Rod Liddle has written an engaging piece in the Sunday Times of 12/12/21 that you can find here. Rod laments the plan in New Zealand to give traditional Maori ways of knowing equal billing with science within the science curriculum of schools and universities. Naturally, Maori folk law and history should be taught in New Zealand’s Schools but not within the science curriculum as an alternative way of knowing that is equal to western science – it isn’t. Rod Liddle worries, and I fear he may be right, that we are entering a ‘de-enlightenment’ that could presage a new dark age.
Rod did not need to look so far from home to find quackery and pseudoscience entering the academic curriculum. You only have to look at the output of the two quackademics in the title. Emma Renold has featured in the blog before here and here, but Jessica Ringrose (Professor of Sociology and Gender at University College, London) is a new entry and I shall be returning to her academic output in future posts. The crazy article below appears in a journal called MAI:Feminism and Visual Culture. It is peer-reviewed, though I can not imagine what sort of reviewers would let this garbage through.
Below is the opening paragraph – doesn’t mean much to me either and obscurantist prose like this is designed to hide the banality of the underlying thought processes.
‘PhEmaterialism’ (Feminist Posthuman and New Materialisms in Education) started out as the Twitter hashtag in 2015 for the network conference, Feminist Posthuman New Materialism: Research Methodologies in Education: ‘Capturing Affect’ (Ringrose, Renold, Hickey-Moody & Osgood 2015). However, it rapidly became a concept-making-event; a living, lively ever-expanding human and more-than-human working group, which now brings together a globally dispersed collective of students, researchers, and artists experimenting with how posthuman and new materialism theories form, in-form and reassemble educational research (Ringrose, Warfield & Zarabadi 2018). PhEmaterialism combines feminist posthumanism (Haraway 2008 & 2016; Braidotti 2013; Åsberg & Braidotti 2018) and the new materialisms (Barad 2007; van der Tuin 2016). Its abbreviation foregrounds the entanglement of educational scholars interested in working with new feminist materialist and posthuman ideas and practices. The ‘ph’ is pronounced ‘f’, so that sound and letter formation bring posthuman and feminism together in one expression.
It goes on (and on and on) but paragraph 3 is ‘interesting’ –
Educational scholars have seized upon these post-foundational moves to knowing and becoming and the challenges they present for dominant and normative social science research methodologies (Coleman & Ringrose 2013; Taylor & Ivinson, 2013; Taylor & Hughes, 2016; Ringrose, Warfield & Zarabadi 2018). Related to the ‘post-qualitative’ turn (Lather & St. Pierre 2013) in educational research we find yet another reworking and disrupting of the ruins of scientific objectivity and neutrality (MacLure 2011 & 2015; St. Pierre 2013; Gallagher 2018) that radically questions the making and valuing of empirical ‘data’ (Lenz-Taguchi & Palmer 2013; Koro-Ljungberg 2015) by mapping the relationality between human and more-than-human bodies, affects, objects, sounds, discourses, digital and earthy landscapes—as a whole range of im/material forces (Pederson & Pini, 2016, commonworlds.net).
This should make us all very afraid. The authors are calling for ‘another reworking and disrupting of the ruins of scientific objectivity and neutrality, that radically questions the making and valuing of empirical data‘. This is worse than what is being proposed in New Zealand where other ways of knowing are to be taught alongside scientific knowledge. This paper is calling for the disruption of scientific objectivity itself. It gets worse, however.
Arts-informed practices, in particular, are engaging and shaking up the research process from design to ‘dissemination’ in novel ways with new affective currencies. PhEmaterialist researchers are becoming much more crafty in making research matter through creative and mobile methodologies that can offer potential new ways of ‘doing something with the something doing’ (Manning & Massumi 2014) via a range of edu-activisms which are mining the politics of matter in educational/community engagement and queer-feminist public pedagogy.
The above paragraph tells us what these authors are really about. Their primary aim is activism, in particular promoting their queer-feminist worldview to young children – call it grooming if you like. Unmooring yourself from inconvenient things like empirical data and accepted research methods makes that activism much easier.
As queer and feminist research-activist scholars, our particular aim has been creating ethico-political research methodologies that might re-animate the regulations and ruptures of how gender and sexuality mediate children and young people’s lives in schools and beyond..
In short, they want to groom children towards their worldview.
In the paragraph below the researchers describe how they were actually allowed into schools! This is what they got up to.
The second hour introduced activities explicitly focusing on gender as a conceptual and onto-epistemological category—for example, as gender identity and gender stereotypes; and other act/ivisms, including, gender-related acts of violence and gender-justice and equity activisms. To enable discussion of the much under-researched focus on children and young people’s views on representations of transgender, non-binary gender, gender fluidity, genderqueer and agender identities and expressions (see Gilbert & Sinclair-Palm 2018; Bragg et al. 2018) we introduced a series of images of high profile transgender, non-binary and feminist activists, including media celebrities. Matter-realising Judith Butler’s enduringly germane ‘gender trouble’, this second hour was pivotal in exploring how young people were navigating an increasingly visible ‘gender revolution’ (National Geographic 2016) in local peer cultures and day to day lives more widely.
What this means is that Emma and Jessica want to foment a gender revolution along Butlerian lines (Judith Butler believes that not only gender but sex is performative). I wonder if the parents of children at those schools knew what Emma Renold and Jessica Ringrose stood for when she was allowed in? I doubt if they were even asked.
Jarring queer-kin – We meet Lou (age 13, white British) with her two ‘BFF’s’ (best friends forever) Cherie and Allan at an academy school on the outskirts of London. In the first naming activity, we learn about Lou’s fraught relationship to their birth name Jamie-Lou, an experience which is reiterated and expanded on several times throughout the interview. Lou describes how her primary school peers used to constantly ‘take the piss out of’ having a ‘country singer’ style name and how ambiguous ‘girl’ (Jamie) and ‘boy’ (Lou) signifiers fuelled a lot of gender-based bullying. By year 6 (age 10) Lou used he/him pronouns and became Louis on the school register. Louis then became Jamie-Lou in secondary school and is known as ‘Lou’, using she/her pronouns. Lou describes her gender identity at age 13 as ‘in-between girl and boy’ and a ‘tomboy’. She talks at length about having to negotiate unwanted and painful family pressures, from her mum and sister, in particular, to act ‘feminine’ and ‘become a girl’. Indeed, Butler’s ‘hegemonic heterosexual matrix’ (2004) is in full swing as the whole group describe being ‘hassled all the time’ for not conforming to the gender and sexual norms that regulate who and how they can be in school. Over the course of the session, there are multiple stories of how Lou’s best-friendships with Allan (from primary school) and Cherie (in secondary school), have been transformative in shifting their feelings of being ‘outcasts’ at school, at home and in various public places and spaces. Using the interview to tell stories of how their group has expanded over time to embrace other ‘outcasts’, what emerges in our two-hour session, is a supportive human and more-than-human matrix of shared be/longings and doings.
Again, the faith (I use that word carefully) that Emma and Jessica have for Judith Butler’s philosophical posturing is apparent in the line – indeed Butler’s ‘hegemonic hetero-sexual matrix’ in in full swing as the whole group describes being hassled all the time for not conforming to gender and sexual norms. Really? The whole group? All the time? The fact is that heterosexuality is not hegemonic -a state imposed by a dominant group. Most of us are heterosexual for obvious biological reasons and the human race would not exist if that were not the case. If the whole group were rebelling, as described in the paper, it seems likely that the researchers were leading them on. This can happen subtly and easily, pupils respond positively to affirmation and I am sure they received that from Emma and Jessica for points of view that conformed with Butlerian pseudo-philosophy. In interpreting Emma and Jessica’s interviews with children you have to understand the power relations operating in the classroom.
The degradation of academia is in progress in the United Kingdom as well as New Zealand.