13 SES 11 A, Educational Theory, politics, and encounters with radicalised bodies
In recent discussions about a post-critical pedagogy (Hodgson/Vlieghe/Zamojski 2017, 2018; Vlieghe/Zamojski 2019; Wortmann 2020) the question of the political in the educational gained attention anew. However, most of the discussions so far dealt with political dimensions of educational practices (e.g., Hodgson 2020; Laner 2020; Oliverio 2020; Snir 2020a, 2020b). In contrast, this paper poses the question of in what sense of the word educational theory – also understood as a practice, not a system of claims – could be understood as ‘political’. For answering this, the paper employs three conceptions of ‘political’ and relates them to educational theory in general and – due to time constraints: briefly – to post-critical pedagogy more specifically.
1.) In the tradition of Derrida, one could claim that ‘everything is political’ since every speech act includes an iteration (Derrida 1982, cf. Butler 1997). I will briefly indicate how Laclau/Mouffe argue in this tradition (Laclau/Mouffe 1995; Mouffe 2005). However, although this position might be adequate for a political theory but not for an educational theory that wants to say something about education that is not also political. This is not necessary but certainly put forward by the proponents of post-critical pedagogy. 2.) In the complete opposite direction, one could conceptualize the political, along the lines of Rancière, as an exceptional event disrupting the status quo (1999). Similarly, Wolin stated that “the political is episodic, rare” (1994: 11) and Lacoue-Labarthe/Nancy have coined the phrase “re-trait du politique” (1981: 18). After describing what Rancière means by a disruption (“la part des sans-part”) one however must admit that most of educational theory by definition cannot be political in Racière’s sense. Although this concept can serve as an ideal type of a political educational theory in general and post-critical pedagogy in particular, it is not an accurate description for most of their practices.
3.) Since both notions of ‘the political’ show far-reaching limitations, I will propose a third position. This builds on Rorty’s proposal of “philosophy as cultural politics” (2007). Similar to the two other positions, Rorty strongly distinguishes ‘cultural politics’ from ‘politics’. For him, philosophy can contribute little to nothing to concrete political activity (just as to concrete educational practices, cf. Rorty 1990). However, philosophy – and, as I will argue, educational theory – can contribute to long-term linguistic change by proposing new ways of using terms. Understood as cultural politics, educational theory could include “efforts to modify people’s sense of who they are, what matters to them, what is most important” (Rorty 2007: ix) and even “projects for getting rid of whole topics of discourse” (ibid.: 3). I will argue that this understanding of the ‘political’ of educational theory is far more realistic and educationally better suited (Su i.p.) than claiming that educational theory is political just as everything else is political or because it can disrupt the status quo. Finally, I will propose to conceptualize post-critical pedagogy as cultural political activity. In this modest – or even: poor (Masschelein 2010) – sense, post-critical pedagogy can happily admit its own political status without drawing on strong oppositions between ‘the political’ and ‘the educational’ (as in Vlieghe/Zamojski 2019 following Arendt).
Butler, Judith (1997): Excitable Speech: A Politics of the Performative. New York: Routledge. Derrida, Jacques (1982): Margins of Philosophy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Hodgson, Naomie (2020): Post-critique, politics, and the political in educational philosophy. On Education. Journal for Research and Debate, 3 (9). https://doi.org/10.17899/on_ed.2020.9.3 Hodgson, Naomie/Vlieghe, Joris/Zamojski, Piotr (2017): Manifesto for a Post-Critical Pedagogy. London: punctum. Hodgson, Naomie/Vlieghe, Joris/Zamojski, Piotr (2018): Education and the Love for the World: Articulating a post-critical educational philosophy. Foro de Educación, 16 (24), 7–20. Laclau, Ernesto/Mouffe, Chantal (1995): Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: Towards a Radical Democratic Politics. London: Verso. Lacoue-Labarthe, Philippe/Nancy, Jean-Luc (1981): Ouverture. In: Balibar, Étienne/Ferry, Luc/Lacoue-Labarthe, Philippe/Lyotard, Jean-François/Nancy, Jean-Luc: Rejouer le politique. Paris: Galilée, p. 11–28. Laner, Iris (2020): Caring critique. Exploring pedagogical spheres between critical and post-critical approaches. On Education. Journal for Research and Debate, 3 (9). https://doi.org/10.17899/on_ed.2020.9.8 Masschelein, Jan (2010) E-ducating the gaze: the idea of a poor pedagogy. Ethics and Education, 5 (1), 43–53. Mouffe, Chantal (2005): On the Political. New York: Routledge. Oliverio, Stefano (2020): ‘Post-critiquiness’ as nonviolent thing-centredness. On Education. Journal for Research and Debate, 3 (9). https://doi.org/10.17899/on_ed.2020.9.6 Rancière, Jacques (1999): Disagreement: Politics and Philosophy. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Rorty, Richard (1990): The Dangers of Over-Philosophication – Reply to Arcilla and Nicholson. Educational Theory 40 (1), 41–44. Rorty, Richard (2007): Philosophy as Cultural Politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Snir, Itay (2020a): Philophobia: From post-critical to neo-critical pedagogy through art critique (and a pinch of hate). On Education. Journal for Research and Debate, 3 (9). https://doi.org/10.17899/on_ed.2020.9.10 Snir, Itay (2020b): Walter Benjamin in the Age of Post-critical Pedagogy. Studies in Philosophy and Education. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11217-020-09749-2 Su, Hanno (i.p.): The Educational Epistemology of Redescriptive Theorizing. paper draft. Vlieghe, Joris/Zamojski, Piotr (2019): Towards an Ontology of Teaching: Thing-centred Pedagogy, Affirmation and Love for the World. Cham: Springer. Wolin, Sheldon (1994): Fugitive Democracy. In: Constellations 1 (1), 11–25. Wortmann, Kai (2020): Drawing distinctions: What is post-critical pedagogy? In: On Education. Journal for Research and Debate 3 (9). https://doi.org/10.17899/on_ed.2020.9.1
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