Comments:  This entry was prompted by a stimulating article from Nis Langer Primdahl, Alan Reid & Venka Simovska, “Shades of criticality in health and wellbeing education” (2018). I will explain why I have separated the terms “shades” and “criticality” in my title in the next entry in two weeks time.

I found Primdahl et al. stimulating because they assisted me in my thinking around some important interconnected themes, themes that will form the backdrop to several subsequent Research Hub entries:

  1. the political implications of contrasting theoretical stances;
  2. the political implications of the concepts we adopt – or, more precisely, the political implications of the meanings we give to the concepts we adopt.

These themes have engaged me for some time and have appeared as a topic for reflection in earlier Research Hub entries (see 4 March, 18 March, and 14 May, 2018).  In 2011, Malin Rönnblom and I made the argument that methodologies matter in terms of the politics they make possible (see Rönnblom and Bacchi, 2011, RonnblomBacchiBudapest copy; see also Bacchi and Rönnblom, 2014). A year later (Bacchi, 2012: 141-156), I defended the view that research is a political practice, borrowing from Annemarie Mol (2002: 155, emphasis in original): “Methods are not a way of opening a window on the world, but a way of interfering with it. They act, they mediate between an object and its representations”.

There are several reasons I feel impelled to pursue these topics. First, I am struck by the trend among many researchers to produce WPR as part of a “mixed methods” form of analysis. Second, I find that WPR is sometimes associated with theoretical perspectives that appear to conflict with its epistemological and ontological premises. I am thinking here, as one example, of the recent juxtaposition of WPR alongside critical realism (Windle et al. 2018; Baum et al. 2018), pursued in a subsequent Research Hub entry. I have been carefully reading some of these contributions, and considering how to react to these attempts at hybrid methodologies.

Turning to “Shades of Criticality”, the authors (Primdahl et al. 2018) adopt two approaches to reflect on the form of critical analysis produced in some selected articles contributed to the Journal of Curriculum Studies.

First, they use Biesta’s and Stams’ (2001) organizing framework based on three “styles of critique”: “critical dogmatism”, “transcendental critique” and “deconstruction”. Primdahl et al. (2108: 6) restrict their analysis to the last two categories, “transcendental critique”, where they locate interpretivism and critical realism, and “deconstruction” or poststructuralism. To undertake an analysis of the “content of the argumentation”, the authors examine the various contributions in terms of their problematizations, in effect applying WPR to the selected articles. On several occasions I have suggested the usefulness of treating theories as proposals, available to WPR questioning, and was thrilled to see it so used here (see Bacchi 2009: 128-136; 103-105; 249-251; see also Research Hub entry for 18 March, 2018).

Primdahl et al. (2018) produce some insightful results, assisting readers to identify what specific theoretical approaches agree upon and where they part company. The point of the article and the plea, if you will, is the possibility of a “shared framework that exhibits different aspects of critique, as made evident in the assumptions, problematisations and implications that can be detected within these studies” (p 4).

In the past I have emphasized the need to consider the political implications of particular perspectives, and I continue to believe that this project is crucially important. However, I also believe there is an obligation to reflect on the political implications of theoretical dialogue as opposed to line drawing, keeping open borders rather than building walls. More studies such as this one could provide the grounds for these conversations.


Bacchi, C. 2009. Analysing Policy: What’s the problem represented to be?  Frenchs Forest: Pearson Education.

Bacchi, C. 2012. Strategic interventions and ontological politics: Research as political practice. In A. Bletsas and C. Beasley (eds) Engaging with Carol Bacchi: Strategic Interventions and Exchanges. Adelaide: University of Adelaide Press.

Bacchi, C. & Rönnblom, M. 2014. Feminist Discursive Institutionalism—A Poststructural Alternative, NORA – Nordic Journal of Feminist and Gender Research, 22:3, 170-186, DOI: 10.1080/08038740.2013.864701

Baum, F. et al. 2018. Qualitative protocol for understanding the contribution of Australian policy in the urban planning, justice, energy and environment sectors to promoting health and health equity. BMJ Open, 8.

Biesta, G. J. J., & Stams, G. J. J. M. 2001. Critical thinking and the question of critique: Some lessons from deconstruction. Studies in Philosophy and Education, 20(1), 57–74.

Mol, A. 2002. The Body Multiple: Ontology in medical practice.Durham and London: Duke University Press.

Primdahl, N. L., Reid, A. & Simovska, V. 2018. Shades of criticality in health and wellbeing education, Journal of Curriculum Studies, DOI: 10.1080/00220272.2018.1513568

Rönnblom, M. & Bacchi, C. 2011. “Feminist Discursive Institutionalism – What’s Discursive About it? Limitations of conventional political studies paradigms”, Presented at the 2ndEuropean Conference on Politics and Gender, Budapest, 13-15 January 2011.

Windle, A. et al. 2018. Increased private health fund involvement in Australia’s primary health care: Implications for health equity. Australian Journal of Social Issues, 1-17.