Book Chapter

Matterings of knowing and doing: sociomaterial approaches to understanding practice


Fenwick T (2012) Matterings of knowing and doing: sociomaterial approaches to understanding practice. In: Hager P, Lee A & Reich A (eds.) Practice, Learning and Change: Practice-Theory Perspectives on Professional Learning. Professional and Practice-Based Learning, 8. Dordrecht: Springer, pp. 67-83.

Discussions of practice, particularly those focused on learning, tend to focus more upon the socio-cultural and socio-political aspects of practice activity than on the actual materiality of practice. This chapter suggests theoretical resources that offer constructs and approaches to help trace material dimensions of practice and in particular, the materiality of learning in practice. Three theoretical perspectives have been selected that have become prevalent in learning research: cultural-historical activity theory (CHAT), actor-network theory (ANT), and complexity theory. In their own ways, they help to illuminate issues of practice that are sometimes silent in practice-based assertions: different kinds of practice, the actual processes of participation in practices, and the diverse ways in which practices become reconfigured. A comparative approach is used to examine these three conceptual framings to explore their diverse contributions to analysing materiality in practice. The three perspectives bear some similarities in their conceptualization of knowledge and capabilities as emerging in interconnections between heterogeneous things, human and nonhuman. Yet each illuminates very different facets of the material that can afford important understandings: about how subjectivities are produced in practices, how knowledge circulates and sediments into formations of power, and how practices are configured and re-configured. Each also signals, in different ways, what generative possibilities may exist for helping people to engage in desirable practices or to reconfigure problematic practices.

activity theory; actor-network theory; complexity theory; sociomaterial; work-learning

Title of seriesProfessional and Practice-Based Learning
Number in series8
Publication date31/12/2012
Publisher URL…78-94-007-4773-9
Place of publicationDordrecht
ISSN of series2210-5549