Let's talk the walk: blurring the boundary between reflexivity and new materialist scholarship

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Reflexivity” is a well-established research strategy for dealing with the consequences of the post-foundational epistemological position that all knowledge is a situated product of contingent representations of the world as opposed to a neutral, context-independent foundation (Finlay, 2002; Richardson, 1997). Reflexive analyses explore how particular knowledges, relations and participant subjectivities are co-constituted in the negotiation of meanings in the research process. About 20 years ago, Haraway (1997) mounted a critique of reflexivity and introduced the alternative approach of “diffraction”. According to this critique, reflexivity neglects how materialities are entangled with meaning-making in bringing the world into being– that is, the co-constitution of matter and meaning. Over the past 20 years, analyses using “diffraction” have spread on the wave of new materialism, inspired especially by the work of Barad (e.g. 2007, 2014). At the same time, the reflexivity approach is still alive and well – living on in the work of those poststructuralist scholars who are not impervious to the material turn but have embraced new materialist thinking to a lesser degree.

Accounts by exponents of diffraction of relations between diffraction and reflexivity tend to draw a sharp boundary between the two (e.g. Bozalek and Zembylas, 2017; Davies 2018). This workshop takes its starting-point in the claim that these accounts overstate the distinctiveness of the two approaches and have a tendency to present “straw man” depictions of reflexivity. In the workshop, we will back up this claim by drawing attention to the affinities between diffraction and poststructuralist approaches to reflexivity (eg. a shared adherence to a relational ontology, joint attention to embodiment and emotions as integral to the relational construction of social realities, and the de facto focus of many diffractive analyses on meaning-making).
The workshop will be designed as a forum for trying out both an analytical lens based on a poststructuralist approach to reflexivity and a lens based on diffraction. The poststructuralist approach to reflexivity we will work with is the Integrated Framework for Analysing Dialogic Knowledge Production and Communication (IFADIA) (e.g. Phillips, 2011) which draws on a combination of Bakhtin’s dialogue theory and Foucault’s theory of power/knowledge and discourse in order to explore the dynamics of inclusion and exclusion in play as subjects and objects are co-constructed in tensional meaning-making across multiple voices – an approach that de-romanticizes collaborative knowledge production.

In the workshop, we will facilitate group work in which we try out IFADIA and diffraction concretely as lenses for joint analyses of material from a collaborative research project on a person-centred health care initiative. Following the group work, we will open up for discussion of the two lenses on the basis of participants’ experiences of analysing the material – and in dialogue with participants’ own work with reflexivity and/or diffraction. A key issue for discussion will be affinities across, and differences between, the lenses and the question of whether, how and when the two approaches can supplement each other and when and why they don’t.
Original languageDanish
Publication date14 Feb 2019
Publication statusPublished - 14 Feb 2019
EventEuropean Congress of Qualitative Inquiry 2019 - University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Duration: 13 Feb 201915 Feb 2019


ConferenceEuropean Congress of Qualitative Inquiry 2019
LocationUniversity of Edinburgh
CountryUnited Kingdom
Internet address

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Phillips, L. J., & Scheffmann-Petersen, M. (2019). Let's talk the walk: blurring the boundary between reflexivity and new materialist scholarship. Abstract from European Congress of Qualitative Inquiry 2019, Edinburgh, United Kingdom.