Academic journal article Resources for Feminist Research

[Dangerous Territories: Struggles for Difference & Equality in Education]

Academic journal article Resources for Feminist Research

[Dangerous Territories: Struggles for Difference & Equality in Education]

Article excerpt

Dangerous Territories: Struggles for Difference and Equality in Education, edited by Leslie Roman and Linda Eyre, is a provocative collection of essays on the construction and regulation of boundaries within and outside of education, and their implications for the interrelated processes of pedagogy and self-making. The territories under interrogation are multiply conceived, ranging in breadth from the classroom to the nation state, all of which are understood as intimately interconnected. The problematic structuring the work as a whole concerns the struggle to create radical democratic spaces in which diversity may be sustained without either reifying or annihilating differences (p. 4).

Dangerous Territories is a timely work. Higher education is currently marked by tensions between conservative agendas resulting in rampant cutbacks, and increasing pressure from marginalized groups to reshape and expand our educational institutions to include historically subjugated knowledges and bodies. The contributors to this collection bring with them a deep appreciation of the challenges of critical pedagogies which they draw upon to address this dilemma. In doing so, they offer candid accounts of the difficulties of teaching oppositionally, and they begin to unpack some of the investments they maintain in continuing to regulate, often unintentionally, "critical" spaces.

All of the contributors here could be referred to as practitioners of some off-shoot of critical pedagogy (e.g., feminist, anti-racist, anti-oppression), the school of educational theory credited to Paulo Freire and later associated with Henri Giroux and Michael Apple, among others. While a comprehensive history of critical pedagogy cannot be covered here, I would like to point to some of the moments in its development that help us to situate Dangerous Territories. Freire's critical pedagogy grew in part from the critical sociology of education of the Frankfurt School which was founded in Germany and eventually migrated to the United States just prior to World War Two (see Tierney and Rhoads, 1993; McLaren and Giroux, 1995). Central to this school of thought is an examination of the various systems of power and domination which sustain the relations of margin and centre. The school is situated within this broader historical and socio-political context. This framework thus illuminates how education may function to reproduce the same inequities it purportedly works to subvert. Freire's central objective was for students to learn to view themselves as knowledgeable, integral actors within relations of power. In this way, they may become empowered to affect broad-based change to the systems which privilege some, while marginalizing others. In the discourses of critical pedagogy, this empowerment often is referred to as a transformation of consciousness whereby an individual may "claim" or "come to voice."

As critiques of Freire's critical pedagogy have emerged, however, the notion of a pedagogy with "liberatory" or "emancipatory" possibilities has come under question. Many critiques suggest that figuring the teacher as "empowerer" reproduces Romantic notions of the authoritative saviour and resituates the student as the object, not the subject, of pedagogy (see Gore, 1993; Kenway and Modra, 1993). Alternately, the suggestion that critical educators should divest themselves of their authority in order to equalize relations of power between students and professors has been problematized for the apparent contradiction it produces in practice. Relatedly, many faculty members of colour have pointed out the risks inherent for them in not claiming authority when they are already situated in subordinate positions in the academy and relative to some of their students (see, for example, Bannerji, 1991; hooks, 1989; Hoodfar, 1992; James and Farmer, 1993; Monture-Angus, 1995). The concept of "voice" has also been problematized for the way it seems to assume an essential or authentic self and for the literal manner in which it has been interpreted (see Rockhill, 1986; Ellsworth, 1992; Orner, 1992; Fay, 1993; Tierney and Rhoads, 1993). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.