the future of qualitative research


Paradigm proliferation, albeit constrained by the political, epistemological and ethical right, seems to have achieved the status of normal as we move into and beyond the "eighth and ninth moments" in qualitative research (Denzin & Lincoln, 2005, p. 1083). Statements like the following made by Denzin and Lincoln (2005) in their introduction to the section on the future of qualitative research have provided useful, and for me, hopeful openings to writing about and through porosity:

As we edge our way into the 21st century, looking back and borrowing Max Weber's metaphor, we see more clearly how we were trapped by the 20th century and its iron cage of reason and rationality. Like a bird in a cage, for too long we were unable to see the pattern in which we were caught. Coparticipants in a secular science of the social world, we became part of the problem. Entangled in the ruling apparatuses that we wished to undo, we perpetuated systems of knowledge and power that we found, underneath, to be all too oppressive. It is not too late to get out of the cage. Today we leave that cage behind. (Denzin & Lincoln, 2005, p. 1087)

Yet what might it take to get out of the cage? As Dillard (2006a) suggests, the omnipresence of racism, sexism, and I would add, anthropocentrism, means that "the deeper meanings and possibilities of 'paradigm proliferation' have profound implications" (p. 62). Like in the stories recounted in the introduction, engaging epistemological and ontological difference will, at times, demand attention to not thinking, as much as thinking (see Astin, 2002; Barrett, 2009).


Implications for research include the acknowledgement of non-human as participants in knowledge production. If this is to occur, opening space for forms of research/representation that acknowledge the earth as communicative (Abram, 1996; Bell, 2003; Fawcett, 2000) will be critical. Accompanying this support will be engagement with non- or, as Astin (2002) describes them, trans-rational ways of knowing as legitimate means through which knowledge is produced. It will also mean finding and supporting forms of representation congruent with those epistemological and ontological differences – difference that might be considered impossible or inconceivable within conventional conceptions and representations of educational research (Denzin & Lincoln, 2005).