Academic journal article Journal of Curriculum Theorizing

The American Curriculum Field and Its Worldly Encounters

Academic journal article Journal of Curriculum Theorizing

The American Curriculum Field and Its Worldly Encounters

Article excerpt

   When we ask another for recognition for ourselves, we are not
   asking for that other to see us as we are, as we have always
   been, as we were prior to the encounter. Rather, in the asking,
   we are already becoming something new, since we are avowing a
   connection with the other, a need and desire for acknowledgment
   by the other, without which we could not be. This means that
   recognition does not freeze us in our place, our position, our
   various locations, but rather compels us to move beyond what we
   have been and to encounter a new possibility for
   collective exchange.

--Judith Butler, "Transformative Encounters"

The 25th Anniversary of the Bergamo Conference on Curriculum Theory and Classroom Practice took place at the Bergamo Conference Center of the University of Dayton, Ohio, from October 21 through 24, 2004. As one of those who participated in the founding of both the conference and its journal, JCT: The Journal of Curriculum Theorizing, I attended that anniversary conference--but I have to admit, not without some nervousness as well as some perhaps more understandable anticipation. I felt that the gathering itself could not help but become a site of encounter, of a "need and desire for acknowledgment by the other," for the Bergamo Conference in years past seemed to function as just such a site for a number of people engaged in the work of reconceptualizing US curriculum studies.

This 25th anniversary celebration was reuniting many of us who began our curriculum studies work together even before "Bergamo" became the designated namesake for this conference, which has been officially sponsored by JCT since 1979. (1) And so it seemed possible to me that this reunion also might function metaphorically as a site wherein long-term participants in the field of American curriculum studies might also be asking yet again for "recognition" of that very field, knowing that, in the very asking, the field itself, as well as its participants, must become something new. As I traveled to the conference, I felt nervous about prospects and possible manifestations of yet again "becoming something new," on both an individual and a collective level. Professionally, I had reasons for hoping that "becoming something new" might include focusing attention on implications of the US field's current move into international arenas of curriculum inquiry, theorizing, and practice. Personally--well, I just couldn't say yet.

Many of us at this anniversary celebration relished our re-connections as well as reminiscences about important work put forth during Bergamo conferences gone by, work that contributed to the reconceptualization of the American curriculum field. (2) As I greeted long-term friends and colleagues, I realized that I indeed was "avowing a connection" and thus asking for acknowledgment by these others--but asking for recognition, as Butler (2001b, 2004) constructs it, that does not "freeze me in my place" within the reconceptualization of curriculum studies and that compels me to "move beyond what I have been" so as to encounter a "new possibility for collective exchange."

And for some of us, I think that the 25th Anniversary Bergamo Conference did gesture toward possibilities that could move us as a field beyond "what we have always been" so that, together, "... we can re-create a counter educational culture that is curriculum studies" (Pinar, 2004b, p. 8). But following the conclusion of the conference, I wanted to further examine my anticipatory nervousness about this gathering--which I now think had to do, in part, with my worries about lapsing either into insulated nostalgia and desire to re-create exactly the exhilarating times during which we were able to accomplish a reconceptualization of the field, or into despair about current conditions in US education, in general, that appear to un-do much of what a reconceptualized curriculum field had championed. …

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