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Book Chapter

Publication Date



Hampton Press


Instrumental and objectivist logics maintain a hegemonic place in Western scholarship, reasoning skills powerfully equipped to address certain dilemmas even as they may obscure other ways of knowing. In this chapter, we enlarge dominant notions of rationality by offering an aesthetic view of knowledge as vital for engaged communication scholarship. Our interest in aesthetic logics parallels concerns that have led scholars to develop feminist practices of inquiry (e.g., Harding, 1998; Hesse-Biber, 2007), interrogate the aesthetics of representations in West-centric knowledge structures from postcolonial and Subaltern Studies standpoints (e.g., Broadfoot & Munshi, 2007; Dutta, 2007, 2008), focus on autoethnographic and poetic accounts ( e.g., Carr, 2003; Ellingson, 2009), introduce reflexivity and the politics of personhood in the scholarly process ( e.g., Harding, 1991; Reinharz, 1992), and adopt narrative and dialogic understandings of knowledge constructions (e.g., Frank, 2005; Harter, 2005). Loosely coupled, these research trajectories advance alternative rationalities for witnessing and answering salient social issues. We argue for the theoretical and practical incorporation of aesthetic rationalities in engaged scholarship-logics of poss ibility that cultivate individuals ' capacities to imagine otherwise.

Reimagining scholarly inquiry to reflect and embrace aesthetic logics requires us to rethink our methods of data collection, analysis, and representation and our own roles as researchers and writers . When we resist the art/science dichotomy, opportunities abound for sensemaking and representation that embody aesthetic ways of knowing. Furthermore, rejection of dichotomous thinking opens up possibilities for listening to ways of knowing that lie beyond the realm of Eurocentric knowledge structures (Dutta, in press). Even after the interpretive turn, instrumental and objectivist logics often underlie and sometimes constrain the processes and products of social scientific research (Denzin & Lincoln, 2005). Traditional structures and modes of research offer important but limited conceptualizations of knowing. We can open ourselves to other ways of asking questions that include overt attention to aesthetic sensibilities . We need not reject or abandon traditional modes of research. Instead, we can enlarge the realm of possibilities for what counts as accepted research practices and advance methods for studying the aesthetic nature of communal life (Ellingson, 2009).

In this chapter, we develop an understanding of rationality that incorporates imagination, and we explore methodologies that draw on creative sensibilities. We then articul ate the salience of creativity for rendering credible previously subjugated voices, and we articulate its value for engaged communication theory and research.

Chapter of

Communicating for social impact


L. M. Harter
M. Dutta
C. Cole


Copyright © 2009 Hampton Press. Reprinted with permission.

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Communication Commons


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