Thursday, 16 March 2017

Thoughts around reality and a non-positive position during a research project

How do I reconcile myself to a non-positive position? First of all, to talk about this position I have to define what reality means to me. Similar to truth, I believe that reality is constructed and self-referential. If I believe that what I say is real, that means that I perceive that it is real. By writing about a research, I’m not imposing this reality to anyone and I am aware that it only corresponds to one possible reality. Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean that this one reality is arbitrary. I don’t assume or blindly believe in something that could as well be unreal. I construct something by gathering data, by carefully choosing qualitative research methods and by respecting multiple stories. The idea of pragmatism is that there are multiple realities.
Being aware of this, I can allow myself to investigate something and to draw one reality. A reality based on lived experience. “(…) Dewey and other pragmatists called for a different starting point that was rooted in life itself—a life that was inherently contextual, emotional, and social.” (1) I don’t need to fight against the subjective features of myself, such as my origins, my emotions, my social status, etc. I am, as a researcher, part of my project, just like my phenomenon is. I acknowledge my own and my phenomenon’s personal, social, cultural, … context. However, I’m not only acknowledging this, but I also have to clearly include it, as part of the project/ presentation of my findings. My reality will be one interpretation constructed by what I see (through participant observation), hear (through interviews), feel (through perception) and finally come to know. This knowledge is built upon real interaction with the world/ experience.During my research project for my BA, I danced with disabled dancers. At the beginning of my research, even though I thought that I was very open and without bias, I had multiple prejudices.
During my research, I learnt that having pre-constructed ideas about something is okay. “More recent humanist and feminist researchers [even] refute the possibility of starting without preconceptions or bias, and emphasise the importance of making clear how interpretations and meanings have been placed on findings, as well as making the researcher visible in the ‘frame’ of the research as an interested and subjective actor rather than a detached and impartial observer (…).” (2) So, what happened during my research is that those preconceptions changed over time as I participated and made my own experience. I discovered an important and new dimension of inclusive dance and reformulated my knowledge based on my personal experience and on my interpretations of my findings. I felt like this new, bodily knowledge contributed to a better understanding and to a more complete story of inclusive dance. I experienced a new reality. This reality, however, couldn’t have existed without myself. I was part of it. I couldn’t have predicted my findings. Experience was part of it.  
Writing about this past experience doesn’t only show that I feel that a non-positivist position greatly contributes to a more complete story of my research, it also reveals how I feel about embodiment and dualism. My body opens a way to understand things with more depth. Once I experience something, my knowledge can shift or evolve. I gained this insight at a certain point in my life. At that moment, I slowly came to understand that I couldn’t make progress through an aesthetic approach. I was always trying to understand every mechanical process and each movement in my mind. However, what I needed was a deeper understanding of every single sensation and feeling. I developed an ‘inner approach’, an embodied approach that assisted my development as a dancer and teacher. I needed to include the experienced sensations. “(…) Dewey argued that experiences always have an emotional, embodied element, in which feelings provide an essential link between beliefs and actions.” (3) My mind doesn’t suffice to act. It doesn’t suffice to create movement. I need to feel it.I also understood that my movement depends on the reality of my body. This reality is different to other dancers’ reality and it changes with every day. My mind needs to be deeply connected with my body to create each day, each second, a reality that corresponds to myself. I am my own enquiry every day when I dance and therefore I believe that, when it comes to my research project, a non-positivist approach will correspond best with my views and beliefs. 

[1] Morgan, David L., (2014) “Pragmatism as a Paradigm for Social Research”, Qualitative Inquiry, Vol. 20(8), p.1047.
[2] Lester, Stan, (1999) “An introduction to phenomenological research”, Taunton UK, Stan Lester Developments
(, accessed [12.03.2017], p.1.

[3] Morgan, “Pragmatism as a Paradigm for Social Research”, p.1047.

1 comment:

  1. What a brilliant and informative post. I really resonate with the part that through experience, knowledge can shift and evolve as it continually is moving and changing throughout this learning process. The reality of movement and of the body changing is also very significant and something I have come to learn during my classes and from teaching. Sometimes movement and creation comes more freely depending on the mind and body at that particular moment, how we feel, whether we are inspired and what is guiding us at that particular time, and of course what matters to us that helps us to reach out and connect as artists, performers and teachers.

    Thanks for sharing