Academic journal article Journal of Curriculum Theorizing

Disconceptualizing Curriculum: Is There a Next in the Generational Text?

Academic journal article Journal of Curriculum Theorizing

Disconceptualizing Curriculum: Is There a Next in the Generational Text?

Article excerpt

   New collective assemblages of enunciation are beginning to form an
   identity out of fragmentary ventures, at times risky initiatives,
   trial and error experiments; different ways of seeing and of making
   the world, different ways of being and and of bringing to light
   modalities of being will open up, be irrigated and enrich one
   another. It is less a question of having access to novel cognitive
   spheres than of apprehending and creating, in pathic modes, mutant
   existential virtualities.

   --Felix Guattari, Chaosmosis

The reconceptualists were excellent conceptual terrorists, in the Foucauldian sense, and their first children did a fine job of building new conceptual discourses out of the rubble left by their Doktorvaters and -mutters. Yet what are the youngest children to do? Looked upon as spoiled and too comfortable by their elders, less enterprising and disrespectful by their older siblings, they (we) seek a way of being curriculum workers not restricted or denatured like those from whom they (we) inherit discourses and projects. Dissing the notion of a conceptual discourse itself, I read recent curriculum theorizing as ideological practices, discursive generational texts, and aesthetic responses to a theory-practice dichotomy. I am egged on by my colleagues, yet ignored like a ranting adolescent by those interested in systems engineering and power textiles. The technology of morality this envelopes is surprisingly similar to the very traditions that the "terrorists" themselves were hoping to disinherit.

When a set of rebels now sits back and scans the terrain--delights in their achievements, there is less textile fashion experimentation encouraged and more appropriation expected of the proteges. It is tempting to orchestrate institutions and dynastic realms of power. This is the state of contemporary curriculum theorizing if read as a canonical text of difference. However, new scholars are refusing the roles of appropriator and executor; some are advocating a playfulness with conceptual discourse itself. (1) In doing so they point out the modernist project of the reconceptualists and even of their older siblings' (the earlier doctoral students of the reconceptualist Doktorvaters/mutters) "post-modern" projects, which turn out to be just as modernist in their hegemonic goals and objectives. The field of curriculum in this reading looks more and more monolithic, more and more of the same fabric whether of the traditionalist cloth or the reconceptualist cloth.

I critique reconceptualists, their heirs, and recent scholarship that points in new directions, including those that self-referentially challenge the never-ending claims that the curriculum field is moribund. That tactic worked for the original Foucauldian terrorists: for the eldest children (the heirs), it turns out, the same tactic won't work, despite current efforts to make this same declaration. In fact, the field is not moribund, thanks to its newest scholars that are abandoning the field metaphor itself in favor of nomadic discourses of curriculum and educational studies. There is a de Certeauian or Sahlinsian flavor to my argument--that, as always, everything is up in the air--anything can happen--even as people poach, imagine, and play, even as people work to save tradition simultaneously with changing it.


Much of my interrogation of curriculum as hypertext understands its origins in the rise of "attention" as a component of modernism. As Jonathon Crary comments, a great deal of critical analysis of modern subjectivity during the twentieth century dwelled on the idea of "reception in a state of distraction," as articulated by Walter Benjamin and others. Crary elaborates on the paradoxical intersection that has permeated modernism and beyond, between an imperative of attentiveness within the disciplinary organization of labor, education, and mass communication, and a kind of ideal of sustained attentiveness as a constitutive element of a creative and free subjectivity. …

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