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Ambivalent reading: Ambivalence as a reading practice in critical literacy

journal contribution
posted on 2023-01-24, 02:58 authored by Amin ZainiAmin Zaini
While previous research has suggested there are dominantly two reading practices in critical literacy, namely, reading with and against texts, this study introduces the approach of ambivalence as a third way of reading texts critically. For the purpose of this study – establishing ambivalence as a reading practice in critical literacy – four international postgraduates at an Australian University volunteered to participate in a collective case study. They read four national and politico-religious texts and showed their agreement, disagreement, and ambivalence about the texts. They also partook in individual interviews and focus group discussions (FGDs). The data obtained from 16 rounds of reading texts, 40 interviews, and four FGDs were analysed using Foucault’s conceptualization of discourse, power relations, subjectivities, and technologies of the self. The findings advocate that the participants read texts ambivalently in three directions: spontaneously when reading texts, after the initial agreement with texts, and after an earlier disagreement with them. The conclusive data discuss that: (1) participants’ state of perception, which is ambivalence, is associated with their identities and subjectivities and is in the range of active critical engagement with the texts rather than indifference or passivity; (2) ambivalence is informed by participants’ technologies of the self as well as FGDs and reading opposing texts, which buttressed their arguments by attaching their interpretations to existing or non-existent topics in the texts; and (3) ambivalence is tied with participants’ understanding of truth, which helped them not only critique texts but also modify their presuppositions and earlier interpretations of texts. Relevant pedagogical implications including a concrete question set and the adoption of a new technical term, ambivalent reading, are proposed.

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