Feeling Power: Emotions and Education

Feeling Power: Emotions and Education

Feeling Power: Emotions and Education

Feeling Power: Emotions and Education


Megan Boler combines cultural history with ethical and multicultural analyses to explore how emotions have been disciplined, suppressed or ignored at all levels of education and in educational theory. Feeling Power begins by charting the philosophies and practices developed over the last century to control social conflicts arising from gender, class and race. The book traces the development of progressive pedagogies from civil rights and women's liberation movements to the author's recent studies of "emotional intelligence" and "emotional literacy". She concludes by outlining a "pedagogy of discomfort" that examines empathy, fear and anger to negotiate ethics and difference. Drawing on the formulation of emotion as knowledge within feminist, psychobiological and poststructuralist theories, Boler develops a unique theory of emotion from contemporary educational discourses.


by Maxine Greene

TONI MORRISON, writing in The New Yorker, tells of coming upon an old fisherwoman fishing off the seawall at the end of a neighbor's garden. They talk; the woman says she will be coming back; but the writer never sees or hears of her again. She begins to tell about the difficulty of dealing with the stranger, of the "resources available to us for benign access to each other, for vaulting the mere blue air that separates us…." At the end she concludes that there are no strangers; rather, we are likely to be seeking some missing aspect of ourselves. "For the stranger is not foreign, she is random, not alien but remembered; and it is the randomness of the encounter with our already known-although unacknowledged-selves that summons a ripple of alarm. That makes us reject the figure and the emotions it provokes-especially when these emotions are profound. It is also what makes us want to own, govern, administrate the Other. To romance her, if we can, back into our own mirrors. In either instance (of alarm or false reverence), we deny her personhood, the specific individuality we insist on for ourselves." In many senses Megan Boler's book moves us to confront the mystery of the stranger, "to close the distance," to rediscover "the singularity, the community, the inextinguishable sacredness of the human race." She does this by provoking her readers to explore the "gendered rules of emotional conduct" and the "politics of emotion," to recognize what a rediscovery of the place of emotion in education can signify. She takes us on a remarkable journey through landscapes frequently invisible-landscapes on which the place of social control and of resistance to such control show themselves. Because emotion plays such an important role in both, as this book makes so clear, we may find in ourselves a numbness or passivity due to our denials, to our not reading the landscapes Boler brings within our sight.

Surely women and girls have suffered most frequently from the subordination of emotion to formal conceptions of rationality. Megan Boler not only points to the ways in which they have been embarrassed and demeaned by being thought of as "emotional" beings, incapable of the kinds of conceptual

Toni Morrison, "Strangers." The New Yorker, 12 October, 1998, p. 70.

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