Epistemological Shudders as Productive Aporia: A Heuristic for Transformative Teacher Learning

Jennifer Charteris


Epistemological shudders offer teachers and researchers a valuable heuristic to gain new perspectives on classroom dynamics. As a means for reflexivity, they involve turning one’s reflexive gaze on discourse. Although this shudder metaphor has been used to produce puzzles and paradoxes to explore regimes of truth in early childhood contexts, it remains under theorised. The study’s conceptual framework utilises Judith Butler’s notion of performativity which precludes a prediscursive autonomous subject. Butler’s view suggests that identity is a continuous process of reiterating and resignifying one’s position within and across discourses. Through this performance repetition, an illusion of a stable fixed identity is created. In keeping with a view of poststructural research which troubles or disrupts the “taken for granted” in the interests of social justice, the approach to discourse analysis taken in this study supports a deconstruction of unproblematised classroom discourse. During a research interview, the use of a discourse analysis tool prompted epistemological shudders that enabled a teacher to review her beliefs about how she positioned students in her classroom and the researcher to problematise essentialist notions of agency. The study illustrates how epistemological shudders can prompt teachers and researchers to trouble unquestioned assumptions as part of a dynamic learning process.

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