Monday, December 12, 2011

In Which Chronotopes Slip Off the Tongue Like Peanut Butter: Theory of Research Series (Part 1)

I am going to be posting a series of pieces in the coming days to think through my stances as a researcher in rhetoric and composition. I am using this space to think publicly through my ideas regarding four theoretical concepts that Kamberelis and Dimitriadis (2005) use as keystones for distinguishing between the qualitative research chronotopes they identify in their book, On Qualitative Research. Kamberelis and Dimitriadis use the word chronotope, picked up from Bakhtin to name four qualitative research conversations that are identifiable by distinct, if overlapping, ways of seeing and acting in the world. For me the concept of chronotope helps to categorize and name research in just a slippery enough way that I can recognize the conversation and see how the participants (both researchers and research writing itself) are permeable, sliding in and out of focus as we think about how they are figured from the lens of different chronotopes. If that seems very blurry, it is to me, too, but I imagine that is a good thing. Helpfully, Kamberelis and Dimitriadis supply touchstone projects for each chronotope, which provide both grounding and tension. For instance, Shirley Brice Heath’s work in Ways with Words is the primary example for Chronotope II, Reading and Interpretation. If I start to get lost in thinking about what Chronotope II means, I can start articulating examples from Ways with Words. Also, if the chronotopes start feeling too container-y I can start articulating (and Kamberelis and Dimitriadis help do this work) ways that Heath’s work crosses boundaries toward the Skepticism, Concientization and Praxis, Chronotope III. For a deep discussion of the four chronotopes check out chapter 3 in the book, in which Kamberelis and Dimitriadis both iron out and rewrinkle the categories.

So, in this four post series I will name how I see my research stances aligning with the four chronotopes and the four theory systems associated (theories of knowledge, truth, language and subjects). I think all of these ideas will cross and recross between the four posts, so don’t expect to walk away from any one post knowing Lacy’s stance on truth, for instance. If that happens, I have clearly messed up, because given my leanings toward Chronotope IV, Power/Knowledge and Defamiliarization, truth is a moving target that gets figured up in material ways as an effect of power. More on that later. Anyway, as you read these posts do expect to get to say cool things like, “So is that how you have understood Chronotope II?” or “That is so Chronotope IV!!”

Kamberelis and Dimitriadis would no doubt admit, that talking about chronotopes and writing theory of research blogs, and maybe especially a theory of research blog rather than a theory of research paper, are power laden moves. It’s the kind of thing that Steven Fraiberg (2010) talks about in his article on ecologies of writing, the tool of blog (or the tool of daybook or Moodle post or reflective letter) isn’t an isolated object, but is hooked up to an interrelated system of power structures that name hierarchies of difference. Who gets to blog? Who doesn’t? Who gets to decide to turn her school paper into a blog? Who doesn’t? In what ways do blogs contribute to the emergence of “new literacies” (New London Group) that puts primacy to 21st century skills erasing not only service sector labor issues, but also surfacing over the issues of labor and mega-company privatization (Welch, 2011). So while it will be totally fun to talk chronotopes for a while, I am also recognizing that to do so is rather like talking to you all with a mouth full of peanut butter. It’s going to be sticky.

Fraiberg, S. (2010). Composition 2.0: Toward a multilingual and multimodal framework. College Composition and Communication, 62, 100 – 126.

Kamberelis, G. & Dimitriadis, G. (2004). On qualitative inquiry: Approaches to language and literacy research. NY: Teachers College Press.

New London Group (1996). A pedagogy of multiliteracies: Designing social futures. Harvard Educational Review, 66.

Welch, N. (2011). “We’re here and we're not going anywhere’: Why working-class rhetorical traditions still matter. College English, 73, 221–242.

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