Considering materiality in educational policy: messy objects and multiple reals



Fenwick T & Edwards R (2011) Considering materiality in educational policy: messy objects and multiple reals. Educational Theory, 61 (6), pp. 709-726.

Educational analysts need new ways to engage with policy processes in a networked world of complex transnational connections. In this discussion, we argue for a greater focus on materiality in educational policy as a way to trace the heterogeneous interactions and precarious linkages that enact policy as complex manifestations. In particular, we point to the methodologies of actor-network theory, at least in its most recent permutations, as a useful approach to materiality in policy analysis. Published examples of educational policy studies drawing from these methodologies are beginning to appear. In reviewing these, we argue that ANT sensibilities help to make visible the socio-material assemblages – the ‘messy objects’ – that enact policy, the micro-negotiations that mobilize and stabilize (and de-stabilize) these assemblages, and the multiple ontologies that often co-exist in policy environments. We conclude with a discussion of methodological issues for working with concepts of ontological variance and messy objects in educational policy.

educational policy; actor network theory; sociomaterial; materiality; multiple ontologies; Curriculum planning Cross-cultural studies; Actor-network theory; Education Philosophy

Educational Theory: Volume 61, Issue 6

Publication date31/12/2011

People (2)


Professor Richard Edwards
Professor Richard Edwards

Emeritus Professor, Education

Professor Tara Fenwick
Professor Tara Fenwick

Emeritus Professor, Education