarian, to ethical practices are also ones that a Baradian theorist would not endorse because while all disciplines should be committed to “helping make a more just world” (Barad, 2012, p.153) this can only happen by being materially immersed and inseparable from the material world, being in and of. Being in means that we acknowledge our entanglement with research and its practices in an ethico-onto-epistemological context. The very construing of new knowledge involves us in ethical approaches as we are entangled with the living and the non-living. But such entanglement is not captured by modernist perspectives which elevate and separate humans from all other forms of matter, living and non-living.
As an "accounting for how practices matter" Barad's diffractive methodology offers strategies for how we might consider ethical engagements in research. She argues that diffraction is more profound than reflection because rather than an expectation of reflecting back as you might have with reflection, diffraction is comfortable with difference and interference. By challenging the presumed and often accepted subject and object dichotomy, and other dichotomies, diffraction allows us to acknowledge that all humans intra-act with matter to relationally and phenomenalize the world differently. We argue that Baradian-based ethics encourages us to: 1. Use a methodological approach that is performative (practices) and accepts that, through intra-actions associated with practices, phenomena emerge rather than an approach assuming preexisting separation of subject and object that requires representation to bring them into the same space. 2. Accept agential realism, which 1) assumes that practices are associated with intra-acting producing phenomena and 2) uses an ontology that does not assume "words" and "things" and an epistemology that does not assume a correspondence between the two for truth. 3. Accept that practices matter. Be respectful of entanglements of matter and humans recognizing that the specificity of entanglements is everything. We materialize the world differently through different practices. 4. Use phenomena as the basis of analysis rather than objects and subjects. All these steps are performative, involving practices from which concepts and theory emerge. Baradian theory builds upon the concept of agential realism, and we have discussed how the agential cuts that are made in conducting research set up unique phenomena through temporary boundaries. Researchers are entangled in this work, and ethically bound to consider what are the consequences and inferences of this work as well as noting the differences produced and whether those differences matter. Within agential realism, the ethical decisions made in conducting research are agential cuts. These cuts establish temporary boundaries around phenomena, but Barad challenges us to consider what differences are generated through these decisions and do these differences matter. We argue that by ignoring the material, science education researchers have set boundaries and generated differences that matter.
What does taking on a Baradian perspective to ethics ‘mean’ for science education? Science education, its research and practices have ignored post critical and post humanistic theories, remaining predominantly a conservative, hetereosexual, white, masculine field (Lemke, 2011). If science educators begin to consider a Baradian perspective on ethics, they could use a diffracted methodology to re-examine the field and look for the differences. A focus on the material-discursive practices that emerge when humans entangle with the non-human the material will produce different effects. For example, Higgins (2018) discusses the ethical considerations for science educators when deciding whether to include traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) and Indigenous ways-of-living-with-nature (IWLN) as well as Western modern science (WMS) in curriculum decisions. In the 1980’s, feminist science education researchers noted the similarity of practices and materials used by science teachers who had a ‘track record’ of encouraging girls in science (Kahle, 1985). The teachers’ classrooms were visually stimulating, they had posters that showed females and males engaged with science, plants and animals in the room, provided a pleasant aesthetic. Emphasizing the role of affect, made the laboratory became a space where girls developed material-discursive practices that supported their science learning. There are other results/outcomes from the science education studies that focused on gender that we can re-interpret by taking into consideration “specifics of materializing structural relations” and power dynamics. However, if we do not take such an approach, science education will continue to present a malnourished understanding of knowledge production in science education as matter and the material world continues to be ignored and researchers continue to be placed in a position of unearned power in relation to research participants of any nature.
Barad, K. (2007). Meeting the universe halfway: Quantum physics and the entanglement of matter and meaning. London: Duke University Press. Barad, K. (2012). Interview with Karen Barad. In I. Van der Tuin & R. Dolphijn (Eds.) New materialism: interviews & cartographies (pp. 48-70). Ann Arbor: Open Humanities Press. Barad K. (2014). Diffracting diffraction: cutting together-apart. Parallax, 20 (3),168–187. doi.org/10.1080/13534645.2014.927623 Higgins, M. (2019). Positing an(other) ontology: Towards different practices of ethical accountability within multicultural science education. In C. Milne & K. Scantlebury (Eds.) Material practice and materiality: Too long ignored in science education. New York: Springer. Kahle. J. B. (Ed.). (1985). Women in science: A report from the field. New York: Routledge Falmer. Lemke, J. (2011). The secret identity of science education: Masculine and politically conservative? Cultural Studies of Science Education, 6, 287–292. Lyotard, J-F. (1984). The postmodern condition. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Taylor, C. A. (2017). Rethinking the empirical in higher education: post-qualitative inquiry as a less comfortable social science. International Journal of Research & Method in Education, 40(3), 311–324. doi.org/10.1080/1743727X.2016.1256984.
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