Policy as Practice: Toward a Comparative Sociocultural Analysis of Educational Policy

By Margaret Sutton; Bradley A.U. Levinson | Go to book overview

3
Policy Research as Ethnographic
Refusal: The Case of Women's Literacy
in Nepal1

Margaret Sutton

The practices of educational policy research that are framed by international assistance agencies have been largely impervious to critical theoretical debates, which have so altered the landscape of sociocultural scholarship over the past 30 years. As argued in the Introduction to this volume, heightened reflexivity about both culture and power has conferred scholarly legitimacy upon a broad range of research questions and methodologies not only in disciplines such as anthropology, sociology, and history, but also in "applied" and cross-disciplinary fields including area studies, women's studies, and policy studies. The enterprise of international assistance itself has become an object of cultural and political analysis (Escobar, 1995; Ferguson, 1994; Mueller, 1986; Pigg, 1992). Meanwhile, in some fields or "sectors" of development assistance, such as rural development (Apthorpe, 1997), research spawned by the exigencies of development work has incorporated not only qualitative research techniques, but also analysis incorporating "the culture concept," as described by Wright (1994), and the ethnographic stance of viewing the world through the whole self (Ortner, 1995). This has not been the case for educational policy research linked to the workings of international assistance agencies—agency research, for short. Agency research in education remains both methodologically and theoretically conservative, tied firmly to a "managerial" model of policy analysis (Bowe & Ball, 1992, p. 7) and to "instrumental" knowledge (Habermas, 1971) as its base.

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