- freely available
Soc. Sci. 2019, 8(9), 264; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci8090264
Diffraction is not reflection raised to some higher power. It is not a self-referential glance back at oneself. While reflection has been used as a methodological tool by scholars relying on representationalism, there are good reasons to think that diffraction may serve as a productive model for thinking through nonrepresentationalist methodological approaches.
When is a broken-off limb only a piece of the environment and when it is an offspring? At what point does the ‘disconnected’ limb belong to the ‘environment’ rather than the ‘brittlestar’? Is contiguity of body parts required in the specification of a single organism? Can we trust visual delineations to define bodily boundaries? Can we trust our eyes? Connectivity does not require physical contiguity. (Spatially separate particles in an entangled state do not have separate identities, but rather are part of the same phenomena.)
The notion of intra-action (in contrast to the usual “interaction,” which presumes the prior existence of independent entities/relate) represents a profound conceptual shift. It is through specific agential intra-actions that the boundaries and properties of the “components” of phenomena become determinate and that particular embodied concepts become meaningful.
The key is understanding that identity is not essence, fixity or givenness, but a contingent iterative performativity, thereby reworking this alleged conflict into an understanding of difference not as an absolute boundary between object and subject, here and there, this and that, but rather as the effects of enacted cuts in a radical reworking of cause and effect.
entanglement makes all the categories of humanist qualitative research problematic. For example, how do we determine the ‘object of our knowledge’—the ‘problem’ we want to study in assemblage? Can we disconnect ourselves from the mangle somehow (Self) and then carefully disconnect some other small piece of the mangle (Other) long enough to study it? What ontology has enabled us to believe the world is stable so that we can do all that individuating? And at what price? How do we think a ‘research problem’ in the imbrication of an agentic assemblage of diverse elements that are constantly intra-acting, never stable, never the same?
2.1. Interfaith Childhoods: Race, Class and Community
- Visual, imaginative data collaboratively developed with children, exploring faith, values and community
- Focus group data from the children’s parents exploring faith, values, belonging and community, which is expanded upon in detailed individual interviews with parents
- Quantitative mappings of values, beliefs and sentiments of belonging in the communities in which the qualitative data is gathered.
2.2. Thinking with Matter
Reality is therefore not a fixed essence. Reality is an ongoing dynamic of intra-activity. To assert that reality is made up of phenomena is not to invoke one or another form of idealism. On the contrary, phenomena are specific material configurations of the world. Phenomena are not mere human or social constructions (and they are surely not mere constructs); we don’t simply make the world in our image.
2.3. Digital, Intra-Active Methods
Situated knowledges is not merely about knowing/seeing from somewhere (as in having a perspective), but about taking account of how the specific prosthetic embodiment of the technologically enhanced visualising apparatus matters to practices of knowing.
Qualitatively shifting any atomist metaphysics, intra-action conceptualizes that it is the action between (and not in-between) that matters. In other words, it is not the interviewers or the interviewee or even the oeuvre of the interviewee that deserves our special attention, but it is the sense of orientation that the interview gave rise to (the action itself) that should engender us. For it is in the action itself that new materialism announces itself.
2.4. Creating and Mediating the Feminist Self: Live Broadcasts
- An initial private semi-structured interview, exploring how feminist artists represent and express gender, sexuality, feminism and the body in art practice on Instagram.
- A follow up interview, conducted on the participants’ Instagram live that engages in a discussion around gender, feminism, sexuality and the body but with a lens to understanding the feminist activist art community and mapping the artists’ engagement within that community (this is visually recorded through the engagement of their followers with the live video).
- A continued and ongoing documentation of the artists’ engagement within this global community by following their stories and posts and actively participating in this space. This is recorded through screenshots and recording the liking, commenting, and sharing of the artist’s work across their various pages and stories to map community responses and sentiment.
2.5. Ethnographic Observation: Frances Cannon’s Studio, 19 February 2019
2.6. Mixing with Matter
Drawing attention to a collective or individual sense of enjoyment may seem insignificant, but I think it’s interesting for a number of reasons. For one thing, there’s something to say about social science methodologies being fun and playful. This is perhaps especially important in the context of what Roger Burrows and Mike Savage (2007) call the ‘coming crisis of empirical sociology’, where they note that methods initially developed by sociology and wider social sciences (such as interviews, and surveys) are increasingly employed in commercial sectors—meaning both that the methodological expertise by which sociology has traditionally defined itself no longer belong to it alone, and that new audiences and markets are being enrolled in what are sometimes more agile and fun versions of these methods. So, the question of how social sciences might re-develop their own methods that are themselves fun is crucial. There is then a politics and ethics to how this question might be addressed.
This Eurocentric paradigm [of ‘Humanism’] implies the dialectics of self and other, and the binary logic of identity and otherness as respectively the motor for and the cultural logic of universal Humanism. Central to this universalistic posture and its binary logic is the notion of ‘difference’ as pejoration. Subjectivity is equated with consciousness, universal rationality, and self-regulating ethical behaviour, whereas Otherness is defined as its negative and specular counterpart. In so far as difference spells inferiority, it acquires both essentialist and lethal connotations for people who get branded as ‘others’. These are the sexualized, racialized, and naturalized others, who are reduced to the less than human status of disposable bodies. We are all humans, but some of us are just more mortal than others.
Conflicts of Interest
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Professor Anna Hickey-Moody is recipient of the Australian Research Council Future Fellowship project number FT 160100293 ‘Early Start Arts to Counter Radicalization’ funded by the Australian Government.
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Marissa Willcox is a recipient of the RMIT RTP PhD research scholarship ID number 2266885 on which this project is funded.
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