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Total eclipse of the heart? Theoretical and ethical implications of doing post-structural ethnographic research

Karen Vaughan

This paper explores some of the more disturbing aspects of research on what was, at the time, the only state-funded alternative secondary school in New Zealand.

Throughout the five years of research, New Zealand's school inspectorate, the Education Review Office, publicly released a series of highly critical reports on the school which resulted in it being closed down.

The paper discusses some of the theoretical, political, and ethical implications of doing a 'post-structural ethnography"' under these circumstances. It raises questions about the methodological tension between an ethnographic approach, which identifies the site of struggles as the school and government educational authorities, and a post-structural approach, which re-orientates the site of struggles towards the narratives of the school and educational authorities themselves, seeking to disrupt them.

The full journal article is published in:
Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 25 (3), 2004, p. 389-403.

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Karen Vaughan