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The Capaciousness of “No:” Affective refusals as literacy practices

Truman, Sarah and Hackett, Abigail and Pahl, Kate and McLean Davies, Larissa and Escott, Hugh (2020) The Capaciousness of “No:” Affective refusals as literacy practices. Reading Research Quarterly. ISSN 0034-0553

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Abstract

This paper considers the capacious feeling that emerges from saying ‘no’ to literacy practices, and the affective potential of saying ‘no’ as a literacy practice. We use the term ‘capacious’ to signal possibilities that are as yet unthought, and a sense of broadening, opening out, by enacting ‘no.’ We highlight the affective possibilities of saying no to normative understandings of literacy, thinking with a series of vignettes in which children, young people, and teachers refuse literacy practices in different ways. We examine how attention to affect ruptures humanist logics that inform normative approaches to literacy. Through attention to non-conscious, non-cognitive, and trans-individual bodily forces and capacities, affect de-privileges the human as the sole agent in an interaction, thus disrupting measurements of who counts as a literate subject and what counts as a literacy event. ‘No’ is an affective moment. It can signal a push back, an absence, or a silence. As a theoretical and methodological way of thinking-feeling-with literacy, affect proposes problems rather than solutions, countering ‘solution focused’ research in which the resistance is to be overcome, co-opted or solved. Affect operates as a crack or a chink, a tiny ripple, a barely perceivable gesture, that can persist, and in doing so, hold open the possibility for alternative futures.

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