Joe Kincheloe's Critical Complex Epistemology/Pedagogy & Multidimensional Critical Complex Bricolage

Interpretive and Methodologcial Processes

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Interpretive and Methodological Processes for the Multidimensional Critical Complex Bricolage

Interpretive methods of research start from the position that our knowledge of reality, including the domain of human action, is a social construction by human ...

Below are listed just a few general types of Interpretive Processes. Can you think of ways to use them all in one research study?
  • (participatory) action research
  • case study analysis
  • category analysis
  • (social) constructionist/constructivist analysis
  • content analysis
  • conversational analysis
  • critical theoretical analysis (including critical legal studies, critical race theory)
  • deconstruction
  • discourse analysis (political discourse analysis; critical discourse analysis)
  • dramaturgical analysis
  • ethnographic semantics
  • ethnography
  • ethnomethodology
  • feminist analysis
  • frame (-reflective) analysis
  • genealogy
  • grounded theory
  • hermeneutics
  • life history
  • metaphor analysis
  • myth analysis
  • narrative analysis
  • oral history
  • participant-observation
  • phenomenological research
  • poststructural analysis
  • science studies
  • semiotics
  • space analysis
  • storytelling analysis
  • symbolic interaction
  • textual analyses
  • value-critical analysis
  • Source: Yanow, Dvora and Schwartz-Shea, Peregrine, eds. 2006. Interpretation and method:  Empirical research methods and the interpretive turn.  Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe., p. xx.



    As mentioned in my dissertation, when it comes to new research processes, Joe was on a special mission that began as far back as his first book, which was a small booklet titled, Understanding the New Right and its Impact on Education, published in 1983. Actually, it could also easily be argued that his mission began when he was 12 years old when his science teacher gave him a “D” on his science project about consciousness and dreams, telling him that it was “not science.” He briefly mentions this experience in a couple of his books. I can personally relate to how that experience may have empowered him to engage in a lifelong quest to prove that the science teacher was wrong. And he is right, of course! The study of consciousness is high-level science and Joe has turned it into cutting-edge science if we can come to understand and apply his complex process for bricolage. Since he has stated that even children can use these processes to produce knowledge, then I think it's safe to say we all can learn it.

    His experiences are most likely what led to his development of a “science of complexity” for which the multidimensional critical complex bricolage actually provides the process with the way it combines ethnography, phenomenology, and empirical approaches that require as many perspectives as possible. Of course, the empirical processes involved in such a science are not the reductionistic processes that are often used today. Even more advanced forms of empirical phenomenology are hindered still by reductionism. Thus, we will have to back-track a bit and use Kincheloe’s bricolage to redefine empiricism. The process of engaging in research using his form of bricolage actually does this if researchers take it to its full application, so the more of these types of studies we gather, the more we will know about consciousness and the better we can begin to more firmly conceptualize sciences that study these processes. I think Joe had it figured out quite well, but, sadly, he ran out of time to present it to us as he would have wished. We have to take it from here.

    I discuss his push for a science of complexity briefly in Chapter Five of my dissertation, explicating how his bricolage is an exceptionally advanced and rigorous form of empirical phenomenology. I will also present these ideas in more detail on the Science of Complexity page of this website as I have time. Please note that all of these components which I’m presenting separately are so tightly interwoven that there is no separation. Thus, there will be a bit of redundancy due to the overlap. I am only separating them on this website to provide people small “byte-size” pieces to make learning his process easier. I think the redundancy is a good thing when it comes to something as complex, multipurpose, and powerful as Kincheloe’s critical bricolage.

    Methods and Processes: Where Do New Bricoleurs Begin?

    While there are thousands of variations of methods for research, Kincheloe has highlighted the most important ones for beginning bricoleurs in his second edition of Teachers as Researchers: Qualitative Paths to Empowerment, published in 2002. Also, note that his first edition of this same book published in 1991 he has presented the beginning foundation of his research process with a thorough justification for the use of the qualitative processes that he has deemed are critical to the bricolage, thus, providing a valuable resource to argue for this type of research for those who are writing master’s theses or dissertations. The conceptualization builds further in his second edition. In my own work, I pull even further away from the construct, “methods,” because what we are really accomplishing in the bricolage are processes of analysis, enactment, unfolding, improvisation, creativity, creation, etc.—complex processes within processes. And as much as I tried and as much as I would have liked to have succeeded, there was simply no way that I could convey accurately how all of these multiple dimensions of processes I’ve engaged in to produce what I have during my research, only a fraction of which is described in Chapter 4 of my dissertation. Even more challenging would be to explain why things evolved as they did, just another indication of the need for Joe’s critical science of complexity that would lead to better understanding. For now, much as a phenomenologist would do, all I can say is this is “what is” and not question the reality of the experiences. They were real.

    The list of processes Kincheloe has presented in his newer edition of Teachers as Researchers, book as well as some of his other works, include what is listed below (and researchers are by no means limited to these, of course, but I have found they are powerful processes for new bricoleurs to spend a little time learning). I will also add here that he did not advocate spending a lot of time upfront learning about methods, but recommends a more intuitive and “learn-as-you-go” approach. I think the reason for this is because so many methods, processes, and theories are still locked up in old paradigmatic thinking, which his advanced conceptualization moves researchers away from in order to prevent the research from becoming reductionistic. (Some ways to view reductionistic research is the tendency to simplify and miss important connections and relationships due to viewing them in a mechanical sense, or the act of following set procedures rather than allowing the research to unfold naturally, or to leave out important information such as the researcher’s relationship to the research. In reality, all research is reductionistic; there is no way to avoid that. We cannot adequately describe reality, which is why it’s important to put it in the best context possible, which researchers refer to as “thick” descriptions.)

    More important than spending an inordinate time studying reductionistic methods and theories, in Kincheloe’s view, was sufficient time spent grounding studies in a strong philosophical position, which it why his Philosophical Bricolage is at the top of the list on this website. Doing this creates a thicker, more accurate description of the reality observed. And as with all of his concepts, we must learn to adopt a “multidimensional critical complex” approach to everything, including philosophy. Once we get closer to that broader, deeper view, his “unified world view,” it becomes easier to critically analyze various methods for what they might contribute to the bricolage process and we are less likely to fall into the trap of reductionism or a mechanistic world view.

    Thus, the following are his recommendations (Kincheloe, 2002), and these will be covered in more depth as this website grows. As can be seen, they overlap with other dimensions of his multidimensional critical complex bricolage, again, pointing to the inseparability of these concepts. Any division, such as I present on this website is arbitrary, but at least I hope somewhat helpful to new bricoleurs. It’s pretty difficult to take in his concept of bricolage in its totality and absorb it at once:

    Ethnography (and Self-Ethnography)

    As Kincheloe (2002) provides, “Ethnography is often described as the most basic form of social research: the study of events as they evolve in their natural setting. It makes an effort to place human events within a richer, thicker, fuller context” (p. 232).

    I used self-ethnography in my dissertation. I literally felt that I had chosen myself to be a sort of “guinea pig” for the study of subjectivity and consciousness construction. Someone had to do it.

    There are major issues with ethnography when it comes to observing and recording data about other people. These are discussed in my dissertation. I prefer to take a self-ethnographic approach.

    Kincheloe (2002) explains that “there is no discrete boundary line that separates ethnography from phenomenology” (p. 233). Thus, phenomenology is a critical component of the multidimensional critical complex bricolage.


    “Phenomenologists have argued that consciousness is an essential aspect of humanness and should be studied if we are ever to gain insight into the affairs of human beings. However, the study of consciousness, phenomenologists warn, is limited by two important factors: (1) consciousness is not an object that is similar to the other objects of natural and (2) there are aspects of consciousness which cannot be studied via traditional methods of science. . . phenomenologists cannot be concerned with the empirical question of what is or is not real. They simply begin with the nature of consciousness—whatever that nature might be” (Kincheloe, 2002, p. 233).

    Thus, as researchers of consciousness, we learn to “phenomenologically bracket,” which means to set aside our preconceived notions. Often phenomenologists signal the need for readers to set aside their idea of a meaning of a word or concept by placing it in quotation marks, otherwise referred to as “phenomenological brackets.”


    Currere, a term developed by William Pinar, relates to self-reflexivity during the research process and understanding interior experience. He provides why this is so important:

    “This interior experience is essential to social understanding in that: (1) it is affected by the external (social) world; and (2) it provides the basis for understandings an actions which help shape the external (social world)” (p. 234).

    In his social studies book, Getting Beyond the Facts, Second Edition, he describes how currere  “takes this phenomenological orientation and fuses it with psychoanalysis and aesthetics” (p. 223). Currere-based research involves analyzing the relationship between signs (semiotics) and experience. This process requires bricoleurs to set aside their own experiences and gain a metaperspective. He continues, “From our new vantage point, we may be able to see those psychic realms which are formed by conditioning and unconscious adherence to repressive social convention. Critical theorists would identify the process as part of the attempt to demystify the ideological construction of consciousness” (p. 224). Kincheloe has presented a discussion on pp. 223-226 of this book that is informative for learning to apply currere.

    One example (among many) in which I used currere in my dissertation was the discussion of the symbolism encompassed in the 9/11 Twin Tower disaster. I am in the process of extending that analysis to explore additional relationships. The events that happen around us daily provide a source for applying currere in our daily lives, making learning and education highly relevant as well as providing us a stream of readily available ways to “demystify the ideological construction of consciousness.”

    Below is a link to Pinar’s introduction to the “method” of currere, and again, I will pull this out of the constraints of “method” because when engaging fully, it is experienced as multiple complex, iterative, nonlinear, overlapping processes. Similar to bricolage in general, it’s never really complete as each analysis or sub-analysis takes one deeper into the layers of consciousness and toward deeper understandings. I hope to further demonstrate this as I continue the analysis of the Twin Tower disaster. What other meanings are hiding in that tragic event?

    Pinar, W. F. (1975). The method of “currere.” Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Research Association. April, 1975. Washington, D.C. Retrieved from


    “Semiotics involves the study of signs (it derives from a Greed word meaning ‘sign’) and codes. Semiotic researchers decode the systems of symbols and signs that enable human beings to derive meaning from their surroundings” (Kincheloe, 2002, pp. 234-235).

    Of course, Kincheloe’s work makes heavy use of semiotics for interpretation purposes as well as to give new bricoleurs practice. As part of my dissertation, and extended in my book, Getting Beyond the Facts of Page 666 of Joe Kincheloe’s Social Studies Book, I demonstrate semiotics for beginners and how much fun it can be as a process. However, semiotics in itself is a deep and broad topic, which as bricoleurs engage in their research, will want to explore more rigorously.

    Social Psychoanalysis

    According to Kincheloe (2002), “Psychoanalysis adds a dimension of insight typically ignored by many forms of inquiry and research methods. . . . In connection with psychoanalysis I use the term ‘depth psychology’. . . .[Depth psychology,] with its implication of getting beneath the illusion of surface appearances focuses directly on the nature of ‘personality’ development and its relation to creativity, artistic/aesthetic endeavor, and morality. No cognitive/psychological theory, for example, worthy of inclusion in a rigorous research curriculum can ignore these issues and their relationship to learning, motivation, school performance, and the nature of the teaching [and learning] process (p. 240).


    As Kincheloe observes (2002), “History is the part of the ‘bricolage’ of qualitative modes of inquiry that often gets ignored. Such a reality is unfortunate, for any qualitative form of analysis needs to be historicized” (p. 242).

    If what we are researching is not put into context historically, then it becomes much like the decontextualized knowledge that gets taught in school. Random information is difficult to apply in real life, as most students will attest to.

    What too often happens in the scholarly research is that researchers only cite what their colleagues are citing. If the information is incomplete or inaccurate then it does nothing toward contributing to knowledge production. The word “bricolage” provides a great example of what can happen. Most researchers only track the use of the word back to Denzin and Lincoln and the book, The Savage Mind by Clause Levi-Strauss. Why is that? So what we have is limited understanding and the same reductionistic metaphors repeated, as Joe would say, “ad infinitum.” In my dissertation I have begun the process of looking at new metaphors and considering the history and etymology of the word, bricolage. Much more can be done. The more researchers explore other domains and bring in other voices (which I have heard referred to negatively in relation to my own research as using “outsiders,” a rather elitist attitude) the more knowledge production will benefit.


    Hermeneutics is the act of interpreting. We are always in the process of interpreting; even the act of perceiving with our five senses involves interpretation. As Kincheloe describes, we are sometimes conscious of doing so; most times we are unconscious of doing so.

    He states, “The hermeneutic dimension of . . . research permeates and informs every mode of inquiry delineated here” (Kincheloe, 2002, p. 245).

    Thus, he has made critical hermeneutics as one of the important dimensions of research. As stated on the Home page, the multidimensional critical complex bricolage includes all dimensions he has spelled out for us.

    As he clarifies, “The hermeneutic act of interpretation involves in its most elementary articulation making sense of what has been observed in a way that communicates understanding. Not only is all knowledge production merely an act of interpretation, but, hermeneutics contends, perception itself is an act of understanding. The quest for understanding is a fundamental feature of human existence, as encounter with the unfamiliar always demands the attempt to make meaning, to make sense” (Kincheloe, 2002, p. 245).


    Kincheloe, J. L. (1983). Understanding the New Right and its impact on education. Fastback 195. Bloomington, IN: Phi Delta Kappa Educational Foundation.

    Kincheloe, J. L. (1991a). Teachers as researchers: Qualitative paths to empowerment. New York: Falmer Press.

    Kincheloe, J. L. (2001b). Getting beyond the facts: Teaching social studies/social sciences in the twenty-first century. NY: Peter Lang.

    Kincheloe, J. L. (2003a). Teachers as researchers: Qualitative inquiry as a path to empowerment. (2nd ed.). New York: Routledge.

    Pinar, W. F. (1975). The method of “currere.” Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Research Association. April, 1975. Washington, D.C. Retrieved from


    more to come . . .




    [PDF] Exploring the role of Feminism in the narrative/autoethnography movement

    B Genres - le/the Journal, 2014

    ... In N. Denzin & Y Lincoln (Eds.), The Sage Handbook of qualitative research (3rd ed.). Thousand
    Oaks: Sage Publications. Kincheloe, J.(2001). Describing the bricolage: Conceptualizing a new
    rigor in qualitative research. Qualitative Inquiry, 7 (6), 679-692. Kincheloe, J.(2005). ...



    Big Deal-Catch Up 
    “As a child I wanted so desperately for magic to be real. I would work for hours collecting what I hoped were just the right combination of ingredients to make some type of magic potion that would provide me with special powers….I found such magic in words viewed in a postformal matrix and I observe and practice that magic everyday.” (Kincheloe, 2006, Reading, Writing, Thinking, p. 13)
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