anti-babel – sanjay sharma

Anti-racist/non-Eurocentric Critical Pedagogy – some provocations

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Below are some notes (a handout) for the talk I gave at the Migrating University event at Goldsmiths, 14 June 2007:

  • Critical pedagogies attempt to distinguish the method (how we teach) from the content (what we teach)…”we teach students how to critically think, not what to think”. But can we really hold on to such a distinction?
  • Developing a non-eurocentric curriculum leads to including more ‘multicultural content’ – the anxiety of “do we have enough Black/Third Word writers & theorists?!” – rather than transforming the pedagogic conditions of how difference (alterity) is encountered.
  • Racialized others – eg. figure of the (im)migrant – enter teaching spaces valorized for their radical subjectivity, and/or as victims of global capitalism – reduced to (an agent-less) pedagogic prop for exposing/deconstructing power relations.
  • Students (covertly) ‘resist’ or reject the aims of critical pedagogy, (what is the response to the articulation of essentialist subjectivity by students?) Conversely, students also learn to mimic/reproduce the ’emancipatory’ discourse/desires of the lecturer.
  • Racialized institutional authority and domination are still (re)produced by the practice of ’emancipatory’ pedagogies? Pedagogic authority of the lecturer is more often than not denied/repressed/displaced (e.g. assessments)?
  • If lecturers (covertly) believe that ideology works “behind the backs of students”, then doesn’t critical pedagogy work behind lecturers’ backs too?


4 types of (‘progressive’) Pedagogy1:

‘Hierarchical’: Lecturer possesses requisite anti-racist knowledge which students need to acquire, for exposing racial ideologies (demystification)

– A rationalist and transmissionist pedagogy – unified subject of reason (student) is to be emancipated from their racialized subjectivity.

‘Dialogic’: aims to ‘give voice’ to (marginalized) students, providing means for them to speak, and express experiences and cultural knowledges.

– May not acknowledge manifold conditions (inside/outside teaching space) which prevent students from speaking in the first place; or already speaking student may not be heard.

‘Praxical’: empower students by offering a universal set of critical deconstructive skills for intervening in their own histories/identity formation, and for analyzing racialized socio-political discourses.

– Assumes these critical skills always relevant, rather than contingent & situational. Tends to be limited to deconstructing racialized representations; presupposes that students will actually use these skills for ’emancipatory’ anti-racist purpose.

‘Articulation & Affect’: begins where students ‘are at’, assumes they’re already ideologically/discursively positioned. Aim to re-articulate students’ affective investments – making alternative ‘rhizomatic’ connections (operating outside of hegemonic or aborescent structures of racialized representation & knowledge).

No guarantees with this ‘risk and possibility’ pedagogy…may lead to a neo-liberal pluralism and/or micro-fascisms?

1 Adapted from Grossberg, L. (1994) ‘Introduction: Bringin’ it all back home – pedagogy and cultural studies’, in H. Giroux and P. McLaren (eds) Between borders : pedagogy and the politics of cultural studies. London: Routledge.

Written by sanjay sharma

29 Sep 07 at 2:06pm

Posted in thought

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