Problematising the reimagining of education policy research: A post-structural and Pacific perspective

Year: 2021

Author: Spratt, Rebecca

Type of paper: Individual Paper

This presentation seeks to engage critically with the theme of this conference, Reimagining Education Research, and especially the narrative regarding “an urgent need for research that moves our thinking forward.” The theme provokes for me several questions: Whose reimaginings?  Whose ‘taken-for-granted thinking’ and research are we moving forward from? Finally, how do we move thinking forward to reckon with the coloniality of ‘taken for granted thinking’ and the limits of northern knowing, including a temporality and spatiality in which the new and forward motion is valorised. These are questions I am grappling with in considering how to think and do critical policy research in/on the assemblage of regional education policy in the Pacific region. This policy-scape is a complex mix of governmental, inter-governmental and private actors interacting through global, regional and local scales, within which discourses of sustainable development, regionalism, indigeneity and post/de-coloniality are strong currents, often pulling in different and unpredictable directions. I suggest that researching within this relational space (Hau’ofa, 1994) demands a reimagining of policy, at least as understood within the northern academy and global education industry. Further, I suggest the starting point for such reimagining is as much a concern for ‘new challenges’ as it is a reckoning with the longstanding challenges to the adequacy, relevance and consequences of northern theorising of policy (Mignolo, 2011; Ozga, 2019; Potoae, 2017). This includes the recognition that research is “probably one of the dirtiest words in the indigenous world” (Tuhiwhai-Smith, 1999, p.1). So, how can one research ‘policy’ within such a time-space, while doing so in a manner that adequately accounts for and takes account of pluri-onto-epistemologies and the diverse currents of power, relationality, genealogy and sacredness?   In this paper, I discuss my engagement with these questions. In particular, I share how I am drawing on literature from indigenous Pacific theorists, decoloniality scholars, and Foucauldian/Deleuzian poststructuralism to tentatively navigate a way to think-do critical policy research by “walking forward into the past and backward into the future…within the ever-transforming present” (Māhina, 1994).