Stories from the bags of four early career researchers because ‘It matters what stories we tell other stories with’: Diffracting The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction through posthuman, feminist materialist, and postqualitative research methods

Louise Hawxwell, Jo Albin-Clark, Liz Latto, Julie Ovington

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


In research practices, posthuman, feminist materialist, postqualitative (PHFMPQ) theories are characterised as difficult to make sense of (Ringrose et al., 2020). Yet such theories hold rich potentiality for thinking with and making with. As four early career researchers, known as the bag lady collective, we continually generate ways to put these theories to work (Albin-Clark et al., 2021). Our papers articulate our approaches to research that centre around working in and as a collective, and the power of storymaking and storytelling as bag-ladies.

Convenor: Louise Hawxwell

Discussant: Dr Jo Albin-Clark, Louise Hawxwell, Liz Latto & Dr Julie Ovington

Paper 1: Playing with the potential of theory and the sensitivity of the medicine bundle as a feminist collective storytelling endeavour for early career research. - Dr Jo Albin-Clark

The bag lady collective is inspired by the power of stories, and we take our name from the work of the science fiction writer Ursula La Guin who posits that; ‘A novel is a medicine bundle, holding things in a particular, powerful relation to one another and to us.’ (2019 p.34). This paper draws on the notion of the medicine bundle as a storytelling framing for PHFMPQ theories where the human, non-human and more-than human bump, reposition, collide and intra-act. Medicine bundles exist in many indigenous cultures and are a collection of objects carried in a bag and worn about the body, whose meaning is more than the materiality and bound up with stories and meanings (Tamas, 2019). This paper contributes and problematises the medicine bundle as a collective generative feminist endeavour of early career research, that continually reworks storytelling and making as a site for making sense of high theory.

Paper 2: Exploring entangled ways of being through bag lady methodology in self study - Louise Hawxwell

This paper details a unique methodological approach from a doctoral self-study on outdoor relationships and teacher educator practices. Self-study supports the development of an ‘understanding or explaining the physical or social world’ (LaBoskey, 2004, p.1173), without set rules or prescribed methods. I articulate methods used to re-imagine and craft my individual approach to self-study, underpinned by bag-lady storytelling that allows for the ‘collecting, carrying and telling the stuff of living’ (Haraway, 2019, p.10). I detail the use of methods that allow for ‘the knotting of capacities to respond, to become-with each other’ (Haraway, 2019, p.12), tracing the ways ‘particular kinds of entangled…relations produce certain ways of being’ (Taylor & Pacini-Ketchabaw, 2019, p.2). My approach challenges the dominance of representational and traditional forms of research through acknowledging situated and relational knowledges, and ways of attuning to relationships with humans, more-than-humans.

Paper 3: Diffracting stories of lived experiences within an Early Learning and Childcare (ELC) setting to reveal the entangled nature of ‘becoming-practitioner’ - Liz Latto.

Drawing on data collected from a doctoral study, this paper utilises Barad’s concept and the creative potential of diffraction to ‘map where the effects of differences [when they] appear’ (2007, p. 72). Participants shared stories, both their own and each other’s, in a complex mapping of relations and entanglements. Through viewing relations of power and interactions as assemblages, and by utilizing concepts such as diffraction and ‘cutting-together-apart’ (Barad, 2007, 2014), the study is a (re)telling of how lived experiences and of becoming-practitioner is (re)enacted in an ongoing configuration. This paper contributes to a greater understanding of how structural inequalities continue to be (re)enforced through diffractive readings, enacted via I-poems, and through the richness of the stories shared, collected and held within both individual and shared memories. These provide a rich, textured account of how matter affects and is affected by the entangled nature of society and lived experience.

Paper 4: Fractured Identities: the affect of school readiness and neoliberalism in Early Education - Dr Julie Ovington.

Neoliberalism in Early Education and Care has become pervasive, leading to ‘inadvertent political and social consequences’ (Wood, 2003, cited in, Vintimilla, 2014, p. 80) by influencing the partitioner-child relationship through everyday activities in the classroom and beyond. This paper draws inspiration from Fairchild and Mikuska (2021, p. 1180) and ‘mobilizes (ordinary) affect’ to explore the affect of school readiness using empirical research with 8 early years practitioners working with two-year-old children. Thinking-with Le Guin’s Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction (2019), being human is to carry, to sustain, and to protect that which is important to us. This paper will story the practitioners personal and professional bags to reveal their fractured identities as enacted through the affect of school readiness. Through collecting and (re)telling these bag stories, a space is opened up for practitioners to consider ‘becoming-with each other’ to amplify and foreground the joyful experiences in practice to challenge neoliberalism ways of being.

Albin-Clark, J., Latto, L., Hawxwell, H. & Ovington, J. (2021). ‘Becoming-with response-ability: How does diffracting posthuman ontologies with multimodal sensory ethnography spark a multiplying femifesta/manifesta of noticing, attentiveness and doings in relation to mundane politics and more-than-human pedagogies of responseability?’. entanglements. 4(2), pp. 21-30
Barad, K. (2007) Meeting the universe halfway : quantum physics and the entanglement of matter and meaning. Durham: Duke University Press.
Barad, K. (2014) ‘Diffracting Diffraction: Cutting Together-Apart’. Parallax 20 (3), pp.168–187.
Fairchild, N. & Mikuska, E. (2021) ‘Emotional Labor, The Ordinary Affects, and the Early Childhood Education and Careworker.’ Journal of Gender, Work & Organisation. 28 (3), pp.1177 - 1190.
Haraway, D. (2019) The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction. Ignota Books.
LaBoskey, V.K. (2004) ‘Moving the methods of self-study research and practice forward: Challenges and opportunities’. In Loughran, J.J., Hamilton, M.J., LaBoskey, V.K., & Russell, T. (eds.) International handbook of self-study of teaching and teacher education practices (Vol. 2). pp.1169 - 1184. The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
Le Guin, U.K., (2019). The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction. Ignota Books.
Ringrose, J., Osgood, J., Renold, E. & Strom, K. (2020) ‘PhEmaterialism: Response-able Research & Pedagogy’. Reconceptulaising Educational Research Methodology. 10 (2–3), pp. 1–39.
Tamas, S. (2019). ‘Tricky Stories: Settler-Academic Reflections on Anti-Colonial Teaching’. Geo-humanities. 5 (2), pp. 376–385.
Taylor, A. & Pacini-Ketchabaw, V. (2019) The Common Worlds of Children and Animals. Oxon: Routledge.
Vintimilla, C.D. (2014) Neolibral Fun and Happiness in Early Childhood Education. Canadian Association for Young Children. 39 (1), pp. 79 - 87.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 8 Sept 2022
EventBERA - University of Liverpool, Liverpool, United Kingdom
Duration: 6 Sept 20228 Sept 2022


Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


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