If you have joined my LinkedIn network over the past year, you would have been greeting with a message that begins with: “Welcome to the Bricolage!” Of the 3000 plus new LinkedIn connections since April 2016, more than a few have asked me, ‘What exactly is a Bricoleur?”
Traditionally, bricoleurs were artisans that were able to create great works from whatever materials and tools (some times manufactured for purpose) were at hand. Today, my Bricoleur-ism produces a bricolage: that is a pieced together set of representations that are fitted to the specifications of a phenomenal or complex situation.
As I was making a deep dive into some personal research around, ‘How do we know when we learn?’ during the latter part of 2015 and into 2016, one of the texts I was working through with a fine tooth comb was the Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research by Denzin & Lincoln (4th Ed.). (LOL, Yes I bought a textbook for personal research – bit of Hermione Granger complex I guess?)
According to Denzin & Lincoln, there are five categories of Bricoleurs. A masterful piece by Matt Rogers explains them quite well.
This approach involves a shift in our understanding of data collection from something objective that is accomplished through through detached scrutiny of ‘what I know and how I know it’, to recognize how we actively construct our knowledge. (rogers, P. 4)
A methodological bricoleur is a researcher who combines multiple research tools to accomplish a meaning-making task. The qualitative-researcher-as-bricoleur or maker of quilts uses the aesthetic and material tools of her craft, deploying whatever strategies, methods or empirical materials are at hand. (Rogers, P.5) This means bricoleurs have an aptness for creativity – they know how to artistically combine theories, techniques and methods.
“the theoretical bricoleur reads widely and is knowledgeable about many interpretive paradigms (eg., feminism, Marxism, cultural studies, constructivism, queer theory) that can be brought to any particular problem.” (Rogers, p.6)
Political bricoleurs are researchers who are aware of how knowledge and power are connected. The political bricoleur is aware the science is power, for all research findings have political implications. “There is no value free science.” (Rogers, p.6) As their aim, political bricoleurs produce knowledge that benefits those who are disenfranchised by everyday taken-for-granted workings of neoliberal, capitalist, white, patriarchal, and hetrosexual social structures.
Because true objective reality can never be ‘captured’, research texts can only represent specific interpretations of a phenomenon. Narrative bricoleurs appreciate how ideologies and discourses shape how knowledge is produced. Instead of taking these knowledges and texts for granted, they seek to understand their influences on research processes and texts. (Rogers, P.6)
Those of us with diverse background and living experiences will naturally integrate various aspects of all five in our lives. My Bricolage exists out of complexity of the lived-in world and the complications that arise from various relationships. It is grounded on an epistemology of complexity. I guess this is why I have spent most of my life trying to simplify the complex.
Put simply, Bricoleurs are the types of researchers who will take on projects that most would think are too complex to tackle – and make-sense of it all. Bricoleurs are the types of managers who would willingly walk into a company in crisis – and pull things together. Bricoleurs are the types of professors/teachers who can explain insanely complex concepts in simple terms – that anyone can grasp. They see life from many different perspectives, sometimes simultaneously!
Please feel free to share your experiences of pulling together treads from different disciplines to create your various academic/literary/business masterpieces.