Editorial introduction [to Strategic uncertainties: ethics, politics and risk in contemporary educational research]

Coombes, Phyllida and Danaher, Mike and Danaher, Patrick Alan (2004) Editorial introduction [to Strategic uncertainties: ethics, politics and risk in contemporary educational research]. In: Strategic uncertainties: ethics, politics and risk in contemporary educational research. Post Pressed, Flaxton, Qld, pp. 1-7. ISBN 1 876682 72 8


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Strategic Uncertainties: Ethics, Politics and Risk in Contemporary Educational Research offers new
perspectives on contemporary educational research in a wide range of contexts and settings. The
authors provide fresh insights into the ethics, politics and risks of educational research through their
deployment of up-to-date concepts and methods. They also bring educational research ‘to life’ as a
series of meaningful and significant issues and dilemmas, and by drawing on the voices of ‘real-life’
research participants and practitioners.
In 2001, a theme issue of the Queensland Journal of Educational Research (Coombes & Danaher,
2001) was published under the title Cui Bono?: Investigating Benefits and Interests in Educational
Research. In that issue, a group of authors from a range of academic disciplines explored the notion of
who benefits from educational research and how such benefits might be identified, evaluated and
weighed against potential costs to the research participants. The purpose of the contributors was not to
view the intentions and results of research through rose-coloured glasses (‘everyone benefits and
everyone is happy’) but to establish, as honestly as possible, whether the perceived benefits of a
particular research project would actually occur without some cost to those involved. The key concepts,
which were the focus of each article, were therefore the benefits and costs of educational research.
In Strategic Uncertainties, the focus of attention shifts to the potential risks of educational research
and to the strategies that researchers might employ to minimise or from some perspectives try to
eliminate these risks (and from other perspectives to embrace and celebrate such risks). Educational
research, by its very nature, is concerned with people; it cannot function in a sterile vacuum. Where
people are concerned, complete agreement among the participants can never be guaranteed. Thus
stakeholders may compete for powerful speaking positions. Research projects, though conceived with
the best of intentions, may serve to highlight the gap between researcher and researched by reinforcing
the socioeconomic and educational inequities of their relationships with one another. These particular
risks, among many others, emphasise the ethical and political dimensions of relationships among the
participants and subject to critical scrutiny claims that research projects confer particular kinds of
benefits. Educational research is indeed a ‘risky business’, but this should not deter researchers from
engaging in the practice. It is the purpose of Strategic Uncertainties to apply theoretically informed,
methodologically rigorous and experientially grounded critique to the ‘murky shadows’ and ‘no-go
areas’ of contemporary educational research.
The title of this book, Strategic Uncertainties, is taken from the text of Ian Stronach and Maggie
MacLure (1997), Educational Research Undone: The Postmodern embrace. The authors focused on
postmodern researchers’ efforts to avoid being caught in the snares of:
the binary oppositions that have traditionally promised the comforts of certainty in philosophical
thinking – between reality and appearance, reason and superstition, causes and effects, meaning and
language, identity and imposture, local and universal etc. – they choose not to choose between them, not
to work to transcend them, nor, importantly, to ignore them, but instead to complicate the relations
between them. (p. 5; emphasis in original)
According to Stronach and MacLure (1997):
The kind of opening which such work attempts is that of the rupture – or interruption and disruption – in
the (uncertain) hope that this will generate possibilities for things to happen that are closed off by the
epistemologies of certainty….These are uncanny openings, then. They rupture things, not in order to let
the light pour in, but to make it harder to see clearly. They open spaces which turn out not to be spaces,
but knots, complications, folds and partial connections. It is impossible even to tell for sure whether they
are openings or closings, since they are also blocking manoeuvres, which would prevent escape routes to
happy endings…We try to practise this kind of strategic uncertainty throughout, and within this book.
Our aim is to mobilise meaning…rather than to fix it. (p, 5; emphasis in original; emphasis added)
Elaborating and expanding on these propositions by Stronach and MacLure (1997), the content of
Strategic Uncertainties is a set of accounts by contemporary educational researchers of the ethics,
politics and risk of their own research projects. While those accounts draw on a multiplicity of
theoretical, methodological and empirical resources to frame and inform their respective engagements
with educational research, they have in common a general commitment to, and at the same time an
ongoing interrogation of, the ideas encapsulated in the term ‘strategic uncertainties’.

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Item Type: Book Chapter (Commonwealth Reporting Category B)
Refereed: No
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information (displayed to public): Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher. Author retains copyright. Print copy held in USQ Library at call no. 370.72 Str.
Depositing User: Assoc Prof Patrick Danaher
Faculty / Department / School: Historic - Faculty of Education
Date Deposited: 11 Oct 2007 00:55
Last Modified: 02 Jul 2013 22:41
Uncontrolled Keywords: educational research, ethics, politics, risk
Fields of Research (FoR): 16 Studies in Human Society > 1605 Policy and Administration > 160506 Education Policy
13 Education > 1301 Education Systems > 130103 Higher Education
22 Philosophy and Religious Studies > 2201 Applied Ethics > 220107 Professional Ethics (incl. police and research ethics)
URI: http://eprints.usq.edu.au/id/eprint/2000

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