Working the Ruins: Feminist Poststructural Theory and Methods in Education

Working the Ruins: Feminist Poststructural Theory and Methods in Education

Working the Ruins: Feminist Poststructural Theory and Methods in Education

Working the Ruins: Feminist Poststructural Theory and Methods in Education

Synopsis

From some of the leading feminist scholars in education comes a collection of writings discussing how they use feminist poststructural theory in their classrooms and research. Drawing on real-life situations in their work, they show how using this theory has transformed their work. Topics covered include the following: theory in everyday life, ethnography, writing the body, emotions in the classroom, qualitative research, and "gossip as a counter-discourse." The range of topics, processes, and styles presented provides the reader with a variety of examples, illustrating the diversity and power of the effects of poststructural theory, as well as showing the possibilities of work still to be done.

Excerpt

The things to look at are styles, figures of speech, setting, narrative devices, historical and social circumstances, not the correctness of representation nor its fidelity to some great original.

(Said, 1978, p. 21)

Edward Said advises readers encountering the texts of culture to consider both the structure of the narration and what it is that structures its modes of intelligibility. Such advice may seem strange when the text being examined is an educational ethnography. At first glance, ethnography seems to promise “fidelity to some great original,” that is, to the original of culture. For those engaged in the doing and the reading of mainstream educational ethnography, more often than not, it is the “ethno” and not the “graphy” that seems to be the focus of attention. As a genre of research, I would note just three of its attractive and mythic “ethno” qualities. First, ethnography is both a process and a product; there are methods for how to go about narrating culture, and these social strategies promise a text. Second, good ethnographic texts tell stories that invariably embody qualities of a novel. Implicitly, ethnographies promise pleasure or at least new information to the reader. Third, an ethnography takes the reader into an actual world to reveal the cultural knowledge working in a particular place and time as it is lived through the subjectivities of its inhabitants. Such access persuades readers that they can imaginatively step into this world and act like a native, or, at the very least, understand the imperatives of cultural assimilation. These textualized qualities appear seamless because they blur traditional distinctions among the writer, the reader, the stories, and how the stories are told.

Such qualities are seductive in the power they bestow. There is a belief

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