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International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education

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Waiting in the chaotic place of unknowing: articulating postmodern emergence

Margaret J. Somerville
a a

Monash University , Australia Published online: 18 Apr 2008.

To cite this article: Margaret J. Somerville (2008) Waiting in the chaotic place of unknowing: articulating postmodern emergence, International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 21:3, 209-220, DOI: 10.1080/09518390801998353 To link to this article:

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International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education Vol. 21, No. 3, May-June 2008, 209220

Editorial Waiting in the chaotic place of unknowing: articulating postmodern emergence

Margaret J. Somerville*
Monash University, Australia
International 10.1080/09518390801998353 TQSE_A_300001.sgm 0951-8398 Original Taylor 2008 0 3 21 MargaretSomerville 00000May-June and & Article Francis (print)/1366-5898 Francis Journal 2008 of Qualitative (online) Studies in Education

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It is just before dawn, that still quiet time before the little birds chirrup at first light. I luxuriate in the silence when no one will call or email or knock on the door. It is a sort of dark emptiness. I am safe in the space of my bed, a cup of tea and the warmth of the laptop on my legs. I do not yet know what I will write. The song of the little birds rises up as I begin to type, click click of the keys. Reaching into body memory, half-formed images. Marks appear on the blank screen, grow into sentences, making meaning. I let them keep on coming until they stop then I can examine them, move them around or erase them all with a slide of the cursor and a click of the delete key.

This introduction to a Special Edition of the International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education follows a paper in which I proposed a new methodology that I labelled, temporarily, postmodern emergence (Somerville 2007). The reason for seeking to articulate such a methodology was that in educational research generally, and in the available pedagogical processes for research students in particular, there appeared to be a closing down rather than an opening up of the possibility of generating new knowledge. I wrote about my concern for the increasing press from supervisors towards standard forms of thesis production that come to stand in for pedagogies of doctoral supervision. This was especially so for those students for whom there was no choice but a radical alternative methodology, no other way to ask the questions or generate the knowledge with which they were so deeply entwined. In my own research I have necessarily continued to evolve radical alternative methodologies as the only way to respond to the postcolonial questions and research conditions in which I find myself. I consider the processes that support the generation of new knowledge to be important in all research, but it seemed more possible to articulate the qualities, ontology and epistemology of postmodern emergence at the extreme end of a continuum of alternative methodologies. I proposed an ontology of postmodern emergence that emphasises the irrational, messy and embodied process of becoming-other-to-ones-self in research. Any process of making new knowledge necessitates opening the self to this process, to the fact that in making new knowledge we will come to inhabit and know the world differently than we did before. I suggested an epistemology requiring a new theory of representation, as a response to the emphasis on deconstruction in poststructural research and the crisis of representation in ethnography (Denzin and Lincoln 1994). This new theory of representation was based on the idea of a pause in an iterative process of representation and reflection. Such a pause is constituted when a particular assemblage of forms and meanings comes together as a moment of representation, a temporary stability within the dynamic flux of meaning-making in (re)search for new knowledge. I understand the

ISSN 0951-8398 print/ISSN 1366-5898 online 2008 Taylor & Francis DOI: 10.1080/09518390801998353


M.J. Somerville

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characteristics of this momentary representation as of the moment rather than timeless, aesthetic and pleasurable rather than correct, and intertextual rather than independent in meaning. I came to this introduction in the same way that I tried to think (then) about postmodern emergence, as a process of wondering and generating. It is a process that cannot begin with logic but comes from a place of not knowing, informed by intuition and responsiveness. I ask the question: How can I open myself to what I do not yet know? I invited papers from researchers I met in Australia and overseas who have recently completed doctoral studies or were in the process of completing doctoral studies. I had responded to their work with my inner ear, the ear that listens to the rhythm of things, to the music that resonates with my desire to know differently. I asked these new researchers to contribute a piece of writing about their research that responded in some way to the ideas about postmodern emergence as they were presented in the published paper. This has not been an easy and seamless process and it seems important to name the silences, because the spaces of absence reveal as much as the presences. The first absence is a researcher from Japan studying the art form of butoh. Tamah Nakamura contributed the title phrase waiting in the chaotic place of unknowing and also the photo and text that I have included at the end of this introduction. She submitted a draft paper with exciting ideas about coming to know bodily through performance in a study that spilled beyond categorical borders through the awareness of artistic and aesthetic consciousness and values I brought to my research emerging as an artistic process. Tamah danced, moved and voiced her data and translated it across three scripts in her text Chinese ideographs, romanization of the Japanese text, and English translation. In these research acts, she was concerned with problematizing her own identity as an American long-term resident of Japan:
Waiting in the chaotic place of not knowing, and not knowing when and if I would know, and, further, not knowing what I would know, while honoring the informants knowledge as greater than my own, acknowledges method as a creative process.

I did not know Tamah when we began to correspond about a possible paper. During the course of our email communications I have come to know the pain of her dissertation:
I recall promising you an article for your upcoming specially themed journal on emerging methods. It was a foolish promise. My self-esteem is below zero right now as I sit in my office daily trying to make sense of very major dissertation revisions. In the morning everything seems possible but by 4 p.m. Im in tears. So I go to the gym and sweat it out with some music in my head and fall into an exhausted sleep. Day after day of this cycle. (Tamah Nakamura, email correspondence)

Tamahs struggle is one we can recognise from our own labours, with the added impact of working from the in-between space of languages and cultures, and of the increasingly hegemonic practices of research and doctoral standards. In the end she has to withdraw her contribution, struggling to perform a standard doctoral thesis based on the tight logics of academic form:
I am staying with the required argument type of writing and am finding discoveries in the process. However, Ive had to cut all the interesting bits such as the three scripts, etc. I have opened Misc. files, though, where I have saved all the good stuff which is close to my heart. For later someday. (Tamah Nakamura, email correspondence)

Together we hoped that later someday would happen when the good stuff that is close to Tamahs heart can emerge. The meaning of the text she has produced will inevitably be limited by the absence of the textual choreography that opens the reader to the multiple translations of knowledge-making.

International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education


Chrissiejoy Marshalls presence also haunts this text. I wrote about Chrissiejoys UAlayi methodology in Postmodern emergence as an Indigenous methodology based in Country, her country of Terewah, or the Narran Lake as non-Indigenous people have named it. I wrote about the sorts of knowledges that cannot be known, or communicated in old forms. Chrissiejoy and I had also begun a project about water in the drylands of the Murray-Darling Basin, extending out from the Narran Lake to all of the waters that connect throughout that body of water. We wrote a proposal and then she had a car accident that left her in so much pain from a spinal injury that the episodes of pain caused white moon-shaped lesions visible in an MRI on her brain, spaces where her brain cells were destroyed. Keeping Chrissiejoy informed, I developed a team of artist/researchers and carried on with the project, weighed down by our sense of her absence. We planned the trip to the Narran Lake that Chrissiejoy and I had talked so much about. Much to our surprise, Chrissiejoy turned up, driving several hundred kilometres in a huge four-wheel drive to get there. The Lake, the object of our trip, was elusive. Each day we searched for the Lake, locked away on private property, hard to gain access to and even harder to find the way into. One day we spent several hours driving in circles around the 18-mile paddock, following tracks of sheep, cattle, kangaroos and vehicles in the hard, dry ground, searching in the maze for a track into the Lake. Finally, on our last day, after some phone calls and more searching, we found our way through locked gates to a vast expanse of barren red earth that stretches from horizon to horizon. Is this a lake? One hundred kilometres around, it must have been a spectacular sight when full of water. I feared Chrissiejoys response, the pain she had likened to viewing a body at an autopsy, not knowing whether it is better to remember the body as it was in life. I had no idea of what all of this might mean in the context of our research question about a place pedagogy1 of the Narran Lake. I was filled with the sense of not finding, not knowing and powerful sensory images. We met again some months later. It was a low point in the project, a time of struggle and despair. Chrissiejoy brought a painting to show and some words to read to us. She read hesitantly, her speech impaired by her brain damage. The words she read addressed each member of the project team in turn with an individual message. Then she told a story about the green sprouts on the lignum, the dry twiggy bushes that covered one end of the lake near where a watercourse might enter the lake if there were rain. She ended her story with the powerful words: I have come to understand that the Lake is not dead, it is dormant. The painting she brought with her showed her sense of the Lake coming alive in a cyclical process of death and renewal. The work of the project, she told us, is to sing the Lake back to life again. I understand what she brings to the table through my sense of the place. I can feel the dryness of the droughtparched land, and the living texture of the green shoots on the lignum. I also understand through the stories of Chrissiejoys life by the Lake, living within its cycles of wet and dry, and through our relationship with each other as representative of the larger (post)colonial struggles for land and identity. I dont necessarily think that all knowledge comes from despair and struggle but in this case it certainly came from waiting in the chaotic place of unknowing. It came from a deeply relational space, a place where the boundaries of self, both physical and metaphysical, are open to other materialities and other knowings. Part of this openness is being in the physical presence of the Lake. Experiencing the heat and the barrenness, knowing through sensory experience the exact lie of the land, the stretch from horizon to horizon quivering with heat mirage, the dip at one side where water might flow even in times of drought, and the aliveness of the sparse green sprouts on twiggy weeds, knowing that in this greenness lies life. I can hear in my imagination the frog calls of milinbu that herald the coming of the water weeks before it arrives. The waiting stories of knowing when the waters are going to come, the small intimate signs of this knowing. Over years of deep intimate knowledge of the rhythms and cycles of change, Chrissiejoy can

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sense the limits of the Lakes well-being. I know these stories in ways that could never be objective and separated. I have written before about looking into the abyss of our different experience of colonial histories. In this place our subjectivities are also deeply and inevitably intertwined. I relive the dismembering that is also part of this story. Not long after this, I interviewed a freshwater ecologist who had led a team of scientific researchers to study the ecology of the Lake. I told him about Chrissiejoys story of dormancy. He was silent for a while and then said the story gave him goosebumps. He said the basis of his teams methodology to assess the Lake was to collect core samples from the lake bed, add water and analyse the response. If the sample produced living things then the lake may still be able to return to life. The amount of life that could be generated was an indication of that possibility. It was a test of dormancy. I asked him what they had decided as a result of their analysis and he told me that they thought that if the lake was filled with water now it could still come back to life, but only just, as it was at the limits of its resilience. There was a wonderful possibility for a conversation here between Indigenous and scientific knowledges, he thought. So what does this tell us about the processes of emergence in research, how to imagine and support those processes? In our project it tells me that the emergence of new knowledge is held in an image that has a direct relationship to my embodied experience of the place of the research. The image is pre-verbal in the sense that it involves multiple sensory responses in a particular moment. It is resilient in that I can call it up over and over and examine the deep resonances and connections that I am yet to fully explore. This image holds that moment so that I can return to it over and over and explore its meanings in multiple modes of expression. These include Chrissiejoys painting, the words she spoke at the meeting, the stories I have previously recorded, the interview with the scientist, my field notes, and connections to other stories and artworks produced in the project. The image emerges from a place of unknowing, it holds that place and allows me to return there. It is almost as if this image calls me up. This image is produced in collaboration, it is a relational knowing. It comes from a time and place of despair and struggle where there seemed to be no way forward. The image itself, the green sprouts on the dry twiggy lignum in the barren lake bed, is about the emergence of new forms from old. Even though the image in this project is very localised and particular, embodied and sensory, dynamic and emergent, it requires much working through to fully explore and elaborate its meanings. If I showed you a photo of those green sprouts, for example, you would have no idea about what it might mean. How it relates to the broader questions of the politics of the Murray-Darling Basin through which the Lake comes to be without water requires layers and layers of further exploration. This exploration necessarily begins with waiting in the chaotic place of unknowing. It is a very different place from research that aims to prove a hypothesis, for which the answer is known or predicted, or that can be channelled through the forms and regulations of doctoral thesis production. Much of the meaning-making lies in the iterative processes of representation, each researcher and each aspect of the research producing representations which are then combined in multiple assemblages of meaning. Chrissiejoy has not yet been able to finish her PhD and was not able to submit a paper to this Special Issue but I have learned more from her about postmodern emergence than from any other person. Tamah has submitted her PhD with revisions and has now graduated, but not in time to contribute. I learned from Tamah that the closing down of knowledge-making through supervision and thesis examination processes is a global issue. These processes are pedagogical in the sense that they shape the knowledge that can be produced, what is possible to write in a thesis, and how it is possible to write it. I have allowed these shadows which haunt the text to be made present in order to acknowledge their contribution in the spaces and silences of its production. The other ghost that haunts the text of these papers is the process of peer review. If writing is indeed a method of inquiry then the process of peer review becomes critically implicated in

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knowledge production. Managing this process led me to consider the ways in which the review process, like thesis examination, is a pedagogical force. Through the process of peer review we similarly shape what is possible to write, the forms in which we write, and the content of that writing. I began to ask how reviewers, as experienced researchers, contribute to pedagogies of knowledge production as it is represented in the publication of scholarly articles. How does the review process shape the development of new knowledge? When I planned this Special Issue I thought it would present the work of newly graduated doctoral students who had employed alternative methodologies and modes of representation. They were invited to respond to the ideas about postmodern emergence in the published paper. I had imagined that the meaning of the articles would be intertextual, that together they would create a conversation of possibilities. I had thought that I might draw out some of these meanings in the Introduction to enable the further development of these ideas. And that the readers would also contemplate how the papers contribute to this thinking about the emergence of the new. I thought that this was clear in the invitation that I circulated to the reviewers. I even rewrote the invitation, but still I was shocked by the responses I received. While many reviewers expressed their great joy in reviewing these articles, others found the same papers difficult, even impossible, to review. There is clearly no external measure of what is suitable for publication. For some, there were personal issues of recognition because of the unusual nature of the contributors research. These personal issues seemed to be haunted by judgement and a fear of what is different. For others, there seemed to be a need to manage, to regulate, to correct, and to conform. There appeared to be a major compulsion towards perfection. Some reviewers were generous and constructive in the way one might expect of experienced researchers towards new doctoral graduates taking a risk. Others were hostile. Reading through the reviewers comments made me aware of how such reviews shape the sort of risks we are prepared to take, the kind of writing we are prepared to do, and the knowledge we are able to generate through this writing. Peer review, according to Graue (2006, 36), is at its most powerful when it merges the gatekeeping and developmental functions. All of the reviews of the peer review process that she surveys in her paper include comments on the importance of balancing originality and tradition, the emergence of the new and the already-known. There is a general concern that the peer review process is fundamentally conservative, favouring unadventurous nibbling at the margins of truth rather than quantum leaps. Moreover, the sorts of new knowledge that tend to be excluded in educational research are voices that traditionally have been marginalised:
[C]ertain voices are being kept out of the conversation, especially voices that traditionally have been marginalized in and by the field of educational research. The peer review process often functions as a gatekeeper, weeding out groups that have yet to learn or refuse to conform to prevailing assumptions about what makes research high quality as well as groups that critique the mainstream, or, more precisely, that indirectly critique the perspectives and practices of the reviewer. (Kumashiro et al. 2005, 285 in Graue 2006, 37)

If we want to include new and alternative knowledges in our scholarly journals, it is important to regard the review process as pedagogical and to consider it as playing a role in shaping how we can be in the world and what it is possible to know. This is not to imagine that reviewers have a direct teacherly role in the process of review. This would be to assume too much, that we already know the knowledge that is being offered. We need to move towards the space of the other, to think about what is being offered and the difficulties of expressing it. To imagine how, as reviewers, we might assist this new knowledge to come into being. If we were to think about the review process in terms of postmodern emergence, we would facilitate the uncertain and the imperfect, the reaching towards, not-quite-there in knowledge production. We could similarly


M.J. Somerville

apply these understandings to the process of research supervision and approach the process of supervision with an openness to possibilities, not knowing what the endpoint is going to be. The papers in this collection represent some of the alternative voices and ways of knowing in educational research. The authors grapple with questions of how we can be in the world and what it is possible to know, shapeshifting in the process as they morph into new subject formations and new research processes. They do not necessarily embrace a poststructural methodology, the one I most closely identify with, but they do all enact an interest in an ontology and epistemology of the in-between. They operate in a wide range of registers and emphasise different sensory modalities. Their research is characterised by multiple acts of translation always on the borderline between different forms of representation. In these multiple acts of translation they take Richardsons writing as a method of inquiry (Richardson 1994; Richardson and St. Pierre 2005) to a new dimension, through their engagement with other forms of representation such as oral storytelling, painting, dance and conversation. They are deeply sceptical of standard forms of academic writing; some are sceptical of all writing, especially in the English language. Some are interested in bending the forms of academic writing and using different forms of writing side by side to generate intertextual meanings. A recurring theme is the absences and silences, the things that cannot be spoken, the in-between spaces that have no name or are too difficult to name, the private and the shameful. In her body of work Richardson (1997) employs a range of different and alternative writing styles including scanned transcripts, a play, narrative fiction and so on. She then interrogates what she knows as a result of these new forms of writing. She is not, however, sceptical of writing as such in the way that these papers are. In attempting to articulate what these papers might contribute to our understanding of postmodern emergence, I found it useful to develop a table to access their collective meanings. I began with the main categories that I used in the Postmodern Emergence paper the quality, the ontology and the epistemology of emergence. While this exercise was reductive it assisted me to engage deeply with these papers, problematising what I thought I already knew from several editorial readings. One of the new ideas that came out of this engagement was a recognition that in each case there was a metaphor or image that carried the meaning of the quality of emergence and that these metaphors enhanced my understanding of the ontological and epistemological work of these papers. I therefore present the table below before returning to the individual papers and the nuances of their contributions. I have chosen to introduce this collection of papers with Marlene Atleos use of her cell phone voice message, Hi, this is Mar(e), Marlene, or Marilyn, to explore her multiple selves and their relation to an unfolding methodology. This mode of inquiry is reminiscent of Butlers Giving an account of oneself (2005) in which she proposes that the opacity of the subject may be a consequence of its being conceived as a relational being, and that it is precisely this opacity that incurs and sustains some of its most important ethical bonds:
An account of oneself is always given to another, whether conjured or existing, and this other establishes the scene of address as a more primary ethical relation than a reflexive effort to give an account of oneself. Moreover, the very terms by which we give an account, by which we make ourselves intelligible to ourselves and others are not of our making. They are social in character, they establish social norms, a domain of unfreedom and substitutability within which our singular stories are told. (Butler 2005, 20)

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It is such a profound recasting of selfother relationships that is at the heart of postmodern emergence. In qualitative research it is commonly accepted that the researcher is the instrument of data collection, analysis and interpretation. The ontological basis of postmodern emergence is a response to two decades of critique of ethnographic practice following the crisis of representation (Denzin and Lincoln 1994) and feminist poststructural re-imaginings of selfother

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Researcher Many selves, Mar(e), Marlene, Mrs Atleo, and ?eh-?eh-naatoo-kwiss, constituted in relationships A relational self in process of becoming through selfother relationships

Quality of emergence


Epistemology Knowing as emerging from the space between multiple selves, and self other relationships in cross-cultural spaces Meaning emerges collectively through conversations as much in the silences and unnamed as in what is told New knowledge emerges in the moment of performance in the space between audience and storyteller

Marlene Atleo The many selves that she brings to her research and how this impacts on an unfolding methodology Phoenix de Carteret The silences in womens talk and storytelling, and relational knowing through conversation Caroline Josephs Liminal space of oral storytelling as performance

Image: Voicemail greeting on cell phone Emergence is in the spaces between the many different positionings, namings, and ways of knowing Image: Lacemaking Emergence from the patterns of holes and silences stitched together in conversations and relationships Image: Limen or threshold Emergence in resonant moments that the researcher reflects on, dreams, delves, and digs, creating the path as she goes

Nancy Toncy Egyptian womens subjectivity through dance

Self-becoming other as transformation: my body enacted all the characters. I took on their voices, their stances, their movements, their thoughts. I sang, danced and spoke. I became the other through being other Self as embodied in movement and dance, and created in response to movement and dance of the other Self as unstable, blurred vision, with complex relationship to the father, writing, knowledge and patriarchy Self-in-practice of painting, inbetween space of visual-spatial and verbal-logical not painting plus exegesis, but painting to interrogate verbal/ logical knowledge

Martin Mantle The image of the blind man through blurred vision; exploring his relationship to the father and to writing

New knowledge emerges in the space between movement/dance, and video and written texts; movement as data collection, analysis and interpretation Knowing through blurred vision, as explored in intertextual meanings and poems which highlight the significance of touch Knowing emerges from the space between painting practice, visual/ spatial and verbal logics

International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education

Paul Reader The development of a painterly methodology based in the visual/spatial rather than verbal/ logic

Image: The veil Emergence in embodied response to each womans story through movement, in the space between bodies, and between bodies and story Image: The blind father led by hand of the other Emergence through blurred vision, in the relationship between logics of poetry and academic writing Image: Painting with brush on canvas Emergence as new images appearing on canvas, where meaning emerges as whole and visual that cannot be reduced to verbal understanding



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relationships. Beyond the impossibility of researching the other, and working the ruins (Pillow and St. Pierre 2000) of qualitative research, postmodern emergence examines the ways in which the undoing of the self-constituted relationally in the research act is a necessary condition for the generation of new knowledge. Ontology, epistemology and processes of representation are co-generating and co-generative in and of this process. Atleos exploration of the simple everyday message on the cell phone, Hi, this is Mar(e), Marlene, or Marilyn allows her to examine the complex selfother relationships in the topic of her research study on Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations health programs. It allows her to unpack the implications of ?eh-?eh-naa-too-kwiss, the self she does not have and have not the heart to capture her in the technospace of her voicemail box. ?eh-?eh-naa-too-kwiss is her Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations traditional name as the hakum (chiefs female partner) in the haoothee (system of spiritual, moral, social, political, and economic rights and obligations) of the Nuu-cha-nooth chiefdomships. Through the device of the mode of address and naming, she explores the complex relationships among culture, language and thought that are central to her research and to her unfolding methodology. Phoenix de Carteret is similarly interested in exploring the process of relational selving, through which selves and knowledge evolve simultaneously. For her, as a researcher, attending to the uncertainties and knowledge spectres hauntings, consonant with the inquiry itself is significant in the evolving methodological process. Her focus on the absences in womens storytelling opens her process to the opacity of the subject (ibid) and the limits of knowability. This leads to a methodology that evolves through conversations where the absences are as critical as what is spoken and where collective and individual relational selves come into being in the process of knowledge-making. The silences are made visible as spaces on the pages of scanned transcripts and imaged as the patterns made by the holes in lace. The women in de Carterets family have a tradition of lacemaking and she draws on this as a metaphor for her research where the absences are integral to the pattern of the (w)hole. The condition of radical doubt and vulnerability is echoed in Caroline Josephss piece where she positions her self-as-researcher at the limen or threshold, consciously seeking to be other to oneself to disrupt the taken for granted. In positioning herself in this way, she moves between experiences as they emerge in different forms and qualities the personal, the conceptual, the reflective, the rational, the visual, auditory, and kinaesthetic body sensations, writing, reading, drawing, dreaming, consulting during the process of her research. Her research interest is in oral storytelling, which she characterises as a leap into the unknown, into the relational moment of performance when self, audience and knowing come into being. Josephs writes about her sense of the research choosing the researcher in resonant moments which became a guiding, an organic way of researching. In the last section of her paper Josephs introduces the hairline fracture of writing, a space that eventually she learns to occupy, and write from, in alternative processes of representation. Nancy Toncy too, reflects on iterative acts of representation through different sensory modalities in her research. As a Muslim woman living in New York, Toncy speaks both Arabic and English and returns to Egypt to conduct her research on Muslim women. She chooses neither English nor Arabic as the vehicle for her research, however, recognizing that movement has always been the form in which I expressed myself. Her methodology evolves as a creative response to the difficulties experienced at each stage of her research. Movement, like dance, becomes the method of her data collection, analysis, interpretation and representation as a subtly nuanced way to research the meaning of Egyptian Muslim womens lives. She choreographs a dance in response to each womans individual story, dances the dance back to the woman and then refines her dance-as-analysis. The elements of each pause in this iterative process of representation and analysis the audio recording of the womans story, the dance

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and the video of the dance, the refinement of the dance, are then available for further assemblages of representational forms. The process culminates in the choreography of a dance which represents the collective meanings gained through the research process. Just as for Atleo, de Carteret and Toncy, there are silences, absences and spaces that become the creative focus for research, Martin Mantle takes up the challenge of his own blurred vision to better understand his topic of the image of the blind man. His intention in this paper is to explore the absences and interstices in academic writing as sources of knowledge. Mantles writing juxtaposes poetry, personal journal writing about his own visual impairment, and academic theory and narration. Meanings are generated intertextually with as much emphasis on the embodiment of absence as the marks of printed text. At the simplest level this is realised in the spatiality of lines of poetry on a white page, but at a deeper level his poetic writing opens up a layers of meaning resonant of the eruption of the semiotic in Kristevas madness, holiness and poetry. The paper focuses on bending the possibilities of writing as knowledge production at the same time as revelling playfully at the limits of writing. It is a paper that dwells in the representational aspects of postmodern emergence. Like Mantle, Paul Reader is also simultaneously interrogating form and content as he develops his written paper. His challenge arises from his location in a visual mode of representation. His development of a painterly methodology is based on capturing the moment of new images appearing on the canvas of himself as a practising artist. The video captured the all-at-oneness characteristic of such images, enabling the evolution of a methodology designed to think visually, relationally and without language. For Reader the subjectivity of the painter, the painting and the meaning it generates emerge simultaneously with a painterly methodology which finds its way into uncertainties. An additional layer is of a methodology that emerges via an alternative epistemic route, is enacted in his use of a hypertext assemblage where the viewer can begin with any image from a mosaic of images and view each of the component parts, or pauses in this iterative process. Reader is not interested only in the methodology of the visual, but in how this then enables an exploration of the nature of knowledge generation. In conclusion It would be contrary to the spirit of postmodern emergence to try to come up with a list of principles or a recipe through which to describe or enact these ideas. I have taken up a stance of wondering and generating, developed in the original paper, through which to approach this introduction. I began by locating my embodied self at dawn as a generative space for me and allowed what came up in this mediative space to lead the way with this writing. The first things that emerged were the shadows that haunt this collection. Invited papers by Tamah Nakamura and Chrissiejoy Marshall did not materialise for this Special Issue. Tamah provided the title and closing image and text. Chrissiejoy contributed the ongoing experience, and the unfolding processes, of emergence in our collaborative research. I have drawn on images from this research to further articulate what postmodern emergence might mean. The third spectre that haunted this text was the ghost of the review process and I have speculated on this process as a pedagogical force that shapes what is possible to write and therefore what it is possible to know. I approached each of the individual contributions in the same vein, asking: How can I open myself to what I do not yet know? The headings of the original paper the quality, ontology and epistemology of postmodern emergence were useful in understanding their responses, but even more insight was made possible from the different metaphors that held the meaning of emergence in each of the individual papers. These metaphors gave me images through which to explore and articulate meanings that I might not otherwise be able to access. The metaphors originate in different sensory experiences congruent with the topic and methodology under study,


M.J. Somerville

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emphasising different sensory modes and ways of knowing. They are resilient in the same way as the embodied images I described in my work in the Narran Lake research, in that I can return to them over and over to contemplate their meaning in more depth. They are dynamic in that they are a bridge to meanings but are not fixed in themselves. These images are embedded in the different representational forms that the authors work with including dance and movement, visual arts, oral storytelling and conversations, and the different forms of writing. The crisis of representation in qualitative research and the feminist poststructural work of revisioning selfother relations is an important ontological site in qualitative research methodology. I draw on Butlers theorising in Giving an account of oneself in order to better understand the ontological work of postmodern emergence. Butler proposes that all subjects are constituted relationally and the consequent opacity of the subject that results from this relationality is the basis of ethical relations. I have suggested that this is a way of reading the ontological work of the researcher selves that are made visible in these papers. The selves that these researchers explore are made visible in the process of becoming other to themselves, vulnerable, partial, and subject to radical doubt, but they are not immobilised. They produce accounts that strain at the limits of meaning through multiple forms of representation and modes of writing. Writing practice remains central to generating meanings about our research. For over 10 years Richardson has demonstrated her commitment to writing-as-a-method-of-inquiry in multiple forms of writing research such as drama, responsive readings, narrative poetry, pagan ritual, lyric poetry, prose poems and autobiography (Richardson 1997, 3). The authors in this collection are also deeply sceptical about the possibilities of meaning-making through standard modes of academic text. This scepticism is reflected in their use of representational forms other than writing, such as dance, painting and oral storytelling; forms of non-writing such as silence, absence and blurred vision; and alternative forms of written text such as journal entries and poetry. These alternative representational forms are not an addition, but are essential to the meanings generated in their research. They are not presented as an alternative to the academic text, but as forms which open up and provide access to other meanings and knowledges that stretch the boundaries of academic text. This writing is characterised by working the space in-between, the hairline fracture, the intertextuality created when these different forms meet. The activity of this work, then, involves multiple acts of translation, moving across and between these different forms. It is the work of the margins. If we believe it is the aim of research to generate new knowledge, thinking through postmodern emergence may open up these possibilities.
Through the Other A stage of elevated feelings Reasoned quietness In unorganized chaos Connect through the camera lens To changing, quivering reality and illusion. I am a technician An observer In one integrated moment.

International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education


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In this violent current Filming and physically experiencing Is both an attraction And a fear beyond description. (Nakamura, interview, March 6, 2003)

The author would like to acknowledge the insightful comments from Bill Green and Peter Wright who read an earlier version of this Introduction.

1. Bubbles on the surface: a place pedagogy of the Narran Lake is funded by the Australian Research Council and some discussion of this project has been published by the author in the Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, 30 no. 2: 149164 and an article on place pedagogy is in press in the Journal of Educational Philosophy and Theory.

Notes on contributor
Margaret J. Somerville is professor of education (learning and development) at Monash University, Australia. Her research interests are in space and place in educational research, and feminist poststructural, postcolonial and alternative methodologies. She has a special interest in creative approaches to research and writing and how these approaches can generate new knowledge.

Butler, Judith. 2005. Giving an account of oneself. New York: Fordham University Press. Denzin, Norman, and Yvonna Lincoln, eds. 1994. Handbook of qualitative research. Thousand Oaks, London and New York: Sage Publications. Graue, B. 2006. The transformative power of reviewing. Educational Researcher 35, no. 9: 3641.


M.J. Somerville

St. Pierre, E., and W. Pillow, eds. 2000. Working the ruins: Feminist poststructural theory and methods in education. New York: Routledge. Richardson, L. 1997. Fields of play: (Constructing an academic life). Piscataway, NJ: Rutgers University Press. . 1994. Writing: A method of inquiry. In Handbook of qualitative research, ed. N. Denzin and Y. Lincoln, 516529. Thousands Oaks, London and New York: Sage Publications. Richardson, L., and E.A. St. Pierre. 2005, Writing: A method of inquiry. In The Sage handbook of qualitative research, 3rd ed., ed. N. Denzin and Y. Lincoln, 959979. Thousand Oaks, London and New York: Sage Publications. Somerville, M. 2007. Postmodern emergence. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education 20, no. 2: 225243.

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