. . . Move Beyond Dominant Forms of Thought to Embrace Multiple Ways of Knowing
The second task that Davies suggests is to move beyond linear and rational thought and to embrace and celebrate multiple and contradictory ways of knowing. This is because this will help us to undermine the power of dominant discourses. It will also encourage movement through openness and openings and raise questions for us about the truth of different ways of knowing. This text has many examples of the multiple discourses of feminism and relatedly the many ways of conceptualizing. This raises the question of how research and theorization changes through different conceptual usage and the effects this has for developing feminist knowledge and feminist politics. It also raises questions for research design and analysis. In this respect Alvesson and Skoldberg (2000: 194-5) offer a set of ‘pragmatic postmodern principles’ that may be useful for thinking about the application of multiple meaning and pluralism in terms of the conduct of research. These are:
• Pluralism in the potential of different identities or voices associated with different groups, individuals, positions or special interests which inform, and can be seen in, research work and research texts.
• Receptiveness to pluralism and variation in what individual participants in the research process convey (the possibility of multiple representations by one and the same individual participant).
• Alternative presentations of phenomena (for instance, the use of different sorts of descriptive language).
• Command of different theoretical perspectives (root metaphors), as well as a strong familiarity with the critique of and problems with these. This enables openness and different sorts of readings to surface in the research.
Alvesson and Skoldberg comment that it would not be feasible to achieve a high degree of pluralism and a minimum degree of exclusion in any one text by covering all four of the above dimensions. It is possible, however, to maximize one or two of these. Overall what they suggest is that ‘What is crucial is the production of an open text, which stimulates active interpretation on the part of the reader; researchers should avoid “closing” their texts by placing themselves too firmly between the reader and the voices researched’ (ibid.: 195). Coffey (2001: 115) offers a summary of research in the postmodern and notes how Haw’s (1998) text on the education of Muslim girls is ‘an exemplary example of a feminist collaborative approach to the writing (and researching) task’.