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Theory, Philosophy, Epistemology, and Positionality: A Primer

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Xyan Neider

on 14 June 2016

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Transcript of Theory, Philosophy, Epistemology, and Positionality: A Primer

Theory, Philosophy,
Epistemology, and Positionality

A Primer
Theory & Epistemology
A Word on Positionality
Who We Are
Claiming Our Epistemology
In the End
It Is Not 1 Or The Other
Philosophical Theory
Practical Theory
Conceptual Framworks
Which One Do You Feel More Grounded In?
Theoretical Frameworks
Conceptual and Theoretical
"A MODEL that connects the important elements of the problem being investigated and embeds it in a larger context" (Suter, 2012, p. 89)
A theory that has been tried, tested, and researched
A part of a larger body of research
A theory that may be practical OR philosophical
It "connects the important elements of the problem being investigated and embeds it in a larger context" (borrowed from Suter, 2012, p. 89)
Which do you feel you have learned more about?
Which do you feel you have had more practice using?
Guides Practice
And is usually the basis for a Conceptual Framework
Vygotsky's Zone of Proximal Development
Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences
Tinto's Theory of Student Involvment
Bloom's Taxonomy of Higher Order Thinking
Perry's Theory of Cognitive Development
Sanford's Theory of Challenge and Support
Further research has been done to substantiate these theories: tried, tested, replicated, and extended to new settings
Guides thinking about social problems/issues
Critical Race Theory - out legal studies (Delgado)
Feminist Theory (Fine; hooks; Lather)
Poststructural Theory (Lather)
Lat/Crit Theory (?)
Queer Theory (Butler)
Critical Theory (Apple; Friere; Giroux)
Postmodernism (Foucault; Lyotard)
Postcolonial Theory (Appadurai; Bhaba; Mohanty; Said)
Multiculturalism (hooks; West)
Anti-Racist (Sleeter; Wise)
As scholarship continues around these theories, new theories emerge: Imperialism/Empire (Hardt & Negri), Postcolonial Feminism (Mohanty); Critical Race Feminism (hooks)
These are not theories that are tested in the same way as practical or conceptual theories as they frame a way of understanding/viewing the world
Simply defined, epistemology is the study of knowledge
However, many of the philosophical theories are epistemological in their nature as they frame the way we come to understand the world
They may be our lens for interpreting and constructing knowledge about the world
And/or they help us to explore and explain the complexities that exist within our social science research
Often times, the epistemological lens can help us critique the conceptual models we use in our research.
The epistemological lens we choose may help us to ask different and more complex questions, thereby honoring the complexities of daily lived experiences
We may choose to work with only an epistemological lens, however, I feel it unwise to work with only a conceptual lens
When we make our epistemological standpoint explicit, we may make ourselves more vulnerable to critique and criticism, however, we also turn power over to our readers to judge our work more thoroughly and honestly
We must explain who we are and what our relationship is to the research we do. Just as we would make clear who funded our research, we must make clear who we are as researchers, which may include:
Our role in our paid jobs
Our race, gender, sexuality, socio-economic status
Our history and background
How we came to study the topic we are studying
We are explicit with our academic expertise and where our personal story intersects with the research. By doing so, we allow our readers to assess our legitimacy in bringing the research to light.
Sometimes a particular theoretical lens will be the way we naturally (or have been socialized and taught how to) think. Or a theoretical lens may be how we think about a particular issue/problem that we are researching. Therefore, we also need to make clear our world view, how we understand knowledge and knowledge construction, our own theoretical beliefs.
Research has historically been seen as an objective endeavor - the researcher had to remain removed from their study. First, this is impossible (Lincoln & Guba, 1987?) - objectivity is a chimera. Second, this has allowed the dominant voices to construct knowledge about marginalized people, which has worked to "other" them, make them deviant, and keep them out of the knowledge generation business (Willinsky, 1998). Explicitly stating a positionality has been one way in which marginalized people have been able to speak back to the dominant voices and construct their own knowledge, about their own communities, about themselves, and opened an avenue into the knowledge construction business.

In some ways, we might think of positionality as a cover letter for a job. Including your positionality allows other researchers - your colleagues - to analyze your research. It helps to make your thinking clear - it provides a roadmap or thought lineage to the issue you are studying.
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