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Reworking, Rethinking Prejudice in Qualitative Inquiry With Gadamer, Hermeneutics, and De/colonizing Onto-Epistemologies

Sun, April 30, 10:35am to 12:05pm, Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, Floor: Meeting Room Level, Room 207 B


Qualitative inquiry has long privileged a transparency around interrogating researcher positionality within the backdrop of postpositivist arguments about researcher’s prejudices (Maso, 2013; Roulston & Shelton, 2015). In this paper we explore the notions of prejudices and researcher positionality in qualitative inquiry to extend the conversation as qualitative researchers and methodologists. The purpose of this paper is to theorize the onto-epistemological notions of prejudice informed by Gadamer’s philosophical hermeneutics and de/colonizing discourses (Mohanty, 2004; Mutua & Swadener, 2004; Smith, 1999/2012).

Informed by the theme of the conference, the perspectives that frame this paper deal directly with questions about what counts as relevant inquiry, rigor, who does the gatekeeping, what discourses are privileged, and what remains silenced. Situated at the intersection of Gadamer’s ontological orientation of understanding and de/colonizing onto-epistemological orientations of understanding and knowledge construction, we perform what Gadamer (1975/2004) terms a “fusion of horizons.” On a rudimentary level, horizons signify one’s range of vision and understanding and a fusion signifies a meeting of two or more horizons, but never without limitations, and yet a necessary condition for expanding understanding.

Hence, this notion of a fusion of horizons challenges the Cartesian prejudice against prejudices, arguing that prejudices are the positive enabling condition and that they have a pervasive power in the phenomenon of understanding, which was entirely missed by neo-Kantian philosophers before Heidegger. For Gadamer, prejudice is the primary condition for a hermeneutical situation that is necessary in the event of understanding, as prejudice constitutes our being.

Additionally, understanding and knowledge making are situated cultural practices. Given the ways in which dominant colonizing discourses pervade globally, what then would a fusion of horizons look like? In particular, the notion of prejudice, when made by scholars who enact dominant colonizing discourses, becomes an act of silencing scholars who work from the margins, immersed as insiders within their cultural spaces. Therefore, we rethink and rework the role of prejudice as an onto-epistemological engagement around the notion of a fusion of horizons and interrogate how it may affect de/colonizing discourses in qualitative research.

Methods and Data Sources
While this paper is theoretical in nature, we will use vignettes generated from our individual experiences from being qualitative researchers and methodologists in dissertation committees where notions of prejudices were raised for the purpose of cleansing any and all prejudicial influences. Using rich vignettes from our experiences, we will perform a reading, reworking, and rethinking about prejudice informed by Gadamer’s notion of fusion of horizons and various de/colonizing scholars’ work that reconceptualizes the role of agenda-driven research.

We open up broader and deeper spaces of inquiry within the contested neoliberalized terrain of relevant educational research in the U.S. informed by Gadamer’s ontological orientation to prejudice and truth telling in addition to de/colonizing discourses of knowing and being. The foregrounding of onto-epistemological orientations is significant in framing arguments about relevant inquiry, rigor to challenge gatekeepers, and break the cycle of perpetuating a set of methodological procedures to appease postpositivist critics.