The politics and ethics of research: attempting to think differently

This symposium seeks to address the underlying politics of research. Each paper raises ethical and political tensions encountered in conducting and designing educational research. Across all of these papers, is a fundamental consideration of how research itself is steeped in the power relations that encircle our social world. In different ways, these papers approach the paradoxical question of how research can engage with and contest these power relations whilst also being embedded within them. In the globalising, diversifying world, attention to issues of power and politics have urgent importance. With rising inequality, the growth of far-right politics, increased surveillance and data production, transforming work practices, everyday and institutionalised sexism, racism and homophobia, it appears more urgent than ever to develop research agendas capable of understanding power and difference. At the same time, researchers are increasingly asked to quantify and contain their research within narrow understandings of 'rigour', 'evidence', and 'impact'. For those working within academia with a commitment to understanding inequality, power and difference, the push towards particular forms of research knowledge raises questions about the purpose of our work, and the research we conduct. In this symposium we aim to address these conditions of our work, to consider what it means for the research knowledge we produce, for ourselves as researchers, and the people we research with. In the first paper, Rudolph and Gerrard engage post-colonial theory to offer a critical reading of the emergent 'post-qualitative inquiry' approach in educational research, suggesting the need for greater attention to history and politics. In the second paper, Higham discusses the affective politics of researching masculinities in schools, contemplating how as a feminist new materialist researcher she might ethically engage with an elaborate entanglement of power. Third, Heimans and Singh present some of their thinking through of the ethical and epistemic dilemnas that they have encountered in doing collaborative (or is it collaborationist?) research with schools. They present some ideas about doing 'critical-dissensual' research. Lastly, Belcher presents on the possibilities and limitations of new materialism as a decolonising methodology. In this paper, she considers how new materialism itself may be shaped by being worked with 'in Indigenous sovereignty', where new materialist methods are framed by place-based protocols in relation to Indigenous research methodologies.