Pedagogies of Dissent
November 9-12, 2017, Chicago, Illinois
The theme for the 2017 Annual Meeting of the American Studies Association, "Pedagogies of Dissent," emphasizes the conjuncture of education, politics, and intellectual work that has long been and remains central to the vibrancy of American studies. From Paulo Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed to Jacqueline Alexander's Pedagogies of Crossing, and including a broad and diverse range of iterations signaled by such associated terms as teaching and training, learning and unlearning, transgression and transformation, and consciousness raising, this line of thought enjoins critical recognition of the embeddedness of education broadly and the university in specific, within the social field.
In bringing together "pedagogy" and "dissent," the Program Committee invites inquiry into the intellectual, political, historical and social genealogies of critical and transformative thought and praxis, not only in the literal space of the classroom, but also more broadly, in the material and virtual spaces where teaching and learning happen, among those who may be outside of formal relationships as "teachers" and "students." This theme echoes Chandra Mohanty's use of "pedagogies of dissent" to refer to the processes and project of constructing oppositional pedagogies - i.e., those that attend to gender and race as indices of power and material relations, as well as those of coloniality and capitalism, of sexuality and bodily diversity, and all of these in their inextricably intersectional entanglements. How are such pedagogies constructed? Through what means, in what spaces? What are the exigent conditions giving rise to their emergence? What conditions of possibility allow them to flourish, or diminish their effectiveness?
These questions bear particular urgency given the particular pressures facing teachers at all levels of the academy, broadly construed, in the current conjuncture. These include the enactment of legislation across the United States that legalizes the carrying of guns on college campuses, as well as the ways that "academic freedom" is so regularly an explicit battleground for students and faculty members who address inequality and injustice through the critical idioms and intellectual traditions of anti-imperialism and anti-colonialism, sexuality, and anti- racism. It also includes the foundational debt of the academy to indigenous dispossession and slavery, the historic and ongoing effects of that indebtedness, and the relationship of these foundations to the contemporary corporatization and intensifying privatization of the academy.
While pedagogy invokes the role education plays as a cornerstone of democracy - as a critical part of the public sphere - and as such, how it has long served as and continues to function as a flashpoint in debates regarding the meaningfulness of democracy for different groups of people, dissent is arguably at the heart of not just educational politics, but the political economic field in which education at all levels, and in formal and informal settings, unfolds today. Protests unfolding in colleges across and outside of the United States focus attention on the debilitating debt burden of higher education; on the long-lived and thoroughgoing structural inhospitability of colleges and universities to black people and black intellectual traditions; on sexual violence and gendered inequality and the ways that that inequality shapes the possibilities of thriving in and beyond the academy; and, on the policies that would exclude undocumented migrants from formal education. In Chile, China, Hong Kong, India, Israel, Mexico, Palestine, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, among many other places, in addition to the United States, conflict and contestation in and over education precipitated by intensifying poverty and political repression, colonialism and neoliberalism, continue to erupt, reminding us of the locally felt impact of the era of, as well as the long histories giving rise to, globalized racial capitalism. Ongoing resistance to the "common core" adjustments compulsorily organizing K-12 curricula and the demands of parents and teachers to reverse the course of the de-funding of public education across the United States unfold alongside the struggles over wages and contracts, not only of teachers but of the "blue collar" workers who literally keep the buildings and institutions of education viable sites of research and teaching. In Chicago , the site of this program, teachers and allies take to the streets to demand support for education, such actions mirrored in long histories of activism in and for schools and for education more broadly: think of the contestation over the education of enslaved and formerly enslaved persons throughout the nineteenth century and well into the twentieth; the dismantling of "Indian Schools" established to Christianize indigenous children; the social, intellectual, political, and legal struggles that precipitated Brown v. Board; the educational agenda of radical political groups like the Black Panther Party; the socio-politics subtending Freedom Schools, and so on.
This theme suggests that contemporary conditions are cause for critical pause in considerations of dissent - its precipitating grounds, its consequences, its aspirations. What can be asked and studied, said and taught, and by whom and how? And how are the responses to such questions embedded in long lived and ongoing contestations over the purposes and shapes of education? Strongly resonant with the histories of Chicago, we are interested in proliferating attention to the multiple and variegated sites through which pedagogies of dissent emerge and operate. The 2017 Program Committee invites proposals that address the broad range of issues, intellectual genealogies, and critical itineraries speaking to pedagogies of dissent. Proposals might engage such questions as: How is pedagogy implicated in colonialist and nationalist projects of dispossession, and what part does it play in decolonial activities? How do we learn and unlearn the epistemologies of heteronormativity, whiteness, and racial capitalism? What do the dissenting pedagogies of disability studies illuminate about the ways in which certain bodies are naturalized and others deemed extraordinary? What forms of pedagogy are associated with revolution and resistance, and what political economic and socio-cultural structures induce and necessitate them? What is the affective life of differing pedagogies? How are pedagogy and dissent both "about" intimacy, and what does intimacy come to mean in such contexts? In what ways do popular culture and social media induce and produce forms of learning and unlearning, and to what effects? How does the online saturation of social, political, and cultural life shift how we understand the possibilities of pedagogies of dissent? Why does pedagogy matter now, and how differently has it mattered and taken shape, for different groups, various sites, and in different historical conjunctures? What forms does dissent take now that are not pedagogical, and what might that tell us about both past and present conditions?
See you in Chicago!