Diffractive Pedagogies

Helen Palmer

Diffraction as a methodological tool is particularly useful in pedagogical terms. The critique of dualisms that we have come to understand in new materialism as a move away from Cartesian models, reflexive processes or mirror images in favour of relationalities, intra-activity and differing rather than mimetic representation is a pedagogical strategy. Bodies are discursive practices themselves, and they are inseparable from the environments in which they move, shape and express themselves. Diffractive pedagogies pay attention to the inseparability between the knower and the known, the teacher and the taught, and learning/teaching bodies and the pedagogical environments and apparatus involved. All are mutually implicated and embodied. The material, embodied and affective nature of teaching and learning is vital. Disciplinary boundaries are traversed (see transversality) in favour of allowing for patterns of interference between boundaries and disciplines. The results are messy, complex, unpredictable and performative rather than representational of any pre-existing structure.

Antonym: mimesis; representation; hierarchy
Hypernym: diffraction; diffractive methodologies
Hyponyms: dance as pedagogy; poetry as method; collaging as method
Synonyms: transdisciplinary pedagogical practices

Vivienne Bozalek, Veronica Mitchell, Arona Dison & Melanie Alperstein (2016): A diffractive reading of dialogical feedback through the political ethics of care, Teaching in Higher Education, DOI: 10.1080/13562517.2016.1183612
Anna Hickey-Moody, Helen Palmer and Esther Sayers (2016): Diffractive Pedagogies: dancing across new materialist imaginaries, in Gender and Education, Vol. 28, No. 2, Special Issue edited by Aislinn O’ Donnell, Sharon Todd and Rachel Jones, pp. 213-229. DOI:10.1080/09540253.2016.1140723

COST Action IS1307 New Materialism: Networking European Scholarship on 'How Matter Comes to Matter'.

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With the changing of societies on local, national and international scales owing to economic, ecological, political and technological developments and crises, a reorganized academic landscape can be observed to be emerging. Scholarship strives to become increasingly interdisciplinary in order to grasp and examine the unfolding complexity of ongoing ecological, socio-cultural and politico-economic changes. Additionally, academics forge... Read more or find out Who's Who

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Working Groups focus on four key areas of research

Working Group One

Genealogies of New Materialisms; examines and intervenes in canonization processes by compiling a web-based bibliography, coordinating the OST 068/13 8 EN... Read more

Working Group Two

New Materialisms on the Crossroads of the Natural and Human Sciences; seeks to develop new materialisms at the boundaries of the human and natural sciences. The group focuses on how European new materialisms can rework the ‘Two Cultures' gap... Read more

Working Group Three

New Materialisms Embracing the Creative Arts; brings together European researchers, artists, museum professionals, and other activists with a keen interest in the material... Read more

Working Group Four

New Materialisms Tackling Economical and Identity – Political Crises and Organizational Experiments... Read more


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COST Action IS1307

New Materialism —
Networking European Scholarship on 'How matter comes to matter’

An intergovernmental framework for European Cooperation in Science and Technology
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