Toward a Critical Reflexivity in Qualitative Inquiry: Relational and Posthumanist Reflections on Realism, Researcher’s Centrality, and Representationalism in Reflexivity

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To critically understand the complexity of the concept and practice of reflexivity, I offer an exploration of some of its epistemological and ontological foundations. Specifically, I discuss 3 assumptions that tend to be entailed in most views of reflexivity: realism, humanism, and linguistic representationalism. I provide for each of them a social constructionist or posthumanist reinterpretation on the basis of relational views of ontology and on constitutive understandings of knowledge. I suggest some alternatives to these 3 assumptions in order to foster a plurality of viewpoints about practices of reflexivity and entanglements of objects and subjects. In particular, posthumanist theories may provide the language to counter postpositivist inclinations within qualitative inquiry and to offer horizontal, diffractive, and transformative modes of knowing that more fully embrace reflexivity not as a tool or strategy but as a discursive and performative practice—that is, as inquiry in itself.

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