Pedagogy, Otherwise

Introduction by Alessandra Pomarico, series editor.
There is general consensus and a vast body of literature arguing that the education system is failing us. In the age of a global knowledge economy, the production of knowledge is becoming a financial enterprise and the logic of the market regulates every aspect of society, including how education is organized; we need to analyze the crisis of education in relation to the larger, self-reproducing, socio-economic and political crisis, which is also a crisis of the imagination. Neoliberal forces with their exploitative relationship to the world are putting our communities at risk by altering the emergent, relational, and co-dependent character of the natural and cultural ecologies within which we live. They are destroying the commons, including the diversity of the cultural ones. The primary focus of a new pedagogy, or a pedagogy otherwise, should be the promotion of a different learning that prepares us for an ecologically sustainable and socially just future.

Education is part of the apparatus designed to maintain the status quo (one of the institutionnes totales for Foucault); schools and universities can be the very place where the “mono culture of the mind” is forged, and cultural trauma and segregation is perpetuated while knowledge becomes yet another commodity. We mostly refer to education using the dominant discourses of the colonial, modernist Eurocentric and westernized imaginary, which excludes or attempts to assimilate other systems of knowledge, other cosmogonies and economies. What we need to learn today is how we can avoid reproducing such asymmetrical, exploitative dynamics towards other beings, and how we can sustain pedagogies that are not based on oppressive, patriarchal, and extractive patterns.

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Can we imagine a non-hegemonic, post-Capitalistic framework for learning? Some argue that we need to unlearn before we can learn what we don’t know.

If the education system can be the instrument of oppression and subjugation, aggravating polarization ,and causing psychological and cultural traumas, the process of learning constitutes on the other hand a step toward emancipation, self-development and collective transformation. Many radical thinkers in the course of history have attributed to pedagogy a seminal role in the struggle for human rights and in the liberation movements.

We believe that to critically reflect on, and re-imagine the pedagogical process, supporting the formation of autonomous zones of learning, is fundamental to any attempt to produce a paradigmatic shift, necessary in a moment of social and environmental catastrophe. We also consider that collective learning, and learning about collectivity, are particularly urgent while we witness the privatization and segmentation of every sphere of life, an individualistic atomization of the human being, and the transformation of community spaces and times, into virtual, so called “social” media. At costs still hard to evaluate, both in terms of anthropological behavioral changes and of voluntary concessions to a more and more invasive system of techno- surveillance.

This space dedicated to pedagogy — in the larger context of conversations that ArtsEverywhere is providing — will constitute an additional platform for an organic, interdisciplinary, and intersectional reflection, a framework for an open yet situated discussion around what it takes today to “unfold learning societies”[1] and to co-create “really useful knowledge.”[2]

Through a series of essays published once a month, we will deepen the dialogue around “pedagogy, otherwise” from a radical perspective, one that wishes to be informed not only by critical thinking (as criticism is today easily reabsorbed by the hegemonic discourse, following Rancière) but also by the existing alternative practices, those experiments thriving to reclaim the right to self-organize the learnings (as well as other fundamental areas of life) assuming the responsibility to self-regenerate communities, focusing on pedagogy as politics.

We hope to provide a space to “learn how to learn” from a polyphony of positions, practices, and experiences. We will invite heterogeneous — at times even discordant — voices, proposing a variety of approaches and media. We will explore unorthodox methodologies, ideas, and technologies emerging from grassroots, queer, informal, non-vertical, non-academic, community-based, and context-oriented processes; we will consider activist- and artist-led procedures for sharing and developing critical learning tools; protocols of convivial and militant researches; insurgent knowledge from communities in struggle; and investigate the ecology of knowledge in an attempt to decolonize learning structures (and superstructures) through a wider epistemological diversity.

We will discover how some convergent spaces and temporary zones of autonomous learning have been created both in the global North and the global South. We will investigate how different pedagogical relationships can stem from an artistic perspective, and how artists articulate the relational pedagogical tension through their works and processes. Whether contemporary artists are organizing independently their own schools or pedagogical initiatives, or they are activating the space of the exhibition as a didactical opportunity, expanding the role of the museum and engaging a deep dialogue with the audience, we are witnessing the transformative potential of art, the generative effect of collective learning, as art-led researches processes are developing both practice-led theory and theory-active practice, impacting the social sphere and the life of communities, far beyond the art world.

During the spring and summer, we will let our readership take a voyage into these differently oriented contributions around pedagogy, that will conclude with a annotated bibliography of selected influential critical pedagogues, theoreticians, and thinkers that have significantly contributed to the topic. In the fall we will invite respondents to discuss the ideas and themes that emerged, in the form of a round table, with shorter essays furthering our conversation.

Also, chronicles from our practices at Free Home University will implement the focus on alternative and radical pedagogies directly from the field. We will report from other artistic, indigenous, activist initiatives, real life platforms and conferences, self-organized networks, non-governmental cultural infrastructures and extra-state agencies, and from all those “brave spaces” where sharing knowledge differently is a way to create a different world.

[1] “Unfolding Learning Societies: Experiencing the Possibilities.” Vimukt Shiksha: A Bulletin of Shikshantar, June 2002. Accessed May 15, 2016. http://www.swaraj.org/shikshantar/ls3_intro.htm.
[2] “Really useful knowledge” is a notion that the curatorial collective WHW explores through the group exhibition with international artists at Museo National Centro de Arte Reina Sophia, and a connected publication.
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