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Asking the wrong questions?

Jonathan Doney is a post-doctoral Research Fellow and Associate Lecturer at the University of Exeter, an Associate Lecturer at the University of Winchester, and an Honorary Associate of the International Centre for Historical Research in Education (ICHRE) at UCL’s Institute of Education. He recently gave a lunchtime seminar on his ESRC funded doctoral work. His project (That would be an ecumenical matter) centres on the ways in which a focus on the discourses of ecumenism enriches understandings of how the adoption of the Study of World Religions became possible in English Religious Education during the 1960s and 1970s.

Speaking to the title: ‘”I’m sorry, I can’t give you an answer. I’m dealing with different questions.” Post-structural Methods and Histories of Curriculum Development’, Jonathan explained the way in which the history of education often focuses on events and their significance, asking ‘what happened?, what does it mean?’.

Picture1His doctoral work takes another direction, and concentrates on a different question. Influenced by the historical work of Michel Foucault, particularly his work on the History of Ideas, Jonathan has become interested in ‘how certain practices become possible’.

 

In his talk, Jonathan described the development of a new methodology, which he has called ‘Statement Archaeology’. Beginning with the foundational notions which Foucault describes in his work, (especially the necessity of emphasizing ‘statement’, ‘relative beginnings’ and ‘moments of discontinuity’), Jonathan described how the operationalization of the method has worked in the context of his doctoral study through the application of a series of principles which guide the gathering of statements, and a number of indicative questions asked of the statements so gathered. He exemplified these steps in practice through the discussion of one particular area of his doctoral research.

 

Picture2The inclusion in Schools Council Working Paper 36 – Religious Education in the Secondary School (published 1971) of statements repeated from supranational and national ecumenical discourses have hitherto been overlooked. Through a detailed exploration of the origins and provenance of these statements, using Statement Archaeology, Jonathan demonstrated the efficacy of his method, showing that the inclusion of the ecumenical context enriches understandings of how the adoption of World Religions Teaching became possible in English Religious Education during the 1960s and 1970s.