Decolonising Learning Spaces Implications for Ethical Practice

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Decolonising Learning Spaces Implications for Ethical Practice

Decolonising Learning SpacesImplications for Ethical PracticePam Sykes, University of the Western CapeDaniela Gachago, Cape Peninsula University of Technology

Act 1Exploding the myth of safety

Snapshot 1: A group of academics is sitting around a conference table in a seminar room. They talk about desire and affect; the body comes up again and again. But the bodies of the people in the room are never acknowledged. Which bodies are comfortable in this space (which contains this table, these chairs, that air conditioner) and which are not? Whose body is awash with anxiety, who is flushed or sweating, who is full of energy, whose back is hurting, who is tired, who is desperate for a toilet break, who is sick, who feels awkward and out of place? These questions are not askable in this space.

Snapshot 1: A group of academics is sitting around a conference table in a seminar room. They talk about desire and affect; the body comes up again and again. But the bodies of the people in the room are never acknowledged. Which bodies are comfortable in this space (which contains this table, these chairs, that air conditioner) and which are not? Whose body is awash with anxiety, who is flushed or sweating, who is full of energy, whose back is hurting, who is tired, who is desperate for a toilet break, who is sick, who feels awkward and out of place? These questions are not askable in this space.

Call for a decolonised pedogagy?

Critical pedagogies of liberation necessarily embrace experience, confessions and testimony as relevant ways of knowing, as important, vital dimensions of any learning process bell hooks 1994: 89

One way to approach the project of decolonising the university is to allow the whole of peoples lived experience into teaching and learning spaces, to affirm this experience as worthy of scholarly attention and to create a dialogue between experience and theory (hooks, 1994).

Institutional grooves and habits are worn deep |

However, our experience affirms and reaffirms daily that the academy is not an embodied space. Teaching and learning practices that centre the whole learner are greeted with awkwardness at best and outright suspicion at worst. Working with students embodied experience is a risky business that many educators shy away from . If one does allow the whole person into the classroom - body and mind, emotions and all - it is often done behind closed doors. Spaces to share experiences are scarce, and guidelines for ethical practices often focus on spaces outside academia. Our approaches to working with personal narratives are in direct opposition with the traditional discourses in academia, what we call its institutional grooves and habits, such as the primacy of the lecture, the myth of the neutral teacher, and the legacies of authoritarian schooling.

Assumptions

a

The fact that no one was safe made us all involved in the course appreciate the importance of what we came to call safe houses..in with high degrees of trust, shared understanding, temporary protection from the legacies of oppression (Minnie Bruce Pratt 1991: 40))Part of color-blindness is to demand that race dialogue takes place in a safe environment. (Leonardo & Porter 2010: 139)

Creating a safe space for students to share their stories of everyday traumaThe role of the teacher/lecturer in creating these safe spaces

Our gendered, raced, classed subjectivities may will work against our aims as educators

Our own gendered, raced, classed subjectivities will work against our aims. As white, female, middle class embodied humans we might - as much as we try not to - misunderstand and re-traumatise our students.

Two challenges: There is no ideal space that is equally, absolutely safe for all.Safety is not something educators can bestow.

We are challenging this notion of safety based on two moves: First, we will argue that safety is not an all-or-nothing -- there is no ideal space that is absolutely safe for everyone. Secondly, we argue that safety is not something we can bestow on our learners but that something needs to be negotiated and created in community among all involved parties.

Act 2Embracing uncertainty

Is there a way for all of us to survive together while none of our contradictory claims, interests and passions can be eliminated?Bruno Latour 2005: 30

Safe-enough spaces Perhaps an element of the work of facilitating South African conversations resides inside the creative contradiction of making spaces that are safe-enough and uncomfortable-enough. Such conversations have the potential to be full of healing, full of life and full of possibility. Rebecca Freeth

Comfort | DiscomfortSafety | Danger

Unpacking safety and dangerHarms:- increased vulnerability to harassmentAbusive interactions in the classroomContinually explaining and justifying ones experience of oppression (can we call this marginalisation of ones experience?)Post traumatic flashbacksIsolation, marginalisation, exclusionBeing stunted by an atmosphere in which one cannot take risks

Defining the risks of harmVulnerability to harassmentAbusive interactionsPost traumatic flashbacksIsolation, marginalisation, exclusionStunted intellectual growthAnd ______________?

Harms:- increased vulnerability to harassmentAbusive interactions in the classroomContinually explaining and justifying ones experience of oppression (can we call this marginalisation of ones experience?)Post traumatic flashbacks

On surrendering control |I have learned that I cannot offer my less privileged students safety, nor should I try. In fact, it is a function of my own privilege that I ever thought I could. It is only from privileged perspectives that neutral or safe environments are viable and from empowered positions that protecting others is possible. Ludlow 2004:45

Co-creating safe-enough spacesTerms of engagementFocus on practical actionsHandling disagreement

PROCESS matters as much as content |

Learn to FACILITATE not just teach

One must think with the body and the soul or not think at all -- Hannah Arendt

Referenceshooks, b., 1994. Teaching to transgress - Education as the Practice of Freedom. New York and London: Routledge.Freeth, R., 2012. On creating uncomfortable, safe spaces for South African conversations. Workshop handout, (August), pp.13.Latour, Bruno, 2005. From Realpolitik to Dingpolitik or How to Make Things Public, in Making Things Public-Atmospheres of Democracy (Cambridge, Massachussetts: The MIT Press), pp. 431Leonardo, Z. & Porter, R.K., 2010. Pedagogy of Fear: toward a Fanonian theory of safety in Race dialogue. Race Ethnicity and Education, 13(2), pp.139157.Pratt, M.L., 1991. Arts of the Contact Zone. Profession, (1991), pp.3340. Available at: http://www.jstor.org.gate2.library.lse.ac.uk/stable/25595469.