Performing radical, post-qualitative inquiry

Drawing makes a departure from research that ‘separates epistemology and ontology from methodology’ (St.Pierre 2014, p. 3) because drawing is simultaneously an act, an object, a thought, a gesture, an an-archive (a continuously re-worked, altered, amended archive).

Drawings are not created in isolation: muscles work to perform mark-making tasks. The objects and materials around have agency and impact on what is drawn, the positioning of the body, what is thought about.

Drawing is post-qualitative inquiry because of these multiplicities, ‘because there is no final truth, no brute datum, out there to be found.’ (St.Pierre 2014, p. 5), no possibility of capturing, regulating, of presenting a ‘truthful’ and entire account of what happened.

The potentiality of post-qualitative inquiry, which calls for a rethinking about humanist and positivist research traditions and greater attention to theory (MacLure 2010; St.Pierre, 2014) can open up possibilities for seeing research activity as a ‘thinking with theory’ (Jackson & Mazzei, 2012) about a topic. Post-qualitative inquiry is radical and disruptive because it helps to complicate (through thinking with theory) overly systematic processes for conducting research.

Thinking about drawings as post-qualitative inquiry pays attention to the ways that drawn marks and the visual arrangements of the image prompt theorized thinking about complex issues, and this theorized thinking can initiate different forms of action. I can hone in on the act of drawing, on drawing tools, materials, surfaces, positionings, the arrangement of marks, the pressured application of muscles to draw, on ideas, suppositions, questions, emotions, problems.

I do not separate theorized thinking here into ‘body’ work and ‘mind’ work: this is not a Cartesian telling of post-qualitative inquiry. The honing-in on drawing and thinking is interactive, interspersing, agglomerative and convergent in unpredictable arrangements and sequences. It is also only part of a tale because a drawing can only ever be a small aspect of a complex and multiplicitous event comprising aspects and components beyond the drawer and their drawings; a drawing can only ever provide a snippet of this.

Post-qualitatively speaking, drawings are too difficult to tie down and anchor to the organizations and sortings brought on by codings and analyses. The deconstruction and dismantling of drawings into parts for symbolic and interpretive analysis has been going on for some time (see particularly the developmental analyses of Coates & Coates 2011; Gardner 1980; Kellogg 1969 and Lowenfeld 1947) however this selective analysis is highly problematic because ‘Much of the potency… is often ignored because some marks and impressions do not fit the theory well enough.’ (Knight 2013, p. 257). In thinking with theory about drawings, and in considering the call to rethink data, drawings can offer departures, convergencies, and revisitations for thinking, enacting, creating: activities that significantly extend on the systematic acts of coding, sorting and classifying.


Coates, E. & Coates, A. (2011) The Subjects and Meanings of Young Children’s Drawings, in D. Faulkner & E. Coates (Eds) Exploring Children’s Creative Narratives. London: Routledge.

Gardner, H. (1980) Artful Scribbles: the significance of children’s drawings. New York: Basic Books.

Jackson, A. Y., & Mazzei, L. (2012) Thinking with theory in qualitative research: viewing data across multiple perspectives. New York: Routledge.

Kellogg, R. (1969) Analyzing Children’s Art. Palo Alto, CA: National Books.

Knight, L. (2013) Not As It Seems: using Deleuzian concepts of the imaginary to rethink children’s drawings. Global Studies of Childhood, vol. 3(3), 254-264.

Lowenfeld, V. (1947) Creative and Mental Growth. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

MacLure, M. (2010) The offence of theory. Journal of Education Policy, vol 25(2), 277-286. DOI: 10.1080/02680930903462316

St.Pierre, E. A. (2014) Post qualitative inquiry. Keynote lecture, Australian Association of Research in Education, New Zealand Association for Research in Education 2014: Speaking Back Through Research. Brisbane Australia, 30 November – 4 December 2014.

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