07 SES 06 B, Minority Children
How might the concepts of place, space and boundaries help in developing a decolonial pedagogy of relation in primary classrooms?
It is our contention that the majority of teachers have been socialized into a teacher ontology that is written through with colonialism. This conclusion is inescapable if one subscribes to the view that we are in a colonial world system. It is therefore essential to do the work of decolonizing the mind (Thiong’o, 1986), and it means facing the discomfort of truths that white people have been protected from (Martin, Pirbhai-Illich & Pete, 2017 p.246).
Although Ngugi Wa Thiong’o was talking about people of colour in formally colonized African countries, we argue that the idea of colonizing minds can also apply to education and what the forms of education relationships that flow from colonizing ways of thinking. Teachers in Europe have taken on a teacher ontology that is founded on a factory model of education constructed for the needs of a newly industrial era (Martin & Pirbhai-Illich, 2016). It is a model that ‘Others’ pupils whose ways of being and doing do not fit the mainstream. Teachers need to ask themselves: How do we talk about difference? How does this connect to the relational space between teachers and pupils and the world? How are we positioning each other? How do we connect this to notions of citizenship and create a sense of belonging (which requires a boundary – something to which one belongs) withoutsimultaneously creating an outsider, who may have access to some of the place/space that the majority belong to but who do not feel part of the community. In a time of increased incidents of terrorism across Europe, and the subsequent rise in xenophobia, the question of how education might respond to these questions becomes even more urgent.
In this theoretical paper we use the concepts of place, space and boundaries to examine social relationships in the classroom and the ways in which certain discourses reproduce inequalities. These discourses – paternalistic, othering, categorical, universalist – are the product of a binary, object-focused logic that has its roots in colonialism; a logic which Grosfoguel (2011) argues has created a Colonial World System that continues to be present today. Colonialism rested on appropriation of land, on staking claims, drawing boundaries, and establishing ownership. Territories were re-named to reflect the language and culture of the colonizers and a vocabulary of belonging, inside-outside, included-excluded, citizen-immigrant, us-them grew up. The move to space as an infinite extension without boundaries (Massey, 2005; Thrift, 2006) was a move against the damaging effects of the divisive colonial logic; but the idea has not gained purchase in people’s lived realities, as evident in recent events such as the Brexit campaign in the UK (Khaleeli, 2016) and the rise of far right political organisations.
In a spatial analysis of classroom relations, we discuss the hegemony of the classroom ‘box’ as a space to do education that is bounded and closed. Attempts to construct classroom spaces otherwise have been made, for example open-plan classrooms, but these were re-inscribed by teachers who create partitions between ‘classes’ (e.g. Cook, 2015) because the underlying premise of what counts as education, how spaces and people within those spaces are organised remained the same. The mind sets of teachers were too ingrained in their colonized teacher ontologies. We agree with Kerr (2014, p. 90) that the problem is not with European thought itself, but with ‘the lack of self-consciousness of its intimate relation to power in the modernity-coloniality structure, which results in the continued subalternization of “other” knowledges, philosophies and frameworks’.
In this theoretical paper, we draw on the work of Edward Soja and Homi Bhabha to provide a spatial analysis of classroom relations. Soja envisions thirdspace to be that which is lived space; firstspace is the mapping of a place (the geographical location of a school in an area, a classroom within a school), secondspace is the conceptualization of firstspace (schools and classrooms are places for education), and thirdspace is the lived experience of that place (where adults and children come together to teach and learn). Bhabha envisions third space to be an in-between space, or a hybrid space; it has the 'advantage of in-betweeness, the straddling of two cultures and the consequent ability to negotiate the difference.' (Hoogvelt, 1997, 158) with the possibility of a third, new way emerging that does not negate the differences. Ikas and Wagner (2009) argue that the promise of the third space is its ability to imagine an identity or subjectivity, even a culture, that does not succumb to an either/or logic, but rather embraces the simultaneity of the also/and. Bringing the two together, we have classrooms as places which take on meaning through the lived relation of teachers and pupils - these are spaces of educational relation and, depending on the nature of that relation, they may be autocratic, democratic, authoritarian, paternalistic, and so on. When combined with the intersections of dimensions of culture (e.g. adulthood, childhood, gender, ethnicity, family, religion, race, ability, socio-economic status), the nature of the relation will reflect how these differences are perceived, understood and negotiated.
As critical educators, we call for alternative approaches in which teachers and teacher educators become aware of, and explicitly acknowledge, the loci of their enunciation and use this as a starting point for being and doing 'otherwise'. For us, this deep attention to the subjectivity of self requires a decolonising pedagogy, in which teachers and learners come into dialogue over differences. In this we are linking the concept of Third Space to the intercultural space, where education settings should be perceived as spaces of critical relationality, where teachers and students collaborate and engage with each other, where they have an orientation of 'being with', where binary lines of teacher - student are blurred and roles re-inscribed. (Martin & Pirbhai-Illich, 2016, 369). This brings us back to how to create subject-subject relations in school that do not deny the boundaries of classrooms and cultures, but that are also open to the spaces between and across these boundaries in which the dualisms of teacher/learner, insider/outsider, superior/inferior and agentic/helpless can be disrupted.
Bhabha, H. (1994). The Location of Culture. London: Routledge. Cook, (2015). Schools Hit a Wall with Open-Plan Classrooms. The Age. November 23 2015. Available at: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/schools-hit-a-wall-with-openplan-classrooms-20151123-gl5vo8.html. (Accessed 6 December 2016). Grosfoguel, R. (2011). Decolonizing post-colonial studies and paradigms of political-economy: transmodernity, decolonial thinking, and global coloniality. Transmodernity: journal of peripheral cultural production of the Luso-Hispanic world, 1(1), 1-37. Hoogvelt, A. (1997). Globalization and the Postcolonial World: e New Political Economy of Development. Baltimore: e John Hopkins University Press. Ikas, K. & Wagner, G. (Eds.) (2009). Communicating in the ird Space. New York: Routledge. Kaleeli, H. (2016). 'A frenzy of hatred': how to understand Brexit racism. The Guardian, 29 June 2016. Kerr, J. (2014). Western epistemic dominance and colonial structures: Considerations for thought and practice in programs of teacher education. Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society, 3(2), p. 83-104 Martin, F. & Pirbhai-Illich, F. (2016). Towards Decolonising Teacher Education: Criticality, Relationality and Intercultural Understanding. Journal of Intercultural Studies, 37(4), 355-372. Martin, F., Pirbhai-Illich, F. & Pete, S. (2017). Beyond Culturally Responsive Pedagogy: Decolonizing Teacher Education. In F. Pirbhai-Illich, S. Pete & F. Martin (Eds). Culturally Responsive Pedagogy: Working towards Decolonization, Indigeneity and Interculturalism. London: Palgrave Macmillan. Massey, D. (1995). Making spaces or, geography is political too. soundings 1, Autumn, 193-208. Massey, D. (2005). For space. London: Sage. Soja, E. (1996) Thirdspace: journey to Los Angeles and other real-and-imagined places. Oxford: Blackwell. Thiong'o, Ngugi Wa (1986). Decolonising the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature. London: James Currey. Thrift, N. (2006). Space. Theory, Culture & Society, 23(2-3), 139-155.
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