On theoretical frameworks

Written on 29th May 2011

The very thought of having to research, select and speak through a theoretical framework daunts me! Whilst I did some inquiry into TFs a decade ago in my undergrad. degree, the practice of identifying, critiquing and ‘trying on’ a TF is something that has largely eluded my professional life – how could this be?
Perhaps not. If you don’t give something a name, does it render it invisible and mean that you cannot acknowledge its existence? Maybe I need to re-frame that; I have ideas and beliefs, but unless I reference these against those of others, how am I to know what ‘framework’ my ideas synergise with or challenge? I definitely feel excluded from the world of academia right now. I feel as though I ‘lack’ the terminology to operate successfully in this context. I find myself shutting down and retreating during conversations and discussions in fear of being inarticulate or not having enough ‘lingo’ to make people think I am worthy of being a research student – talk about insecurity!
I need to come back to why I wanted to walk this path in the first place… to challenge and expand my own worldview by learning from Yolngu and to develop a new vocabulary and concepts that enable me to ‘see’ the world from this expanded viewpoint and transform my ways of relating to… everything.
I decided to intervene in what was quickly becoming a resistance and aversion to beginning this exploration by asking a friend about the TF she used in her research. She pointed me in the direction of actor-network theory. A brief prologue to ANT though before I delve into that; although I am still developing my research topic, there are key threads that I think will form the warp and weft of my research. Storytelling is one of these. Whilst reading about Yolngu storytelling practices I was struck by the pivotal importance that context (e.g. place, people present, authority, relationship to the story/ancestry) plays in the way a story is generated and performed in the moment. Similarly, Yolngu practices in group decision making seem to be underpinned by a generative and context based approach (e.g. galtha-rom). So, when A began to tell me about ANT and likened it to actors performing in a network, my ears pricked up and I felt that this might be a TF that could have some synergy with Yolngu epistemology… and the capacity to make visible Yolngu epistemology/ontologies from a western perspective.

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