The Outer Rim of the Qualitative Paradigm: How Post-Qualitative Inquiry Better Informs LGBTQ Studies in Higher Education

Year: 2018

Author: Arnberg, Benjamin

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Post-qualitative inquiry operates outside conventions of qualitative inquiry; it moves beyond brute data and encourages instinct as an exploratory tool. MacLure (2013) asks us to use "glow" and "frisson" while St. Pierre (2013) asks us to imagine possibilities for being. Post-qualitative inquiry critiques the validity of language (and numbers) and rejects objective truth claims. It is rooted in Deleuzian thought, to which I add Bakhtin’s (1981) work on language: “There are no ‘neutral’ words and forms…language, for the individual consciousness, lies on the borderline between oneself and the other” (p. 293). Deleuze (1990), complicates validity further when he writes of the absurd as, “that which is without signification or that which may be neither true nor false” (p. 15). LGBTQ student existence is absurd in that it is individual, without signification. Their lives are treated as neither true nor false; as Halberstam (2011) writes, LGBTQ lives are situated as failures of heteronormative assimilation, and Halperin (2012) notes the paradox of being LGBTQ: it is something one is and something one learns to be. LGBTQ experiences are invalidated as non-reliable or non-definable; thus, an analysis of their “being” must start with an analysis of the absurd. Deleuze informs validity of sense as that which is expressed: “the event is sense itself” (p. 22). These theories highlight crucial shortcomings of post-positivist qualitative approaches for studying LGBTQ students. They take attention away from sense/event and place it onto language/signification. Reliance on brute datum fails to capture sense/absurdity, which is the event itself. Within that onto-epistemological vein, individual student “being” and voice is erased through numerical translation, often stripped of its context. Post-positivist conventions treat as invalid that which cannot be concretely quantified, further marginalizing individuals whose contexts cannot be replicated. When working with LGBTQ students, post-postivist paradigms risk: 1) diagnostic treatment of students as if they are specimens, 2) replicating existing hypotheses rather than exploring new possibilities, and 3) failure to document individual student experience. Using post-qualitative inquiry, this study: 1) traces how LGBTQ students in an American university find support within a hostile campus climate, and 2) provides a map for using post-qualitative inquiry to bridge the gaps in existing research on LGBTQ student studies. This study features seven post-qualitative vignettes of LGBTQ student experience; they highlight how a hostile climate affects psychosocial development, how students define inclusion, how students covertly seize success, and how students develop networks.