A deconstructive approach to the generation of knowledge

generation of knowledge

Dr Kevin J. Flint, Reader in Education talks about a deconstructive approach to style and the production of space from the generation of knowledge

Over the last 18 months I have been working with a group of researchers from across Europe on Erasmus-funded research entitled the ‘SuperprofDoc Project’, led by Dr Annette Fillery-Travis [Middlesex]. We are concerned with understanding more about the experiences gained through the process of doctoral supervision involving students from a variety of professions, whose research is primarily directed towards gaining more knowledge of aspects of their various practices.

Andrew Loxley [Dublin] and I have been tasked with producing a review of the available literature. In attempting to be innovative we adopted an approach which foregrounds style, so taking further an earlier paper published by AG that I wrote on this subject.

This short paper not only generates a space from the rationale for centring upon style, together with the economic, ethical and aesthetic issues that lay behind the approach we are adopting.  As a matter of working towards justice in practice – with a deconstructive approach always being mad about justice – as a deliberately naïve starting point, in opening this space and exposing it to a public audience we are also introducing a temporal dimension, as vital to the process of review that is itself continually exposed to an on-going deconstructive approach.

Reviewing literature

Rather than the traditional method to reviewing literature, which, albeit tacitly, has always sought to build metaphysical bridges over the flux of time, so generating an associated social space containing supposedly unmoving truth claims to knowledge located in the present. Of course, in all fields of practice because the social space generated by such knowledge production, not least from the critical review of any such claims, has always remained permeable, vulnerable and open to negotiation, over time such truth claims to knowledge have nearly always been the subject of revision.

Traditionally, then, reviews of the literature have always sought to make visible any such transformations within specific fields of practice. But, in being concerned, almost exclusively with epistemology and knowledge production, the effects of any such transformation upon the very practices of human beings themselves is always in danger of being elided as Heidegger showed.

Not surprisingly given the Western desire to create what it has considered to be the ‘good life’, other ways of building metaphysical bridges over the flux have emerged. The desire to take control of the world remains, seemingly, insatiable. In epistemological terms this alternative approach to reviewing the literature presupposes that at least some practitioners are in possession of the wisdom to be able to understand all of the myriad possibilities at play in anyone form of practice, and so make the wisest possible choices about the course of action required in any multi-faceted form of practice [Flint, in preparation].

We could start, then, as Charles Spinosa and his colleagues [1997] suggest, with the organisation of practices involving the interplay of any equipment used in reviewing literature, the express purpose of our review, and the identities generated from it. For Spinosa et al., style is the name for the way in this case the practice of review fits with other practices – supervision, research… – so constituting them as what they are. For them style is a matter for pragmatic practice of ‘coordinating actions’, ‘determining how people and things matter’, and that which is ‘transferred from situation to situation’.

But, this approach, too, soon runs aground on yet more metaphysical bridges it seeks to create over the flux of time.

In being critical each of these approaches to reviewing the literature on any form of practice, all presuppose a homogeneous economy, ethic and aesthetic of practice, in any one instance, whose very possibilities are conditional, calculable.

But, as human beings we all live in heterogeneous economies, ethics, aesthetics of practice that are unconditionally impossible to gather together in any one instance of a review, and so remain incalculable.

The deconstructive approach we are beginning to explore in our review, therefore, seeks to open space for both heterogeneous and homogeneous dimensions of any practice.


  • Flint, K.J. [in preparation] ‘Rebirth, renewal, rediscovery in moves towards justice’ in, Fulton, J. and Costley, C. [eds.] Methodologies for Practice Development, London: Sage
  • Spinosa, C., Flores, F. and Dreyfus, H.L. [1997] Disclosing New Worlds, Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press


Dr Kevin J. Flint

Reader in Education

International Association for Practice Doctorates




Please note: this is a commercial profile


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