As in life, tribalism is a scourge in the political sphere, reducing the opportunities for informed debate while damaging the real potential at the heart of pluralist democracies. A complacent sense of belonging, while understandable, isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. This tribalism is alive and kicking in the academy too, no more so than in the field of education theory and education research – some of this tribalism might even contribute to the ‘academic asshole’ culture identified by the Thesis Whisperer (check out this discussion – we academics do love a good moan, don’t we?). The tribes are easy to spot, usually accompanied by a binary divide just to make sure everyone knows where they stand – modernist v. postmodernist, structuralist v. post-structuralist, empiricist v. interpretivist, etc. I have to ‘fess up at this point – my own intellectual biography doesn’t exactly bode well for my anti-tribe stance. In my defence (your honour), one of the reasons why I established this website was to help overcome this tribal tendency in education research. I believe there is much more to be gained (intellectually and practically) by placing the educational question first and our theoretical affiliations second – the former should not be made to bow down to the latter.
To be fair, some of this tribalism is a challenge to overcome, given that much of it is based on disciplinary associations that are renowned for their durability. That said, even tribes such as philosophers, sociologists and psychologists are surely aware that no one discipline has a monopoly on intellectual truth (don’t they?). And even if post-tribalism proves a challenge too far, at least it would be good to try.
And on that note, I’m off to read some Judith Butler (properly this time) – Mark