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Cultivating the Qualitative Borderlands Educational Poetics and the Politics of Inclusivity Andrew Gitlin.

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Presentation on theme: "Cultivating the Qualitative Borderlands Educational Poetics and the Politics of Inclusivity Andrew Gitlin."— Presentation transcript:

1 Cultivating the Qualitative Borderlands Educational Poetics and the Politics of Inclusivity Andrew Gitlin

2 expanding legitimate knowledge Where traditional research standards such as validity and reliability have remained unchanged for decades, there is now significant movement within the field of qualitative research to rethink those terms with the intent of expanding the bounds of what is considered legitimate knowledge and research practice (Alvesson & Skoldberg, 2000; Lather, 1994; Wolcott, 1990). Where traditional research standards such as validity and reliability have remained unchanged for decades, there is now significant movement within the field of qualitative research to rethink those terms with the intent of expanding the bounds of what is considered legitimate knowledge and research practice (Alvesson & Skoldberg, 2000; Lather, 1994; Wolcott, 1990).

3 politics of inclusivity in qualitative research  Insightful scholars in this epistemological field have advanced a politic of inclusion by making the role of the researcher, the relation between researcher and research participant, the bounds of legitimate knowledge, and the groups who can and should legitimately produce knowledge more inclusive.

4 research question  Is it time to examine the politics of inclusion and consider what might lie on the other side of this boundary? To address this query and see anew the politics of inclusion in many extended (I use the word extended to suggest that these methodologies have already pushed against established qualitative research boundaries) qualitative approaches, I will use an alternative political humanist approach, educational poetics, as a comparative foil.

5 politics and aesthetics  Where art is often associated with the creation of images, the social world, and culture in particular, also create images. At times, these images tie us to the past and at others times these images open up new possibilities to view others, relationships, and behavior differently and more openly.

6 oppression and freedom  Without question I have been stuck in the never ending story of race, class and gender. The point is not to give these central issues up but to change my epistemological thinking from a focus on confronting oppression to both confronting oppression and engaging in a freedom quest to utilize imagination, our inherent human potential, to think beyond the categories and codes or what I will later refer to as affirmative culture.

7 creativity and change  In this sense, educational poetics links the understanding of oppression with a forward looking impulse to be free, to use our human potential to creatively move beyond the images, categories, representations that hold us back from transcending the common cliche that the more things change the more they stay the same.

8 beyond the past  Educational poetics moves forward to the unknown and tries to represent and create alternative categories, theories, and forms of representation that provide a path for a future that hopefully looks different and more multi-dimensional than the past which so often is dominated by hierarchical and oppressive relationships.

9 educational poetics: from the borderlands  educational poetics is a form of inquiry that emerges from the borderlands between established communities (e.g., aesthetics and education). Given this borderland approach, inquirers can see and interrogate (look back at) the norms, categories, and perspectives embodied within particular scholarly communities at the same time as they look out at the social world in ways that use community differences (again education and aesthetic communities) to produce new syntheses, and perspectives that don’t necessarily lie comfortably within any one established community discourse.

10 imagination and inquiry  Imagination, as linked to inquiry, allows inquirers to extend their approach beyond getting it “right” (i.e., accurately presenting reality) to creating spaces in the inquiry text such that new horizons can be seen and alternative actions and relationships formed. As Vygotsky (1998) states, “Everything that requires artistic transformation of reality, everything that is connected with interpretation and construction of something new, requires the indispensable participation of imagination (p.153).”

11 poetics  By naming an approach to knowledge production educational poetics, and focusing on imagination, art, and aesthetics, I do not mean to suggest that I am a poet or that you should be. Instead, I am using the word poetics to describe a process that moves between inspiration (forms of imagination that furthers forms of inventiveness) and traditional views of knowledge, such that reflection on experience is a process emerging from the mind /body (Bachelard, 1969, p.xvii).

12 mind/body  By calling for a linkage of mind/body, educational poetics challenges the valorization of rationality, the knowledge form of the enlightenment community, as well as the cultural codes of a research discourse that separate out mind from the body. Instead, educational poetics tries to extend the discourse of the research community, by seeing as legitimate and desirable more holistic forms of knowledge.

13 [re]inventing oneself  Taken together, mind/body suggests a process of [re]inventing oneself (Anzuldua, 1990, p.xvi)–again invention not accuracy is at the heart of the project I call educational poetics.

14 moving toward the unknown  When the mind/body become involved in the knowledge process there can be an awakening of sorts that moves beyond the press of everyday commonsense (Apple, 1990, p.84), such that a new image, a new creation of sorts, may come forth, one that is not predictable or knowable in advance. And it is this imaginative process, which can’t be codified or put into some causal relation that is at the centerpiece of educational poetics.

15 imagination and commonsense  Within educational poetics it is desirable to transcend some of the premises of commonsense. When the premises of commonsense do not totally saturate our lens, we exploit the human potential to be free–to imagine. Imagination is an important quality of human nature because it can help us look to the future without that view being totally structured by the past and the current realities.  “Imagination separate[s] us from the past as well as reality; it faces the future.... If we cannot imagine we cannot foresee (Bachelard,1969, p.xxx).”

16 foreseeing  Looking to the future without being overly determined by the past and present, a type of foreseeing, is one of the possibilities of educational poetics. While the past is worthy of all sorts of accolades, as humans we have the potential to see anew, to look through and beyond the past in thinking about acting on the future. And it is this foreseeing that holds the potential for an educational poetic to contemplate new, unforeseen directions that, at times, can create a different, more expansive or multi-dimensional commonsense that can be argued to represent a form of progress.

17 educational poetics and a deep politic  Paying attention to aesthetics, therefore, allows one to make a double move that focuses on image making and places image making within a cultural analysis. When this analysis is informed by imaginative inclinations (the essence of an aesthetic orientation to epistemology), a politic can emerge that helps us escape the seductive force that draws us back to the status quo–that being the naturalization and reification of socially constructed images. And it is the linkage of this double move (image making embedded in a cultural analysis) with our imaginative potential that informs a deep politic, a politic that lies at the center of the political humanist epistemology I call educational poetics.

18 commonsense  A focus on commonsense as an object of inquiry may appear strange because sense is usually associated with what is commonly thought to be right, desirable, and the way to live one’s life. Commonsense is all of that. It is also, however, a facade, a constraint that we often drape over ourselves to appear desirable in one way or another

19 affirmative culture  Certain aspects of culture, those that support culturally stability, what Marcuse (1955) refers to as the affirmative aspects of culture, often stand in opposition to the human possibility of moving beyond the “is” to imagine and create an “ought”—a better world in some sense of the word “better.”

20 affirmative culture and resistance  Often at a societal level conflict or resistance is viewed as a deviance of some sort that needs to be curtailed or punished (e.g.,Willis, 1977). Put differently, it is assumed that conflict and resistance needs to be policed in some fashion. However, where resistance or conflict is curtailed, conformism seeps into local cultural communities and tends to keep cultural understandings and practices from evolving.

21 the double move  Inquirers should consider making a double move in their approach to knowledge production. The inquirer should continue investigating the relation between race and the curriculum found in schools, for example. However, additionally the inquirer might also focus on how the seduction of affirmative culture (the need to police resistance) and commonsense more generally, may take the progressive intent of this inquiry project and turn it back toward reinforcing the status quo. By having affirmative culture and commonsense be an object of inquiry, there is a release from the seduction of the dominant past as the way to see and represent the world.

22 relations of freedom  While living with uncertainty appears to be the antithesis of progress in our modern world, where all advancements are defined in terms of measurable goals and outcomes, educational poetics views uncertainty as the genesis of progress, for this is where imagination finds its wings. And it is through imagination, that one  “becomes able to break with what is supposedly fixed and finished, objectively and independently real, [where one] become[s] freed to glimpse what might be, to form notions of what should be and is not yet, [and] at the same time, remain in touch with what presumably is” (Greene, 1995, p.19).

23 validity and relations of freedom  Educational poetics challenges detachment as a way to produce objective findings and therefore valid findings. The validity of educational poetics is based on achieving a purpose–a humanistic intent. That purpose is moving toward relations of freedom. When the inquiry process moves in this direction, we should see how imagination can point us to what is not fully seen, to the value of non- conformism, and ultimately to forms of praxis that make our views, actions, and relationships more multi-dimensional as our horizons are expanded as well

24 the politics of inclusivity and educational Poetics  To say that inclusiveness is important or even essential to any progressive view of society is an understatement. It is also the case, however, that expanding the center (hooks, 1994) in some ways doesn’t alter the fact that there is still a hierarchy and that the hierarchy is one that fundamentally determines who has authority to “tell their stories” and who does not have this authority.

25 commonsense and inclusion  If one is interested in being inclusive and also moving deeper into politics, a deep politic, to consider the underlying nature of what one is being included into, we must be able to see and challenge these commonsense constructions–in this case the hierarchy itself, the construction of what it means to be an authority ( a form of affirmative culture), and the intimate connection between inclusion and exclusion (Popkewitz, 1998).

26 outward and inward  Commonsense as an object of inquiry reconfigures the direction of knowledge production such that attention directed outward toward the social world is complimented with attention directed inward at the inquirer.

27 self-critical  a politics of inclusion, for all its benefits and importance, does not direct knowledge producers to be self-critical about their own participation in the constraining effects of affirmative culture. If progress is to mean more than placing the same wine in a new bottle (Sarason 1971), it is important to not only think through issues of inclusion, but also consider the ways we as knowledge producers are consistently limited, constrained, and seduced by the affirmative aspects of culture

28 look-at data  Within many qualitative approaches in the field of education the researcher looks at the data and uses that data to tell a story. Put directly, in most qualitative research the gaze is out at social/cultural life. That directional gaze is used to collect data. The data is then used to tell a convincing story

29 looks-with data Qualitative research is directed primary at the “other” rather than looking with the data ( a two way process of looking back at our inquiry communities and forward in inventive imaginative ways), as is the case in educational poetics, such that the inquiry process considers all influenced and participating in inquiry as having a need. Qualitative research is directed primary at the “other” rather than looking with the data ( a two way process of looking back at our inquiry communities and forward in inventive imaginative ways), as is the case in educational poetics, such that the inquiry process considers all influenced and participating in inquiry as having a need.

30 deep politics  What a politics of inclusion is less likely to do is operate at a deeper level to imagine and reconsider the foundational structures, such as hierarchies, and the construction of authority, that influence, constrain, and bound so much of what we do, think and recommend. I believe it is the limits of inclusive politics to operate at a deeper political level that bounds many of the current qualitative methodologies used in the field of education

31 is and ought  The ought of inclusive politics also does not require imagination so much as strategy–how to make current constructions of reality more inclusive. In contrast, having relations of freedom, or some sort of freedom be part of a methodological revolution, directs inquiry participants to work on both the is and ought, with the ought emerges from our ability to imagine a future without that imagination being totally saturated by our past cultural understandings.

32 multidimensional  The inclusive politics found in many qualitative methodologies in the field of education also does little to address how research participants, both researcher and “subjects”, may be one-dimensional (i.e., they may be shrouded by affirmative culture). Seldom within qualitative methodologies, for example, have research authors addressed and challenged their conformism as part of the research process.

33 teaching example  Within the context of exploiting relations of freedom a teacher, for example, might initially see being in control as a primary prerequisite for student learning. Knowledge emerging from an inquiry orientation that enhanced relations of freedom would push the teacher to think through the way control as a prerequisite for learning might be desirable or in fact an aspect of affirmative culture (i.e., something that limits our human ability to imagine and revision the everydayness of our lives) or some combination.

34 Gatto teaching example  Gatto has started the process of exploiting his ability to be free. By using imagination and originality he comes to this conclusion.  “Genius is as common as dirt. We suppress our genius only because we haven’t figured out how to manage a population of educated men and women. The solution, I think, is simple and glorious. Let them manage themselves” (p.38).

35 politics  The politic emerging from educational poetics is potentially different from the inclusive politics embodied in many qualitative methodologies in two ways: First, the inquiry process is a two way process as opposed to a simple looking out. What this means, in my way of thinking, is that there is a connection between one’s expectations for “others” and the expectations for self or inquirer. Both need to be examined and, importantly where found wanting, [re]imagined.

36 politics and change  When operating in the borderland between differences, the point is not only to acknowledge one’s biases but to see their relation to commonsense and to re[imagine] them. In this sense, inquiry occurring from the borderland between differences incorporates inquirer change into the knowledge production process and the emerging politics.

37 turning point  As you challenge commonsense and affirmative aspects of culture, you will also be exploiting the human potential to be free, as you cultivate uncertainty and use imagination to vision worlds not totally saturated with past practices, relations and sensibilities.

38 Finding more  Andrew’s book is titled: Educational poetics inquiry freedom and innovative necessity. Peter Lang Publishers (2005)  Andrew can be contacted at:


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