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Poststructural and Posthumanist Theories as Literacy Research Methodologies

Mon, April 11, 11:45am to 1:15pm, Marriott Marquis, Floor: Level Four, Liberty Salon N


Purpose: Educational research is dominated by anthropocentric and logocentric methodologies (Hultman & Lenz Taguchi, 2010). However, the current material/discursive turn articulated by posthumanist theorists builds on the linguistic turn and embraces non-humans (i.e., materials, time, space, etc.) as active agents in producing realities (Barad, 2007). This turn changes the way we define and view data, transcribe recordings, analyze, and write-up research.
This paper demonstrates the possibilities and tensions of reimagined literacy research methods that align with poststructural (PS) and posthumanist (PH) theories. Based on five years of collaborative research with a second-grade teacher, I share two examples from Writers’ Studio of students creating 1) an Egyptian pyramid game with a 3-demensional chute and 2) a paper and pipe cleaner purse with accessories and money. I demonstrate how we embodied PS and PH theories in our analytic methods as we examined the literacy desirings of children (Author a; b; c).

Theories: I draw the PS concept of rhizomes from Deleuze and Guattari (1987) and the PH concept of intra-activity from Barad (2007; 2008). A rhizome is a root system that produces shoots in unexpected directions. The concept of rhizomes helps educators to think about moments where students’ literacy desirings fissure norms or expectations. PH theories de-center the human as the focus of analysis and the origin of all knowing. Non-human elements are not passive and simply controlled or manipulated by humans. These two theories shifted our research process to focus on what is produced in intra-actions of humans and non-humans. The focus of analysis is not on what a literacy practice means or even the final text, but what an intra-action (the processes of creating) with texts, language, digital devices, and materials produces.

Methods & Data: Thinking with theories (Jackson & Mazzei, 2012) and post-qualitative inquiry (St. Pierre, 2011) are approaches that 1) depart from coding data and pre-set methods of analysis and 2) align with paradigmatic aspects of PS and PH theories. I share news ways of de-centering the human and language in data, transcripts, analysis, and “writing up” of research. Examples come from data such as video and audio recordings in Writers’ Studio, photographs of student made artifacts, student interviews, and field notes.

Conclusions: Rethinking and putting to work both PS and PH ideas are critical for reimaging literacy research methodologies in the current era of testing and accountability that privileges methodological conservatism (Author & Colleagues; Author d, e). Students are not only influenced by humans (talk), but also time, space, and materials (non-human agents). Insights discussed include ways to not only with think with theory but also write with theory. I share how we are experimenting with hyphens, slashes, ellipses, fonts, double arrows, and multiple genres not only to (re)present research but also as modes of inquiry.

Significance: In the current educational climate, new methodologies for exploring literacy are needed as literacies and technologies are changing. Researchers must be open to (and create) inventive methodologies in order to better contribute to public scholarship.