Contraforming as epistemic practice – the becoming of professional knowledge in syncretic practices

Publikation: Konferencebidrag uden forlag/tidsskriftPaper/skriftligt oplægForskningpeer review


The aim of this paper is to explore how epistemic practices (Fenwick et. Al., 2012) of social educators unfolds in different ‘syncretic practices’ in schools, following a reform of the Danish primary and lower secondary school (2013), and a nation wide merger between schools and leisure-time institutions in Denmark. Following which, social educators were afforded new areas of responsibility, as teaching, co-teaching and caring for children’s well-being in schools. Syncretic practices are defined as practices where elements, that are usually considered non-coherent, are gathered, fusioned or otherwise made to be coherent (Law et. al., 2013).
In the paper I will unfold an analysis of how the epistemic practces of social educators unfolds in two different syncretic practices in schools, through the metaphor of ‘contraforming as epistemic practice’. The analysis builds upon observations and interviews from four schools, that organizes the work lives of social educators in schools, quite differently.

Sculptures are cast in contraform. First, a form is sculpted, then dipped into a liquid material that encloses the form, solidifies and becomes a contraform, or a mould, from which casts can be made. A contraform is thus made from the sensing of the contours of a form. In solidifying around the surfaces and crevasses of a form, a contraform becomes something else, not the original, but an added layer, closely related to and formed by the sensing of the original form.

The analysis suggests, that in working in syncretic practices in schools, social educators sense the practices of schools, and proceed to value how best to embrace, sustain and support these. Contraforming as epistemic practice is thus an emerging responsive addition to the practices of schools, that establishes surfaces and crevasses, as areas of responsibility, so that ‘the original form’ may reproduce itself, albeit with new layers, folds, lines, and fissures. In this way, contraforming is a new epistemic practice, rather than a passive container, in that it shapes new originals and enacts new practices. The original form is, however, often an unspoken, sensed practice by the individual social educators. Contraforming as epistemic practice in the schools therefore often unfold landscapes imbued with practical paradoxes for the social educators, as they question how to sense, what to care for (support and sustain), and what to ‘let fall’, for the schools, the children and for the benefit of their own work lives?
The papers relevance to Nordic educational research is the analytical attunement to syncretic practices, and how they afford spaces of possibility for the development of professional epistemic practices, and ‘contraforming’ as an analytical metaphor for noticing and discussing unheeded reproductions, and practical paradoxes, within syncretic practice.


Fenwick,T., Nerland, M. & Jensen, K. (2012): Sociomaterial approaches to conceptualising professional learning and practice, Journal of Education and Work,25:1, 1-13

Law, J., Afdal, G., Asdal, K., Lin, W., Moser, I., Singleton, V. (2013) Modes of Syncretism. Notes on Noncoherence. Common Knowledge, 20:1. DOI: 10.1215/0961754X-2374817. Duke University Press.

Publikationsdato16 mar. 2022
StatusUdgivet - 16 mar. 2022
BegivenhedNERA 2022: Education and involvement in precarious times - University of Iceland, Reykavik, Island
Varighed: 1 jun. 20223 jun. 2022
Konferencens nummer: 2022


KonferenceNERA 2022
LokationUniversity of Iceland