Academic journal article Knowledge Cultures

Prefiguring Alternative Worlds: Organic Critical Literacies and Socio-Cultural Revolutions

Academic journal article Knowledge Cultures

Prefiguring Alternative Worlds: Organic Critical Literacies and Socio-Cultural Revolutions

Article excerpt

In this paper we reflect upon the inter-relation between education and revolution, grounding our discussion in concrete critical literacy projects seeded over the years. In order to enrich the broader discussion, we situate the question of education and revolution in dialogue with concrete historical struggles, projects, and practices. We speak from a contradictory location, as critical scholars and teacher educators who are working within institutions of higher learning while tied to literacy projects that challenge and resist the present historical moment of neoliberal privatization and colonial subjugation. Thus, we unpack the interrelation between education and revolution, what this has meant historically as social movements have materialized throughout Latin America, and then proceed to an analysis of the centrality of critical literacies in liberation struggles. We analyze two exemplars or 'case studies' from our own work, detailing how these prefigurative political spaces generate a new language of possibility, beyond the enclosure of the present moment. We argue that these micro-political projects of today are living lessons for the cultural and social revolutions of tomorrow. A lesson is that the revolutionary transformation of capitalist societies, while traditionally conceived as a battle of ideology and class interests that leads to radically new economic structures (socialism), involves multiple fronts and a radically new unfinished society. A second lesson: Without careful attention to aspects of rehumanizing education, revolutionary struggle has a tendency to instrumentalize students and people under the guise of means-ends politics, potentially undermining the world it seeks to create. A fundamental question for us as cultural workers and teacher educators working within capitalist-colonialist institutional arrangements is how we can seed education projects from below, at the grassroots level, that bring to life spaces of hope, love, and what we term sociocultural revolutions, marked not only by radical economic changes but also by ecological and re-humanizing values that lead to the production of new social subjects, communities and our relation to the earth-world. Of significance is how these place-based struggles for liberation translate or get reinvented as anticipatory or prefigurative political spaces (Holloway, 2010). That is, how can we link place-based struggles and humanizing micropractices developed there with broader social movements? And what mediating role can critical literacies play in the formation of prefigurative spaces and liberation?

The Struggle for Liberatory Education: (1) Interlocking Geo-Politics and Histories

'We certainly do not wish socialism in America to be imitation and a copy. It must be a heroic creation. We must give life, with our own reality and in our own language to an Indo-American socialism.'--Mariategui (1928)

Understood within the ensemble of social relations (economic, political, legal, ideological, and institutional) that make it possible, education has been conceptualized in structuralist terms as an ideological state apparatus intimately tied to the reproduction of the social relations of capitalist production (Athusser, 1971; Hill, 2001). In our view, education is more than an expression or function of economic institutions: education emerges through struggle and contestation (Apple, 1995; 2006), in which vying group interests, values, and ideologies come to shape its content, form, and purpose. Understanding education relationally means situating it historically and geopolitically alongside the advent and development of liberal-democracies, which in today's global economic order need to be understood as capitalist-colonialist liberal-democracies (see Goldberg, 2002). From this perspective, education in the U.S. and Latin America has functioned as a contested medium and reproductive force for global capital and coloniality/Eurocentrism. …

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