The study of undocumented students in the United States is critical and growing. As scholars increasingly employ qualitative methodologies and methods in studying undocumented students, it is important to consider the specific challenges, nuances, and benefits of doing so. Undocumented students have a right to a public elementary and secondary education regardless of immigration status, per the 1982 court case Plyler v. Doe. While the stress that undocumented students face during their K-12 years are real and consequential, this stress becomes particularly acute in their postsecondary lives when education is neither guaranteed nor readily accessible. Qualitative research gives insight into the complex obstacles undocumented students face and advocates for the institutional and social change necessary to best support them. Existing qualitative research on undocumented students employs various methodologies and methods including but not limited to narrative inquiry, testimonio, phenomenology, case studies, ethnography, discourse analysis, and grounded theory. Among the salient issues that scholars must take into account when engaging in such research are the ethical, logistical, and relational problems that arise when working with undocumented people; the politicization of researching undocumented students; and the power and privilege that researchers possess in the researcher–participant relationship. Within every stage of the research process, researchers need to take special care when working with undocumented students to ensure their anonymity, respect their lived experiences, and advocate for their human rights. Undocumented research participants are in need of extra protection due to their undocumented status, and this need should not be conflated with weakness. Often, undocumented participants are framed as illegal, powerless, vulnerable, fearful, and in the shadows. While it is true that undocumented people face intense, life-altering, and consequential struggles relative to their undocumented status, it is also true that their intelligence, resilience, and persistence are equally intense. Researchers have an obligation to bring undocumented students’ authentic experiences to the fore in ways that acknowledge their undocumented status and the related struggles while affirming their agency and resistance. How they employ methodological practices is central to this goal.
Aurora Chang, Júlia Mendes, and Cinthya Salazar
The “affective turn” in the humanities and social sciences has developed some of the most innovative and productive theoretical ideas in recent years, bringing together psychoanalytically informed theories of subjectivity and subjection, theories of the body and embodiment, and political theories and critical analysis. Although there are clearly different approaches in the affective turn that range from psychoanalysis, poststructuralism, (post-)Deleuzian perspectives, theories of the body, and embodiment to affective politics, there is a substantial turn to the intersections of the social, cultural, and political with the psychic and the unconscious. The affective turn, then, marks a shift in thought in critical theory through an exploration of the complex interrelations of discursive practices, the human body, social and cultural forces, and individually experienced but historically situated affects and emotions. Work in this area has become known as “critical emotion studies” or “critical affect studies.” Just as in other disciplinary areas, there has been a huge surge of interest in education concerning the study of affect and emotion. Affect and emotion have appeared and reappeared in educational theory and practice over the past several decades through a variety of theoretical lenses. For psychologists working with theories of cognition, for example, the meaning of these terms is very different compared to that of a sociologist or philosopher using social or political theories of power. In general, psychologists investigate emotional states and their impact on the body and mind/cognition, whereas “affect” is a much broader term denoting modes of influence, movement, intensity, and change. Within these two meanings—a more psychologized notion focused on the “emotions” as these are usually understood and a more wider perspective on “affect” highlighting difference, process, and force—the affective turn in education expands our thinking and research by attempting to enrich our understanding of how teachers and students are moved, what inspires or pains them, how feelings and memories play into teaching and learning. The affective turn, then, is a particular and particularly focused set of ideas well worth considering, especially because it enables power critiques of various kinds. What the affective turn contributes to education and other disciplines is that it draws attention to the entanglement of affects and emotions with everyday life in new ways. More importantly, the affective turn creates important ethical, political, and pedagogical openings in educators’ efforts to make transformative interventions in educational spaces.
Conversation is a topic of burgeoning interest in the context of educational theory and as a prospective means for conducting empirical research. As a nonformal educational experience, as well as within the classroom, or as a means to researching various aspects of educational practice and institutions, research on or through conversation in education draws on a range of theoretical resources, often understanding conversation as analogous to dialogue or dialectic. Although only brought into this research context in the early 21st century, the philosopher who has engaged most extensively with conversation is Maurice Blanchot (1907–2003). His text, The Infinite Conversation, originally published in French as L’Entretien infini in 1969, responded to and took forward many elements of what would go on to be described as poststructuralist or deconstructive thought. Blanchot’s notion of conversation (in French, “entretien”) is distinct from those reliant upon philosophical conceptions of dialogue or dialectic. Itself the subject of philosophical research, Blanchotian conversation has been interpreted variously as either not sufficiently taking into account the ethics of Emmanuel Levinas, or else expanding beyond its more limited scope. Some of these interpretations stress the ethical and political implications of conversation; however, none engage specifically with its educational implications. Blanchotian conversation allows for contradicting and contrasting thoughts to be voiced without being brought to shared consensus or internal resolution. Its “lesson” is not only in the thought that it produces but also in the ethical relation of sincerity, openness, and non-imposition that it develops. Unlike some recent applications of conversation to educational context, Blanchotian conversation does not re-entrench the subject to be educated but rather deprioritizes the subject in favor of the movement of thought and the ethical “between” of conversation itself. This notion of conversation has corollaries in political thought, notably with Jacques Rancière’s understanding of “dissensus” and Karl Hess’s thought of an “anarchism without hyphens,” as well as the politically informed educational ideas of Elizabeth Ellsworth and the educational practice and research of Camilla Stanger.
Jennifer Hatten-Flisher and Rebecca A. Martusewicz
Ecofeminism is a theoretical, political, and educational movement that draws specific parallels between the domination of women and other marginalized groups, and the degradation of nature. While much of ecofeminist thought is focused on examining the interconnectivity between social and environmental injustices, ecofeminism is as vast and varied as its feminist and ecological roots. Yet, ecofeminism is not without its critics. After being widely accused of essentializing women’s relationship with nature, the term fell out of favor with a lot of scholars in the 1990s. Those who have remained loyal to the term have argued that this was an unfair mischaracterization of the larger foundational ideas within ecofeminist work. Given the global environmental and social crises currently sweeping the planet, ecofeminism offers important, albeit diverse, theoretical, practical, and pedagogical perspectives for developing effective responses to such interrelated crises. As such, scholars across a variety of disciplines are revisiting (and reclaiming) ecofeminist thought. In the field of education, ecofeminism is influencing the ways that we approach questions of justice by offering an intersectional framework that insists on recognizing the interconnected roots of racism, sexism, poverty, ablism, and other social problems with ecological degradation. An ethics of care is woven throughout to form the basis of a pedagogy of responsibility whereby students learn to both critique these cultural foundations of violence and identify practices and relationships that help to create healthy sustainable communities.