Publication Details

Wright, J. E. (2006). Physical education research from postmodern, poststructural and postcolonial perspectives. In D. Kirk, D. Macdonald & M. O'Sullivan (Eds.), The Handbook of Physical Education (pp. 59-75). London: Sage.


Physical education research drawing on poststructuralist and postmodernist approaches is relatively new. At this point in time there seems to be a notable absence of research in physical education drawing on postcolonial theory and agendas, although the relevance of such an approach to research in the field is one that will be argued in this chapter. Whether researchers describe their work as postmodern or poststructural tends to be determined by whether they are researching in a North American context or UK, European, Australian and New Zealand context. In many cases, there is no explicit indication as to whether researchers identify their work as drawing on either of these perspectives. And so the decision to include research in this chapter has been based on the theorists researchers draw on, the technical language that they use, and on my judgements as to whether their approach is consistent with the ontological and epistemological parameters of a postmodernist/poststructuralist perspective. In addition, it is likely that there will be considerable overlap in this chapter with research reported in other chapters on ‘approaches’ and disciplinary contributions. Poststructuralist and postmodernist perspectives also inform other types of emancipatory research including feminist research (Macdonald, 1993; Oliver & Lalik, 2004), research from a critical theory perspective and sociological research (Evans, Evans, & Rich, 2002; Evans, Evans, & Rich, 2003; Gilroy & Clarke, 1997; Penney & Evans, 1999; Penney & Glover, 1998). In addition, very few qualitative methodologies have been untouched by shifts towards an understanding of the constructed and unstable nature of ‘truth’ and subjectivity; an understanding which has usually been drawn from poststructuralist or postmodernist theorists (Denzin, 2000). As Sparkes (1992) argues ‘the post-structuralist turn has the potential to provide us with insights into our own engagement in the research process because it brings to the fore the relationships between language, meaning and power as they act to influence the interpretation of any text’ (p. 274). This makes it difficult at times to draw the line on what to include and what not. However that being said, research which draws on a poststructuralist and postmodernist framework will have characteristics that are recognisable and one of the main purposes of this chapter is to demonstrate what these are.

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