CHAPTER 4 | Methodology
4.2 My Theoretical Journey
4.2 My Theoretical Journey | I first encountered the EU campaign Science It’s
First, being focused on power and subject formation, Ahmed’s (2004a, 2004b, 2010, 2006) queer feminist theories are in many ways aligned with Foucault’s (1990, 1991, 2010, 2009) central concept of governmentality. This focal similarity means the two scholars’ theories can quite easily and in fact productively be converged, despite their diverging emphases on affect and discourse as the primary, respective matters that produce power and thus organise and govern social behaviour.
Next, when it comes to a study of aspiration formation anchored in theories on aspiration-raising policy, Ahmed’s theories – especially on discursive narratives as investing affects in objects – seem very useful for explaining how an affective governmentality plays out in such formation. Theories on aspiration-raising policy – more or less – contend that such policy operates by investing a ‘promise of happiness’ (Ahmed, 2010, p. 30) in the object of a future of education, thereby apparently also following Ahmed’s argument that subjects adopt and abandon specific life choices based on the positive or negative affective meaning invested in the objects of these choices (e.g., Sellar, 2015; Sellar & Storan, 2013; see also Article 1).
Although combining Foucault’s and Ahmed’s theories has its upsides in the analysis of aspiration-raising policy, one can indeed also critically argue that by
‘reducing’ Foucault’s theories to ‘fit’ Ahmed’s theories, my constructed apparatus performs an agential cut that partly prevents me from focusing on the organising and governing of social behaviour at the subject level, which Foucault’s theories would otherwise allow. For instance, Foucault’s (1982, 1990) dimension of agency in the sense of possible resistance is arguably absent in Ahmed’s (2010) work. In her work, the subject must be destined to adopt and abandon certain social behaviour, if the organising and governing of social behaviour involves no direct cognitive reflection and thus entails behaviour motivated in the instant a
subject encounters an affectively invested or surfaced object. As such, important elements of Foucault’s theories – elements of potential relevance to this thesis’
findings – become lost when combined with Ahmed’s theories. In Article 3 the girls explain how not only affects but also careful considerations organise and govern their social behaviour, which indicates that affective conditions are something girls cognitively negotiate. Indeed, by avoiding negative and pursuing positive affect or accepting that something is either positive or negative, the girls actively consider whether, for instance, negative affect will become worthwhile positive affect in the long run, thereby making educational choices on this basis. In this light, a new concept of affective governmentality combining Foucault’s and Ahmed’s theories emerges as highly relevant for analysing the affective and temporal organising and governing attempts and effects of aspiration-raising policy, despite the concept is carrying some apparent limitations if used to explain affective governmentality on a subject level.
Although the new affective governmentality seemingly allowed me to understand the affective governmentality performed by aspiration-raising policy in the form of gendered educational STEM policy, I felt something was still lacking after this concept emerged. My initial observation data held none of the glitter that had allured me to study the world of STEM, and nothing – neither Foucault, Ahmed, nor the literature on aspiration-raising policy – pointed me towards any glitz and glow. I found that missing link, that sparkle and twinkle, when introduced to Coleman’s book Glitterworlds – the future politics of a ubiquitous world (2020).
These theories indicated the organising and governing allurement of STEM, while also allowing me to partly rethink theories on affective governmentality and thus the glittery, organising, and governing operations of gendered educational STEM policies.
However, in thinking of affective governmentality as glitter, one makes an agential cut that opens a line of sight to the shimmer and glimmer of Barbies, shiny headquarters, and innovative labs, but obscures, for instance, the regular teacher in ordinary, un-glittery outfits. I had noticed such a teacher in my data for Article 1, realising his potential relevance to a study of the affective governmentality enacted in the STEM classroom. This article indicates that the teacher and his un-glittery actions played an organising and governing role in forming the STEM aspirations of girls in his classroom because the lacklustre naturally also evokes affects (Ashworth, 2017).
The use of glitter to analyse the operations and intended affective governmentality of gendered educational STEM policy leads to another agential cut. This cut allows one to focus on glitter as generally producing positive rather than negative affects, as well as opens up analyses of positive affects and closes down analyses of negative affects. According to Coleman (2020), however, glitter produces not only positive but also negative affects, such as irritation and frustration. Thus, I could have recognised and explored glitter as an element of an affective governmentality other than the one my interest in the intended effects of gendered educational STEM policy spurred me to identify.
Constructing an apparatus whose agential cuts serve to constrict Foucault’s theories to ‘fit’ those of Ahmed, to narrow affective governmentality to glitter, and to limit glitter to positive affect thus enables me to see and examine a very certain glittery world that is only a very particular part of the total entanglement that makes up the greater world. As such, my choice of theories does nothing to assist me in pinning down the answer to questions about how gendered educational STEM policy organises and governs girls’ STEM aspirations and what this organising and governing might imply. Instead, it allows me to present an answer to these questions.
In sum, my theoretical journey into the world of glittery STEM ended where it started, namely with glitter. However, between my point of departure on glitter and the terminus, I went from theories on aspiration-raising policy, to theories on affective governmentality, to theories on time and temporality. These theories certainly explain the world through different foci and lenses, but they still appear to come together in glitter as a governing element of affective governmentality.
Accordingly, my theoretical ‘wandering abouts’ – or maybe actually ‘wondering abouts’ – also appear to neatly settle into one concept: my new material/discursive concept of glitter.
This does not mean that other, more precisely plotted journeys could not have been made. Indeed, allowing myself to be guided by my wonders and constant new findings and insights, has ultimately led me into a transdisciplinary – partly postdisciplinary (Munar et al., 2018) – space, a place where I play across theories and disciplines rather than profess to a singular theory or discipline. My theoretical point of departure was in the affective governmentality encouraged in OMS, but my problem field lay in education studies, which I then came to read through the glitter I discovered in cultural studies and am now attempting to bring into OMS by indicating the organising and governing effects of glitter. Still, although I had no neatly plotted map to guide me – and a highly demanding, rather troublesome travel companion called COVID-19 – it all seems logical on reflection. What is more, this journey has culminated in a group of both theoretical and empirical contributions that I feel confident can advance the fields of both OMS and education studies.
4.3 Facet Methodology | My apparatus has made agential cuts in method as