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Sgoil Cheumnaichean Saidheans Sòisealta na h-Alba

When Methods Meet

Socio-material approaches: Actor-network theory and Karen Barad’s diffractive methodology


This 18-minute film captures a conversation between two people who undertake socio-material research in different ways, drawing on actor-network theory and the agential realism of Karen Barad. Tara Fenwick and Sarah Doyle both highlight the importance of researchers paying attention to the human and non-human elements that comprise particular phenomena, and the messy connections among people and things. Both draw on research projects that have attempted to understand phenomena that are continually evolving, and both are mindful of the ethical and practical implications of researchers’ choices to focus on one aspect of a phenomenon over others. Socio-material approaches have lessons for professional practice in fields such as health and education.

Academics in conversation: Sarah Doyle and Tara Fenwick, University of Stirling.


The following are recent contributions to the discussion of the methods, and they all contain bibliographies that provide suggestions for further reading.
  • K. Barad, Meeting the Universe Half-way. (Durham, NC: Duke University Press 2007)
  • R. Dolphin and I. van der Tuin (Eds), New Materialism: Interviews and Cartographies, (University of Michigan: Open Humanities Press 2013)
  • T. Fenwick, R. Edwards and P. Sawchuk, Emerging approaches to educational research: Tracing the socio-material. (London: Routledge 2011)
  • L. Fernandes, Producing Workers: The Politics of Gender, Class and Culture in the Calcutta Jute Mills. (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press 1997)
  • D. Haraway, Modest_Witness@Second_Millenium.Female_Man©_Meets_OncomouseTM: Feminism and Technoscience. (New York and London: Routledge 1997)
  • A. Jackson and L. Mazzei, Thinking with Theory in Qualitative Research: Viewing Data Across Multiple Perspectives. (London and New York: Routledge 2012)
  • J. Law, Actor network theory and material semiotics. (2007) Version of 25th April 2007 available at on 13 June 2016).
  • E. St. Pierre, A. Jackson & L. Mazzeie, ‘New Empiricisms and New Materialisms: Conditions for New Enquiry’. Cultural Studies-Critical Methodologies. Vol. 16(2) (2016), pp.99-110.


We have created a downloadble resource sheet for this video. It has a transcript of the conversation, the list of references, and suggested seminar questions.