Considering materiality in educational policy: Messy objects and multiple reals

Educational Theory 61 (6):709-726 (2011)
Abstract
Educational analysts need new ways to engage with policy processes in a networked world of complex transnational connections. In this discussion, Tara Fenwick and Richard Edwards argue for a greater focus on materiality in educational policy as a way to trace the heterogeneous interactions and precarious linkages that enact policy as complex manifestations. In particular, Fenwick and Edwards point to the methodologies of actor-network theory (ANT), at least in its most recent permutations, as a useful approach to materiality in policy analysis. Published examples of educational policy studies drawing from these methodologies are beginning to appear. In reviewing these, we argue that ANT sensibilities help to make visible the sociomaterial assemblages—the “messy objects”—that enact policy, the micro-negotiations that mobilize and stabilize (and destabilize) these assemblages, and the multiple ontologies that often coexist in policy environments. Fenwick and Edwards conclude with a discussion of methodological issues for working with concepts of ontological variance and messy objects in educational policy
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