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Justyna Deszcz-Tryhubczak

Justyna Deszcz-Tryhubczak is Associate Professor of Literature and Director of the Center for Young People’s Literature and Culture at the Institute of English Studies, University of Wroclaw, Poland. She is the author of Yes to Solidarity, No to Oppression: Radical Fantasy Fiction and Its Young Readers (2016) and co-editor of Intergenerational Solidarity in Children’s Literature and Film. She is a Kosciuszko, Fulbright and Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellow. Since 2017 she has served as a member of the board of the International Research Society for Children’s Literature.

Fabricating a Relational Researcher Subjectivity: The Case of Children’s Literature Studies

Posthumanism and new materialism have had a profound effect across the social sciences and humanities, reshaping notions of agency, ethics and the epistemologies of research while keeping attention to materialities and relations overlooked until now. In particular, in the relational ontologies emerging from new materialism and posthumanism, both children and adults are “ontological becomings” (Spyrou 2018) that change continually without any pre-established pattern as a result of their being part of the world’s mattering. Spyros Spyrou (2018) argues that it is the knowledge of what occurs “in-between people and things or bodies and experiences”, including children, adults, and texts, that we do not have. This knowledge in turn, as Karen Barad (2007) stresses, may come from “a direct material engagement with the world’ rather than from “standing at a distance and representing something”. Nick J. Fox and Pam Alldred (2015) speak of this embeddedness as an element of the “research-assemblage” which comprises bodies, things, living experience or modes of thinking that get caught up in scholarly inquiry, including the events that are studied and the researchers who study them. In this paper I address the implications of the above ideas for the subjectivity of a children’s literature scholar wishing to apply new materialist and posthumanist frameworks to her research with, and not just about, children and texts. Reflecting on my recent participatory project co-conducted with children as my partners in the research process, I argue that the rethinking of the researcher subjectivity as relational, connected, and immersed in the ongoing reconfigurings of the world may stimulate innovative, creative and collective research practices in children’s literature studies and perhaps in literary studies in general.