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date: 15 June 2024

Qualitative Methods, Critical Geography, and Educationfree

Qualitative Methods, Critical Geography, and Educationfree

  • Robert J. HelfenbeinRobert J. HelfenbeinLoyola University Maryland


The work known as critical geography, a distinct yet varied subfield of spatial analysis, seeks to understand how the social construction of both space and place interact with, resist, and reinforce structures of power and the work of individual and collective identity. A critical geography approach to qualitative educational research privileges inquiry that includes how the lived experiences of schools (i.e., students, teachers, schools, communities) are defined, constrained, and potentially liberated by spatial relationships in both discursive and material ways. That is, a critical geography approach includes how such understandings may be used, for example, to critically examine how spaces are used, by whom, when, and how in the process of learning and not learning; what spaces mean (and mean differently) for different people inhabiting the spaces of education; how spaces are used to construct identities, allegiances, and bodies; how they act pedagogically to position bodies to know and be known; and the kind of pedagogies they help make possible and intelligible for both teachers and students in classrooms.


  • Research and Assessment Methods
  • Educational Theories and Philosophies

Qualitative Methods

A study of how people create and negotiate place and identity is necessarily qualitative. How space and place are constructed within domains of discursive, material, and power-laden forces needs to be interrogated and understood. A qualitative approach to educational research fits with the conception of education as fluid, dynamic interaction between students, educators, and the world. A way to describe this interaction necessarily includes the perceptions of the people involved, as well as the impact of the researcher looking in. Certainly, this is not to say that other research methods are without value, but rather to stress that particular methods serve particular purposes.

Quantitative methods can often provide new insights into the effectiveness of programs and suggest areas in need of improvement. However, schools are not factories, and students are not products. The complexities of human interaction require a complex way of coming to know and telling the tale. Creswell (1998, p. 15), perhaps the most popular intro text on qualitative methods, offers a well-known definition of qualitative research that relies less on philosophical assumptions as on methodological approach:

Qualitative research is an inquiry process of understanding based on distinct methodological traditions of inquiry that explore a social or human problem. The researcher builds a complex, holistic picture, analyzes words, reports detailed views of informants, and conducts the study in a natural setting.

Although his emphasis on traditions of inquiry ultimately proves limiting in the search for better truths and new approaches to methodology have troubled these claims, understanding the origins of those lines of thought has value. Important here is that even within such a traditional view lies the insistence on the naturalistic setting of study and the attempts to produce holistic pictures of human and social situations.

The history of qualitative research, according to Denzin and Lincoln (2000), has gone through a series of phases revolving around differing conceptions of what counts as research. The “traditional” phase, largely influenced by a positivist philosophy, sought to tell the stories of schools in objective, scientific fashion. Countered by the inclusion of questions of interpretation during the “modernist” phase, the field reacted with an emphasis on academic rigor. The so-called “blurred genres phase” reflected the introduction of emergent philosophical and theoretical approaches such as semiotics, phenomenology, critical theory, and deconstruction. Bennett and LeCompte (1990, p. 21) describe the work of “interpretive inquiry” in education during this phase as beginning with the premise that schools are “places where meaning is constructed through the social interactions of people within a setting.” How those people actively construct their culture becomes the pivotal question for interpretive theorists yet they fall short of acknowledging their own position (as adults, as academics, as elites, as raced, etc.) in relationships with the participants laden with issues of power. What Denzin and Lincoln (2000) call the “crisis of representation” phase includes a reflexive turn inward to reexamine notions of race, class, and gender—a move which leads to a recent phase or “fifth moment” that takes those reflexive examinations and wonders a new politics. Finally, Denzin and Lincoln propose a “postexperimental phase” in which research terrain itself is extended to include multiple forms of narrative, such as poetics, performance, autobiography, and multimedia.

Patton (2002)—another widely assigned textbook for qualitative methods—cites three major design strategies as essential to qualitative inquiry: (a) naturalistic inquiry; (b) emergent design flexibility; and (c) purposeful sampling. Beginning with an approach that privileges situations as they unfold, naturalistic inquiry rejects efforts to manipulate or control contexts in a developing study. As a direct result of this premise, a flexibility to emergent design in qualitative pursuit necessarily opens the multiplicity of research directions as the study progresses. Similarly, as the intent of study is not to generalize empirically, thinking through who may participate in a study is done intentionally with an eye toward what those folks offer in an attempt to better understand phenomena (Patton, 2002, p. 40). For the purposes of this article, since the naturalistic setting is a key component to qualitative work and—as it is often stated—“context matters,” focusing on contemporary moves in ethnographic methodology seems most appropriate to bring in questions of the role of the spatial.

Postcritical Ethnography

Like post-modernism and poststructuralism, postcritical ethnography is not the antithesis of critical ethnography. Rather it requires the tools of critique be applied to critical ethnography itself. To understand what this implies, the parameters of critical ethnography must first be explored. Quantz (1992) suggests several definitions of critical ethnography that all basically refuse to dichotomize theory and method. Specifically, “critical ethnography’s contribution to this dialogue lies principally in its ability to make concrete the particular manifestations of marginalized cultures located in a broader sociopolitical framework” (Quantz, 1992, p. 462). Arguing that critical ethnography in education comes out of dissatisfaction with trends in sociology of education that served to apologize for the status quo (p. 451), or to romanticize those classified as deviant serving only to see victimization (p. 453), Quantz suggests that critical ethnography in education begins with Paul Willis’s groundbreaking study and foundational cultural studies text Learning to Labor (p. 455). Carspecken (1996), in the effort toward a clearer definition, suggests that critical ethnography consists of researchers with both a particular orientation of values and a critical epistemology. The values espoused by such researchers include a critique of the social and the cultural, opposition to inequality, the project of revealing structures of oppression in all of its forms, and the equalization of power relations (Carspecken, 1996, pp. 6–7). Furthermore, the critical epistemology of the work demands an explicit recounting of the ways in which the presentation of findings, claims of validity, and representation of reality are all embedded within relations of power. Understanding how the construction of knowledge itself is an act of power puts the researchers in the bind of both speaking to inequity in power relations while bringing to light their own privilege in that construction (Noblit, Flores, & Murillo, 2004, p. 185). Postcritical ethnography then is an explicit attempt to rearticulate such dual moves.

Realizing another connection between the fields of education and cultural studies, postcritical ethnography offers an alternative methodology to scholars of color who refuse the ways in which critical ethnography continues to “recreate both the center and border as it wishes to speak for people of color” (Noblit, 1999, p. 5). Murillo, Noblit, and Flores (2004) compare these trajectories in education with the “new ethnography” in cultural studies (see Grossberg, Nelson, & Treichler, 1992), described as the means for scholars exploring issues of social and cultural reproduction. Post-critical research areas that embrace the study of postcolonialism, feminisms, and the critical study of race and ethnicity seek to expose the researchers, own positionality and whatever forms of privilege that might arise from those subject positions. Connections with participants are highlighted rather than obscured in a post-critical ethnography and in such work there is a recognition that in studying the “other” we, in effect, learn about “us” (Noblit, 1999; see also Nieto, 1999). However, the question remains as to the role of the spatial in both these interactions and their subsequent analysis.

Scholars that do include an emphasis on the spatial while attending to post-critical commitments—whether or not they explicitly use critical geography—have woven considerations of positionality and contested notions of place into their analysis. Rosaldo (1993, p. 198) compellingly argues that “objectivism’s practice of using the ‘detached observer’ to make ‘ourselves’ invisible to ourselves has been debilitating” and troubles static notions of culture and subjectivity. Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing (1994, p. 279) insists on a refocusing of attention to the interaction between the global and the local—what she calls friction—and intentionally looks to the margins of social relations and what is left behind:

Nor do I refer to margins as the sites of deviance from social norms. Instead, I use the term to indicate an analytic placement that makes evident both the constraining, oppressive quality of cultural exclusion and the creative potential of rearticulating, enlivening, and rearranging the very social categories that peripheralize a group’s existence. . . . My interest is in the zones of unpredictability at the edges of discursive stability, where contradictory discourses overlap, or where discrepant kinds of meaning-making converge; these are what I call margins.

Other examples of these post-critical approaches include powerful work on the intersections of race, gender, and the spatial (McKittrick, 2006), the intersections and constitutive nature of class, identity, and space (Rowe, 2015), and mobility as related to method (Evans & Jones, 2010).

Toward a Critical Geography

Places are fragmentary and inward-turning histories, pasts that others are not allowed to read, accumulated times that can be unfolded but like stories held in reserve, remaining in an enigmatic state, symbolizations encysted in the pain or pleasure of the body.

(de Certeau, 1984, p. 108)

In common usage as well as academic discourse, the terms space and place tend to be employed interchangeably with little to no distinction. To geographers, however, the difference between the terms forms one of the bases of their field of study, which takes up questions of how people and the physical environment are in relation. Geographers begin by marking space as the physical attributes of the world around us or, considered more theoretically, the spatial forces at work on people. While this is what most of us think of as geography—things like rivers, mountains, climate, borders, and capitals—spatial forces also include less tangible forces such as economics, politics, and culture, and are sedimented within an equally complex history. Geographers point out that something like a national border certainly represents the spatial, but is socially constructed, can change over time, may have varying and differently experienced levels of importance, and ultimately has different meanings to the people that interact with it. Space, therefore, can be and is both natural and man-made, imbued with key characteristics which humans interact with both as constraints and possibilities (see Massey, 2005).

Conversely, place is understood as a particular form of—and interaction with—space (see Harvey, 2001; Lefebvre, 1991; Massey, 1994; Soja, 2010). Of primary concern then are the ways in which people engage in meaning-making as a relation to particular material locations or spatial relationships and characteristics. The recognition that people have places that hold special meaning to them for any number of reasons, good or bad, may be obvious. But understanding how this works and how those relationships work on us becomes a more complex project. Theoretical geographers, informed by continuing developments in Marxist, feminist, and poststructural social theory, center their analysis on the processes involved in space becoming a place and what that might mean for the people involved (see Hubbard, Kitchin, & Valentine, 2004). As these processes undoubtedly involve issues of power and identity and operate in simultaneous and complex ways, to take up this field of study requires some distinction of space from place; that distinction is known as critical geography.

A group of scholars that have come to be known as critical geographers (e.g., Gregory, 1978; Harvey, 1973; Lefebvre, 1991, 2003 [1970]; Massey, 1995; Soja, 1996) have, since the late 1970s, drawn upon (and, in turn, infused) intellectual domains such as Marxism, feminism, postmodernism, poststructuralism, postcolonialism, and cultural studies in order to disrupt and expand understandings and analysis in and about the spatial. As critical geography provides researchers with new understandings regarding space and place and their relationship to subjectivity and identity formation within sets of power relations, generative new considerations open up for qualitative researchers. Understood in this way, place can be seen as a requisite for everything we are and do. As Casey (1997, p. ix; cf. Gruenewald, 2003, p. 622) puts it, “to be at all—to exist in any way—is to be somewhere; and to be somewhere is to be in some kind of place . . . we live in places, relate to others in them, die in them. Nothing we do is unplaced.” A critical geography necessarily points to entanglements of ontology, epistemology, and ethics. Still, Gruenewald (2003) suggests that although (perhaps because) place is experienced everywhere, everywhere it recedes from consciousness. The project then of critical geographic work in research is to work against that tendency and bring questions of the spatial back into focus.

The implications here are in refusing to see space and place as stable and fixed—a container for society rather than a structure created by it—critical geographers suggest that space and place are socially constructed processes and sets of relations (Rose, 1997). As such, these relations are filled with living, evolving politics and ideologies. Place, according to de Certeau (1984), is an appropriation of space resulting from people attributing value and meaning to the spatial through practices, objects, relationships, and representations. Places are spaces carved out, worked, and constructed by people, as social relations project themselves into space, becoming inscribed there, and, in the process, producing that space itself. Social space is thus both a field of action and a basis for action (Lefebvre, 1991). That is, places are doubly constructed: while they are built or in some way physically cut out, they are also interpreted, narrated, perceived, felt, understood, and imagined (Soja, 1996). While places have finitude, “their boundaries are both analytically and phenomenologically elastic” (Gieryn, 2000, p. 464). Consequently, and despite its materiality, the meaning or value of the (same) place “is labile—flexible in the hands of different people or cultures, malleable over time, and inevitably contested” (Gieryn, 2000, p. 465). Such understandings—including those about Thirdspace (Soja, 1996) and hybridity (Bhabha, 1994)—open a variety of new possibilities for researchers, not only in the area of geography itself but also in the exploration of how space and place are made and made to work with, through, and against the very spaces of the social writ large. Helfenbein and Taylor (2009, pp. 236–237) posited that:

Critical Geography seeks to then take the oft-neglected next step of analyzing how . . . spaces change, change over time, and impact the lived, material world. Seeing spaces as relational—a geography of the rhizomatic interaction of space—place, power, and identity emerge to point to new understandings of people in the world.

What makes this geography critical is its intentional inclusion of a critique of power. For critical geographers, power always plays a role in spatial relations as, said another way, power is always about geography as it is always about access (Grossberg, 2005). For example, in considering school spaces for young people, ones see the way they are defined by restrictions and privileges. At certain times of the day students can only be in certain parts of the school property; simply being in a particular area can mean disciplinary action from adults. This shows how those that have a certain degree of power—in this case, teachers and administrators—can define the limits of where youth can and cannot go. But of course, students have power too and these rules are transgressed, negotiated, and understood in multiple ways. This spatial dynamic happens all the time in social relations. Furthermore, young people themselves engage in similar practices. A common example could be how seating patterns in a school cafeteria are divided up along racial lines. Although there are usually no official rules as to who sits where, students typically think of certain areas as their own or, sometimes dangerously, clearly belonging to another group. Critical geographers would include all the factors that come into play in the process of making those spatial divisions for students, consider what those separations—accepted or rejected—might mean in the development of their identities, and fold them into both data collection method and analysis.

Within all of these considerations is also a focus on identity. Often expressed in the question, “Who am I?”, notions of identity involve the ways in which people come to see themselves in relation to larger society and the world itself. For critical geographers, this continual process of identity work always occurs in spaces that both enable and limit the possibilities of that work and in places that, to that point, are invested with meaning. A critical geography approach to educational research attempts an inclusion of the various forces that act on young people, educators, and community members as they undertake the process of coming to know themselves and their respective place in the world. Although most education scholars would suggest that the process of identity formation takes place in dramatic ways during the period of adolescence, most contemporary thinkers describe the process of identity as one that is continual, ever-changing. For critical geographers, this is to say that place and space play important roles in setting the limits for a person’s process of identity work and simultaneously come to have meaning in an ongoing interaction with these actors. Some might suggest that the question of “Who am I?” needs to begin with, or at least be considered alongside, the spatial consideration of “Where am I?”

Geographies of schools and schooling can serve as a starting point for developing spatial perspective of learners and educators and their intersections with structures of power and identity. At the smallest scale, some researchers study the spatial characteristics of classrooms themselves and use mapping techniques to better understand the ways in which teachers interact with students, how the students interact—or do not—with each other, and how the bodies are arranged by school authorities as well as the ways they arrange themselves. At a larger scale, other scholars analyze architectural layouts and school buildings to explore the ways in which student and teacher experiences are in some way controlled by the material nature of an educative space. For example, many of these scholars point to the ways that racial segregation continues to happen in so-called desegregated schools through the tracking of students through specific classes and therefore through certain parts of the school space. Other scholars provide an analysis of schools that begins with the historical inequality of school funding based on property value and the complexities involved in tax collection. The historic and continued segregation of neighborhoods themselves and how resources are distributed across school systems provide an opening framework to understand school spaces and how people make sense of them. Critical geography, interested in coming to understand human interaction in all its complexity, would insist on an analysis that includes all these scales at once.

Certainly, in educational research, an obvious starting point for this article would be schools, but increasingly scholars are looking at educative spaces beyond the school walls (see Helfenbein, Rodriguez, Elfreich, & Robbins, 2017). Stopping at the doorway of schools in studies of youth and education can obscure the recognition of how young people bring their home and neighborhood into the learning spaces every day, but also how the school day and its experiences are carried outside the school and into the broader world. A critical geography approach insists that inquiry into understanding students’ experiences in schools should include some analysis of the spaces and places that the students bring with them—in other words, we must know where kids are coming from.

Finally, it has been suggested by some critical geographers that some control of space is a necessary marker of an individual or group’s power. If true,

then some study of the spaces that are controlled by youth should become a part of our study of human geography. How students divide up the spaces of schools and neighborhoods shows how structures of power are at work within those groups and speak to how the culture of those young people works. Assumptions about youth and what was once termed deviance no longer sufficiently explains the behaviors, cultures, or geographies of young people.

(Helfenbein, 2015, p. 402)

Critical geography offers qualitative research another way to interrogate the particular ways in which identity work takes place, how we might see young people constrained by structural power, and how a fluid youth culture negotiates and resists those constraints in particular places.

Applying critical geography to considerations of qualitative research suggests a focus on the interrelationships of space, place, and identity (Allen, 2003; Harvey, 2001; Massey & Jess, 1995; Soja, 1989, 1996). Certainly, concepts like space and place have always been a focus for geographers, but the critical turn comes in analyzing the relationships between the two as well as coming to an understanding of how both operate within the processes of identity formation. For critical geographers, space is a concept of individuation. We each exist spatially, under forces not of our own making—manifest in such formations as nations, city streets, neighborhoods, institutions, and bodies (Harvey, 1989). Place is a localized understanding of community—imbued with meaning for the people that spend time there. Quite simply, it matters because people invest in what Geertz (1973) terms webs of significance in places. Economic, social, and cultural practices work on both the inhabitants of the place and work to form the place itself. Space constructed through discursive, interpretive, lived, and imagined practices becomes place (de Certeau, 1984; Soja, 1996). Place must be seen as only possible in its interactions.

Identity emerges in the interaction between space and place. Identity, like culture, can be seen as a “field of struggle,” a negotiation constantly waged against the structural formations that set limits upon bodies. Spaces are the limits within which people move through, navigating and mapping as they go. Place-identity or what Rowe (2015) calls geo-identity reflects the process of increasing individuation in relation to others, or “the other” (Harvey, 1996). For critical geographers, it is here that the study of power becomes essential. Power relations are evident in both processes: the spatial limits on bodies and the operations of place-making. Identity both reflects and responds to relationships of power.

A considerable portion of scholarship in critical geography analyzes the changing relationships between space and place in late capitalism and an ever-expanding globalized condition (Allen, 2003; Breitbart, 1998; Harvey, 2001; Massey & Jess, 1995; Soja, 1989, 1996). How place is related to an increasingly globalized space forms a point of departure for analyses of culture, economic relations, democratic and anti-democratic forces, and identity. Mapping relations of power remains a central axis to the work of critical geographers and holds the affinitive connection between the field and the complementary work of critical theory and cultural studies (in fact, these fields share and exchange key writers such as Marx, Lefebvre, and Foucault). Some writers argue that coming to articulate the conditions of power and its effects on lived society are not only academic trajectories but also the moral obligation of the geographer (Harvey, 2001; Soja, 1989).

An important object of analysis in critical geography and indeed broader social theory is the border. In traditional geographic studies, borders play a major role in coming to understand place and politics. However, in the new trajectory—a spatial metaphor itself—of critical geography, borders and boundaries are troubled, crossed, and complicated. Boundaries come to be understood as part of the process of place-making. This social construction of borders implies that the meanings of both the border and the place defined within are neither guaranteed nor essential (Massey, 1995). Yet, as real and imagined borders exist, embedded in networks of history, politics, and power, they do indeed have a materiality—real effects on lived experience. In fact, social structures can no more be understood without some conception of the spatial than can the spatial be analyzed without inclusion of the social (Soja, 1989). This is not to say that borders and boundaries create a sense of place in any pure or guaranteed way, but that multiple possibilities exist within the bounded space and in the possibility of border crossing. Issues of power are implicated when people decide which possibilities are enacted in place-making.

Critical geographers suggest that typically in social science research the concepts of space, place, identity—and its oft conflated term, culture—all get characterized in isomorphic fashion, problematically assuming the neutrality of space. Four distinct problems arise: (a) what of those who inhabit the borderlands? (Anzaldúa, 1999); (b) how do we account for differences within particular places; (c) what of the hybrid cultures of postcoloniality? and (d) how do we come to understand social and cultural change within spatial context? (Gupta & Ferguson, 1992). Understanding space, place, and identity as a set of interactions provides for critical geography a frame within which to rethink all three. But again, as issues of the globalized context arise, new reconceptions become necessary:

In the pulverized space of postmodernity, space has not become irrelevant: it has become reterritorialized in a way that does not conform to experience of space that characterized the era of high modernity. It is this that forces us to reconceptualize fundamentally the politics of community, solidarity, identity, and cultural difference.

(Gupta & Ferguson, 1992, p. 9)

Critical Geography and Education

It could be argued that a key analytical problem in educational research lies in the tendency to think of schools as bounded systems—systems that begin and end with the four walls of a classroom (Nespor, 1997). From a geographic perspective this could be considered a problem of scale which arises from a failure to see scale as socially constructed (see Helfenbein & Buendia, 2017). Schools, in fact, are very complex social systems that are all bound up in a “tangled web of practices” (Nespor, 1997). Schools and learning places indeed connect to community(s), historical context, government (local, state, and federal), economic structure and shift, and fluid notions of culture and identity. To attempt to understand educative practices necessarily requires multiple levels of analysis and an ever expansion of lenses of inquiry into such a particular complexity. Critical geography offers a way to add just such a lens to post-critical approaches to qualitative inquiry.

Often reduced to context or even setting, a more intentional analysis of the spatial and its role in meaning-making still only plays a minor role in contemporary educational research. While not explicitly claiming the discipline of geography, some prominent scholars have applied a spatial analysis to educative practice: Freire’s (1970) discussion of a “politics of location”; Eisner’s (1998) call for analysis of classroom spaces and their connection to educative goals; classroom geographies and issues of community and community building (Fine, Weis, Centrie, & Roberts, 2000; Johnson, 1982); work in cultural studies approaches to education (see Dimitriadis & Carlson, 2003); and analyses of geographies of educational opportunity (Tate, 2008). The complexity of a critical geography analysis offers possibilities for coming to a closer understanding of the interactions that make up places defined as educative. Students’ and educators’ perceptions of place indeed play an important role within the varied interactions of educative practice. A notion of place and an understanding of the complex geographies of power and community are essential for coming to know the ways in which institutions such as schools function (or do not). Such an approach would need to combine social theory with interviews, conversations, and observations. Daunting though it may be, the layers of analysis described here represent a critical approach to understanding schools that has both intellectual depth and a deep respect for the participants that live their lives in this “tangled web of practices.”

More contemporary work includes: Schmidt’s (2011) analysis of six high school students’ process of place-making and their understanding of places and territories outside school; Gerson’s (2013) exploration of using sound in understanding issues of race and gender in urban classrooms; Marrun’s (2018) exploration of the role of “academic space” and the spatial implications of pedagogy in study of Latina/o students in ethnic studies courses; Blockett’s (2017) critical ethnography study of higher education and the possibility of “black queer space”; Wozolek’s (2015) study of place-making and performances of self by marginalized students; Charteris, Smardon, Foulkes, and Bewley’s (2016) collective biography work in pointing to the role of spaces and bodies within new materialist assemblages; and Nakagaw and Payne’s (2016) ethnography of learners negotiating understandings of landscape in an outdoor environmental program. Scholars of the LGBTQ experiences also privilege the role of space in learning about the marginalization and spaces of resistance at work in those marginalized populations. Tierney and Ward (2017, p. 504) offer that “Critical geography provides a lens to understand the movements and daily lives of LGBT homeless youth.” Furthermore, Love (2017) analyzes the role of performative spaces in New Orleans and the “space-related aspects of gender and sexual identity” in proposing her “rachet lens” for qualitative studies of black queer youth. But, it is Mayo (2017, p. 535) who offers that the breadth of LGBTQ scholars all point to how “location can help shape understandings of subjectivities that are emergent within social networks and institutions.”

Indigenous scholars focus qualitative work not only on the ontological implications of place as an essential component of indigenous methodology (Friedel, 2014; Grande & McCarty, 2018; Lipe & Lipe, 2016; Marker, 2018), but also on a growing critique of settler colonialism (Francis & Munson, 2016; Grande & McCarty, 2018; Nxumalo, 2016). Somerville (2014, p. 80) combines storytelling and place in order to extrapolate “the potential of place as a conceptual framework for connecting the local and global, the real and symbolic, the individual and the collective, and our inner sense of ourselves with the external world.” She suggests this form of body/place writing not only as a way to invert traditional research binaries, but also as an attempt to put Western and indigenous ways of knowing into conversation. While not using the terms of critical geography specifically, these scholars point to the onto-epistemological consequences of material spaces within indigenous processes of meaning-making. The implications of qualitative research are not only in challenging the Western dominance of theoretical frameworks, but also in suggesting that precisely that dominance obscures further aspects of coming to new understandings of qualitative experience.

Thus, a critical geography framework in qualitative research provides an opportunity to interrogate both the spatial construction of educative spaces and the place-making practices of the students, educators, and community members, who cross the street—the border—to spend time there. This type of spatial work, too, provides an opportunity to weave post-critical research methodologies into a way of working in and with communities. Within these attendant theoretical frames, the stories folk tell reflect both their sense of place, the spatial forces at work on them, the divides they cross, negotiate, reinscribe, and the politics of social formations both within and without institutionalized spaces. Those stories also point to the material aspects of the spatial and uncover the ways in which they act upon people and the process of meaning-making. The negotiation of those spaces and the processes of mapping place onto those terrains serve as the focus of a critical geography project. In so doing, further untangling the web of practices of educative spaces helps us see these interactions from a different vantage point and enables us to remap our conceptions of education itself.


The author thanks Vincent Lui for bibliographic and editorial help in the preparation of this article.


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