Our aims and questions
We aspire to…
- share work in pedagogies of engagement with other critical educators;
- make schools and universities into democratic social and political institutions, and demonstrate how spaces of informal education (community activism, cultural work, campaigning, play) can be organised in more radically democratic ways;
- challenge forces of atomisation, instrumentalism and fatalism by creating spaces for dialogue, reflexivity and utopian imagination in educational work, social activity and everyday life;
- bring scholarly research, insights from political action and reflections on everyday life into critical conversation with one another to deepen educational praxis; and
- contribute to the creation of autonomous, organised communities of critical educators, activists and cultural workers who are working towards just and sustainable futures.
‘Caminando preguntamos’ (walking, we ask questions)
Many of the terms and concepts that we use to describe our work are contested, even within the group itself. We are thus exploring the following questions:
Practice What do we mean by ‘practice’? Need there be a division between ‘theory’ and ‘practice’? Can formal academic thinking also be a form of political practice? How can processes of learning and teaching be considered political practices? How can political practices be considered processes of learning and teaching? How do activists in formal and informal educational contexts understand these terms, and what can we learn from or contribute to each other’s work so as to enable a greater harnessing of our efforts for progressive social, economic and political change?
Community What do we mean when we use the word ‘community’ in contexts where face-to-face communities are eroding? Is this a legitimate way to think about where politics happens? What about arguments that some ‘communities’ may also be forms of populist unity that can be appropriated by the right or left, as the notion of community—like the notion of education–is not inherently politically neutral or necessarily progressive? What about arguments that we need to develop strategies for collective action in the absence of any ‘community’? Or, do possibilities for virtual communities enable us to develop a different sense of community?
Academic / activism What are the possible relationships between ‘academe’ and ‘activism’ – why does this binary exist or seem to exist? Are these categories self-imposed or imposed by others? What can the notion of ‘academic activist’ actually mean in practice? Is this a useful notion in helping us reconfigure the university? Academic knowledge? Progressive practice occurring in informal educational spaces? How is this notion differently interpreted and understood and thow do these different meanings affect ideas about practice? We ask these questions being mindful of the work of Santos, Bourdieu and others who have observed that as the university is being opened up to top down neoliberal structures and processes, which are eroding the assumption that academics should be separated from the world outside, this opening up of the university could be used to work with more bottom up progressive structures and processes. But are we reproducing the binary in making this point or are we working to erode it?
Bridging Why do we find ourselves wanting to talk about building ‘bridges’ between academics and activists, or between different groups of cultural workers? What do we do with the fact that some of us perceive ourselves to be located in radically different locations than others and others of us do not? What factors have brought us to these different understandings and how do we deal with these differences? Might we view the process of speaking of and from our distinct social locations, as a problem that may always require strategies of negotiation, of bridging, as new political, economic, ecological and social contexts emerge? Is it possible that we sometimes create artificial divisions which we then seek to overcome? What are the possible meanings of the politics of bridging itself and what actions might result from them?
Subversion / formation / transformation How do we understand the meanings of ‘subversion’, ‘formation’ and ‘transformation’, concepts we find ourselves using? Their usage might be more problematic than we think. If we focus on ‘subversion’, do we as a consequence limit our action to responding to the dominant and thereby not focus enough of our energy and ideas upon transformation? To what extent should we be working to ‘subvert’ dominant definitions of education and forms of institutional power; to what extent should we be working to ‘transform’ them?
Ideology Some of us found the concept of ‘ideology’ useful in articulating our understanding of the current moment whilst others found the concept objectionable because of its historical emergence from particular left locations. This brings up the wider question of how do we communicate from our different social and political locations given that we may rely upon different vocabulary, different political assumptions and different kinds of theories and practices?
Radicality What do we mean by radical education, when there are different traditions and practices of politics linked to pedagogy with often conflicting assumptions and understandings of the nature of knowledge and knowledge production, agents of knowledge construction and relationship between theory and practice, concrete and universal, means and ends. There are conflicting articulations of popular education as a transfer of a particular ideological critique of society or the construction together of critique as practice, and different articulations of critical pedagogy. We want therefore to explore the resonances but also the dissonances in order to forge pedagogies that are living processes of critique.