In this article we demonstrate the use and usefulness of new materialism as an analytic lens in applied qualitative inquiry. Intended as a possible entry point to applied inquiry after the ontological turn, we draw on Barad’s agential realism to analyze three existing transcripts of focus groups conducted with healthcare workers, traditional birth attendants, and mothers to explore the postnatal care referral behavior of traditional birth attendants in Nigeria. We describe elements of our data analysis process including deep reading, summoning of the inquiry, delaying the inquiry, attuning to glowing data, and writing. We explore how the research phenomenon enacted agential cuts that distinguished participants (healthcare workers, traditional birth attendants, and mothers) and relayed their participation in the focus group. We show how the inclusion of the mothers’ babies and the transcripts themselves made available some understandings at the possible exclusion of others. Our Baradian, new materialist analysis shows the inextricability of interview materials (things) and language (discourse) and demonstrates that all applied research is bounded and affected by its material conditions. As a point of entry, we hope our illustration sensitizes applied qualitative researchers to how research decisions, research materials, and research cultures produce what can be known and lived within and beyond the research encounter.


agential realism, new materialism, post-qualitative inquiry, qualitative data analysis

Author Bio(s)

Travis M. Marn (PhD, University of South Florida) is an Assistant Professor of Educational Psychology and Research Methods at Southern Connecticut State University’s College of Education. Using qualitative and post-qualitative methodologies, he explores questions of justice, identity, and subjectivity through new materialist, posthumanist, and poststructural frameworks. Please direct correspondence to marnt1@southernct.edu.

Jennifer R. Wolgemuth is Associate Professor of Educational Research at the University of South Florida and Director of the Graduate Certificate in Qualitative Research. Drawing on critical theories, she explores inquiry as an agential process that investigates and creates the lives and communities to and for which researchers are responsible. Please direct correspondence jrwolgemuth@usf.edu.

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