Author: Denise Mifsud, University of Stirling

Day One – Tuesday 25th June

Strand – Innovations in Research Methods

Session Three: 4.30pm – 6pm

Actor Network Theory (ANT) is considered to be one of the most controversial approaches in the social sciences, mainly because of its analytical realism, primarily its conception of general symmetry which gives equal and undivided attention to human and non-human ‘actors’. I explore the various definitions of ANT as developed by different thinkers while considering the relative unpopularity and under-utilization of ANT in education studies, tracing possible ways in which this theory can contribute to ‘methodological cleansing’ with its very ‘messiness’, ‘fluidity’, and ‘chaos’.

Two concepts this paper gives prominence to are networks and power relations. In light of the way in which the ‘network’ metaphor has invaded social order, becoming a common conceptual horizon for contemplating about the ontological ‘structure’ of the construction of reality, I challenge this conception of networks propagated by globalization discourses, contrasting it in turn with the network conception in ANT, where the main premise is multiplicity. I explore ANT as a theory of the mechanics of power, concerning itself with the stabilization and reproduction of some interactions over others; the construction and maintenance of network centres and peripheries; and the establishment of hegemony.

Besides providing a critical literature review of the ANT concept, I also consider the potential of enacting ANT in my PhD study through some of its strands, namely ‘actor-network’, ‘symmetry’, ‘translation’, and their constituents in my exploration of the operationalization of Maltese school networks in terms of the practitioners’ transformed leadership practices, professional identities, and dynamic power relations.

Presentation not available.