Plugging into the umbra: creative experimentation (in)(on) the boundaries of knowledge production in ECEC research

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Research into Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) policy and practice in the UK is subject to the demand that such research be measurable and achieve impact to provide the basis for evidence-based professional practice. New and creative experimental ways of knowing/thinking/doing ECEC research have been proposed in resistance to this quantified and instrumentalised agenda. Here I focus on posthumanist theorising, which proposes research that does not privilege the human subject but rather opens conditions of possibility for an entanglement with non-human and more-than-human bodies within and between assemblages. This engagement with complexity is a new ethical and political project aiming at re-conceptualising ontology beyond the limits of the human. Posthumanist research does not only challenge quantitative research, but also engages creative ways to challenge the limits of qualitative inquiry. Drawing on my research experience, I explore this de-centring of the human-as-researcher through the notion of the ‘methodological umbra’. This shadow space is one in which traditional thoughts on research open out these new forms of inquiry into thinking-in-movement. My analysis uses my own diary entries as sites in which this ‘umbra’ becomes evident under the pressure of creating new forms of a ‘living’ methodology. This is analysed through the contrast between smooth and striated space proposed by Deleuze and Guattari (1987) to explore what form of life might emerge in the smooth space of the umbra.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16–30
Number of pages15
JournalReconceptualizing Educational Research Methodology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2016


  • Methodological umbra
  • ECEC research
  • posthumanist theorising
  • post-qualitative inquiry
  • smooth space
  • straited space
  • assemblages


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