Creative methods and new materialist theories in aspiration research

Year: 2014

Author: Margaret, Somerville

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The aim of this paper is to explore how creative methods and new materialist theories can generate insights into intransigent problems of disadvantage and social justice through aspiration research. It is based on a study of how children’s career and further education aspirations are shaped over time in five schools in western Sydney, Australia. Creative methods were used to produce children’s artifacts in early and late primary school and early and late high school, and parent and teacher focus groups were conducted in each school. The project was conceptualized within ‘a global sense of place’ understood as ‘woven together out of ongoing stories, as a moment within power-geometries, as a particular constellation within the wider topographies of space and as in process, as unfinished business’ (Massey, 2005, p. 131). ). The focus of this paper is on the creative methods and new materialist analysis in relation to data collected from two primary schools which reveal changing patterns of advantage and disadvantage within western Sydney’s global mobilities. Only a suburb apart, one school was categorised by the state education department as low SES and the other as mid-high SES. A quantitative analysis of 188 children’s drawings identified that a marked differentiation between low and high SES children occurred between kindergarten and Year A qualitative storyline analysis of the low SES parent focus group to explore this trend identified a complex assemblage of ‘spacetimemattering’ (Barad, 2010) in storylines of Money matters, Vulnerable childhoods, and Voicing aspiration. These storylines chart a different navigational route for their own and their children’s aspirations that does not follow the binary lines of a deficit- or a strengths-based model typical of the field but acknowledges the profound significance of materiality in the ways that aspiration is shaped in the ‘thick of social life’ (Appadurai, 2004). The theoretical framing, creative methods, and material-relational processes of analysis explored in this paper constitute a new contribution to the scholarly literature in a field where disadvantage has become a focus of policy across the western world. Appadurai, A. (2004). The Capacity to Aspire: Culture and the Terms of Recognition. In V. Rao & M. Walton (Eds.), Culture and Public Action: A Cross-Disciplinary Dialogue on Development Policy. (pp. 59-84). Stanford, Calif.: Stanford Social Sciences. Barad, K. (2010). Quantum entanglements and hauntological relations of inheritance: Dis/continuities, spacetime enfoldings, and justice-to-come. Derrida Today, 3(2), 240–268. Massey, D. (2005). For Space. London: Sage.