Alessandra, an editor for ArtsEverywhere, is interested in international and multidisciplinary curatorial projects and residency programs at the intersection of arts, pedagogy, social issues, nano-politics, and community building.
In the series Pedagogy, Otherwise—part of a line of inquiry dedicated to Learning, Pedagogies, and Education—I began exploring texts that approached the question with a diverse range of perspectives. I was interested in focusing on those experiences or experiments resulting from communities of practice and communities of struggle, in which learning spaces are informed by a quest for social justice or ecological activism, with an equal attention on theories, praxis, and aesthetic processes.
Artists are indeed involved in this wider movement of reclaiming learning, and are engaging more explicitly with the inherently transformative and pedagogical elements of art.
The notion of an “otherwise” signaled a shared criticality towards the neoliberal, western-centric, colonial rationale behind education systems. But it also recalls the changing, historical, and context-based nature of “radical pedagogy” in challenging existing paradigms.
After commissioning the pieces, I asked other contributors involved in the struggle to reclaim learning, to participate in a “round table” and engage in a conversation with those initial texts. I urged them to respond by focusing on their methodologies, tools, stories, places, and languages, and to write from their own, often emergent, pedagogical, ecological, and ontological perspectives.
We share the hope that affirming the different ways of being and knowing can bring different ways of relating. Otherwise.
Gerardo López Amaro
[…] to exist is to resist. The “rivers” that exist, resist, as do the “mountains,” “seeds,” “land,” or “people.” All of them, “equivocal translations” of more complex sentient entities in other cosmovisions, all of them condemned to be sacrificed in the altar of development and economic growth. For this reason, the defense of life must be at the center of radical pedagogical practices. But resistance is not our main mission. We came here to celebrate life and the beauty, joy, and pain of her ineffable connections. Relational worlds cannot only resist, they must r-exist.View Full Response
Gerardo López Amaro
Pedagogies of r-existence
Most humans today have been socialized in the “pathological truths” of capitalism (de Sousa Santos) and in its concurrent “modern desires and attachments” (Andreotti). The isolated, disembodied individual is the center king of the world, numbed by its own illusion of self-sufficiency. A monoculture of the mind, reinforced and reproduced by the global marketplace, school systems, and mass media, reiterate systemic oppressions and (neo)colonial violences weaved into our globalized neoliberal economies. We are currently witnessing a generalized war against relational worlds, waged on behalf of profit-seeking individuals.
This war severs connections, mutilates relationships, and atrophies the senses. Forests, waters, skies, winds, bodies, territories, cultures, and ways of being are turned into resources, to be later engineered as commodities or shaped in theoretical packages for successful careers in universities, corporations, and government offices.
Fortunately, there are—and there have always been—societies in which nothing preexists the relations that constitute them: relational worlds, worlds of interconnectedness, remembering and attunement with the rich vibrancy of interrelatedness (Escobar; Rengifo). These communities teach us relationality as a source of life.
In this context, to exist is to resist. The “rivers” that exist, resist, as do the “mountains,” “seeds,” “land,” or “people.” All of them, “equivocal translations” of more complex sentient entities in other cosmovisions, all of them condemned to be sacrificed in the altar of development and economic growth. For this reason, the defense of life must be at the center of radical pedagogical practices.
But resistance is not our main mission. We came here to celebrate life and the beauty, joy, and pain of her ineffable connections. Relational worlds cannot only resist, they must r-exist. We need “fierce care” and “radical tenderness” to nurture them and actualize their possibilities. A different way of inhabiting the world so that we can collectively enact the pluriverse is mandatory and urgent. For this reason, the defense of life must be at the center of radical pedagogical practices as we must learn to become related again. And for that, we need “pedagogies, otherwise.”
In this sense, the pedagogical task is eminently political, as advocated by popular and radical education approaches. We ought to add an “ontological turn” to the spiral of the relationship between pedagogy and politics. A “cosmopolitics” is needed, one that radically challenges the modern idea of politics, one that is non anthropocentric, non-prescriptive, one that comes before will, and unfolds through open hearts, dis-identified from the identities that have been carved out to contain our unexpressed possibilities and make us fit into coffins.
Is it possible to r-exist
in densely liberal,
In the practice of the Escuela Campesina we believe it is possible, or at least worth trying. In this itinerant and self-organized school, people from different regions, genders, and cultural backgrounds convene to share experiences on agroecology, natural building, traditional medicine, solidarity economies, and popular art and communication. There are three core principles that organize the work: popular education, political positioning and the “magical-transcendental,” understood as a place where people share their relationship to the land and their ways of caring reciprocally so that these ways do not disappear, but rather are named, valued and honored.
From Saint Petersburg to San Jose, from Lecce to Oaxaca, from Nigeria to Greece, in urban streets, milpas, rural areas, museums, cultural centers, refugee centers, cooperatives, schools, and bodies, the texts presented in the Pedagogies, Otherwise section of ArtsEverywhere share practices, tools, and theories to r-exist. They invite us to subvert education and “think-feel” from communities of practice and struggle. To invent new words for new worlds. To perform and create, to cultivate intimacy and deep friendship. To question our subjectivities and good will. To learn and unlearn together from the abundance of experiences and the possibilities of many more possibile imaginaries.
- Achinte, Adolfo Albán. “Pedagogías de la re-existencia: Artistas indígenas y afrocolombianos.” In Pedagogías decoloniales: Prácticas insurgentes de resistir, (re)existir y (re)vivir, edited by Catharine Walsh. Tomo I, 2013.
- Andreotti, Vanessa. “Multi-Layered Selves: Colonialism, Decolonization and Counter-Intuitive Learning Spaces.” ArtsEverywhere.com, 2017.
- de Sousa Santos, Boaventura. Epistemologies of the South: Justice Against Epistemicide. Boulder: Paradigm Publishers, 2014.
- Escobar, Arturo. Sentipensar Con La Tierra: Nuevas Lecturas Sobre Desarrollo, Territorio y Diferencia. (Ediciones Unaula, 2014)
- Rengifo, Grimaldo. Retorno a la naturaleza: Apuntes sobre la cosmovisión amazónica de los Quechua-Lamas. México: El Rebozo, 2015.
- Rivera Cusicanqui, Silvia. Ch’Ixinakax Utxiwa: Una Reflexión Sobre Prácticas y Discursos Descolonizadores. Buenos Aires: Tinta Limón, 2010.
- Stengers, Isabelle. “The Cosmopolitical Proposal.” In Making Things Public: Atmospheres of Democracy, edited by Bruno Latour and Peter Weibel. 2005.
 I borrow the term from the Colombian artist Adolfo Albán Achinte. For him, rexistencia is “the devices and forms—in terms of organization, production, food, ritual and aesthetics—that communities create and unfold to ‘invent life on a daily basis’ with dignity, and therefore ‘permanecer transformándose.’”
 https://danidemilia.com/radical-tenderness/  In this proposal, cosmos “refers to the unknown constituted by these multiple, divergent worlds and to the articulation of which they would eventually be capable” (Stengers, 995).
 This is an incomplete translation of the concept ch’ixi developed by Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui, for whom it is a “talisman word that enables us to go beyond the emblematic identities of ethnopolitics.” It’s a concept that reveals an “active recombination of opposed worlds and contradictory signifiers, that weaves a fabric at the very border of those antagonist poles” (Rivera Cusicanqui, 226). Although Silvia has applied the concept of “ch’ixi” to the Bolivian society, I propose that it is a helpful concept for other kind of ch’ixi worlds, such as mine, in Mexico, or others in the planet.
 Learn more about the practice of Escuela Campesina.
 The milpa is a Mesoamerican agroecological system, typically integrating corn, squash, beans, and chile. It’s also the name of the physical space where people farm. And it’s also a way of life.
Gerardo López Amaro (San Francisco / Mexico) is a PhD candidate currently exploring viable spaces informed by politics of consciousness regarding the healing of land and territory, love & intimacy, and labor & livelihood. His interests center on intercultural translation as a political practice of weaving together an anti-imperial, decolonizing, joyful South, and co-creating alternatives to modernity, development ,and extractivism emerging from the grassroots. He is walking passionately the path of autonomous education with the task of imagining spaces of encounter for thinking-feeling together, as part of a planetary struggle for cognitive and ontological justice.
White like a fox, cunning like a dove. Rearranging, reordering, we feel like we’re in a dream. Looking for the roots of language before it is born on the tip of the tongue, and clearing the space for that waiting, hearing. Between bursts of laughter. Finding resonance.View Full Response
She has no land but she keeps sheep.
There are some people by whom one is so influenced that one never writes about them.
But it is on account of friendship with those of you who are flâneurs, healers, story-tellers, thinkers and witches, whom I haven’t seen for a long time, but who are with me in spirit, those of you who take care of the house of language, whose words I recite and channel here. To you all, and to “Learning Hope and Assembling sKin,” “I am the space of protest,” Multi-layered Selves,” I address a word of greeting.
The un-used, un-consumed body.
She said: If a woman is physically happy…most people don’t think of it as legitimate. Physical hunger should not be dismissed; it is something very basic…We are taught to be ashamed of our bodies from a very young age. She was always known as shameless… one day she will write a story about this – this body has not been used. Enough.
Writing is her real world.
It is where she has lived.
They asked: Who is she?
She said: I don’t have a definitive answer to this question, perhaps because she spent all her life trying to escape the very idea that one can be subject to definitions, or categories that reduce life to a sum of roles and identities.
It was she who warned me against certain kinds of inheritances, those complicities.
She said: “Logorare” or wearing-out the unconscious relationships and cultural norms that keep us tied. Sometimes there is such a thing as translating a word or a phrase… using it only once for an occasion, and then forgetting it forever.
If we’re on the street together, we are not afraid. For her, dancing, cooking together, taking over the streets is inviting us to play with others, exploring our abilities. It feels like an experience of expansion, dignity and joy. To some it may seem eccentric to embrace lots of people on public roads, as if we should leave our emotions and our bodies outside the political. But what magnificent power is unleashed when our bodies vibrate together, when they cease to be the object of violence to be subjects of rebellion.
She said: To see the body as a space of resistance, but also the collective body and its powers.
We are single, singular and together.
She said: Sometimes the line between the system and a revolution is just a river. After all, isn’t the fight between the forces of resistance and the system of domination almost just as old as the Euphrates and the Ganges?
Reading with love, without suspicion. We enter inside, a kind of an enclosed circle from within which we celebrate. There are gatherings on the lawn, on the roof and in the gardens. There is a lot of shade and breeze. Your hands are moving, your fingers and your eyes are moving. And your thoughts register what your body is doing, feeling the dimensions, the spaces, using all sensibilities.
Everything around us is directly connected, like the life that goes around in nature. Every people inhabit the flow of history intertwined with the history of others, and every people contain in its interior the true seed of history that is dissent, so that customs are changed and tradition unfolds in the course of deliberation.
She said: It’s not the sun that rises, but the earth that turns.
Not tradition that constitutes a people, but joint deliberation of conflicts.
Listen to the thousands of dissident bodies who are coming together and talking to each other more and more, putting words to what happens to us, giving us new ways to understand, and from here we build a critical view of the world.
It has a rhythm I am totally familiar with. It feels instinctively to me that the reason they write this way is that it is like a secret. We feel like we’re in a dream, it makes undoing so much more pleasurable. A constant re-asking of the question, what is it to learn? What is it to learn? Is it to learn to talk about certain things coherently?
She said: Don’t throw away beautifully developed tools. Turn them around. Take the trouble. Know the material so well that you can actually turn the machine around to do something for which it was not designed. Know what you’re supplementing, what kind of shape it has, and then you enter the space so well that you find a point that will be useful against its own rules. You inhabit that space. Cluck. Turn it around. Start using it.
White like a fox, cunning like a dove. Rearranging, reordering, we feel like we’re in a dream. Looking for the roots of language before it is born on the tip of the tongue, and clearing the space for that waiting, hearing. Between bursts of laughter. Finding resonance.
Resonance… I really like that word. Something like a relationship, neither available nor unavailable, that can be established between two or more of us who do not necessarily live in the same place or at the same time. A way of seeing your own experience that reflects someone else’s.
She said: To learn is to follow, find a track. To no longer think the same thing that one thought before. To prevent oneself from becoming the same. You are at the heart of the question.
Jesal Kapadia grew up in Mumbai. Her interests lie in an ethical praxis of being-in-common, and the cultivation of an awareness of art that is place-based, diversified, multiple, small-scale, collective and autonomous. Last year she presented with Mattia Pellegrini "Introduction to She has no land but she keeps sheep" at Sensibile Comune, part of Communism17 in Rome.
It’s always great to start with the negative. “Radical Pedagogy is NOT” delves into places that may be uncomfortable because there is much collective learning to still be done and because “learning is painful.” So how might we go deeper into closer dynamics within the collectivities we make?View Full Response
What Might Also Be A Not: Some Informal Notes on "Radical Pedagogy is NOT"
…how to self-organize a radical informal learning space that resists and contests the commodification and the privatization of our everyday (educational) experiences. How do we enliven a different temporality, in the dominant and almost immanent capitalist structure, in our autonomous learning communities, beyond capitalistic relations?
– Alessandra Pomarico & N.O. aka Aliosha Pantalone, “Radical Pedagogy is NOT,” 2017
It’s always great to start with the negative. “Radical Pedagogy is NOT” delves into places that may be uncomfortable because there is much collective learning to still be done and because “learning is painful.” So how might we go deeper into closer dynamics within the collectivities we make?
If we are dealing with difference when we assemble ourselves from known and unknown places, then we are dealing with different pains. When we come to that vast class room, that tense space, we bring our different faces and our masks. In Elena Ferrante’s remarkable book The Story of a New Name, Elena Greco, journeying out of the poverty of her working class upbringing, speaks from the disorientation of attending a wealthy university. For her the joy of passing undetected in this world or of coping by copying, contains an “almost”: “as if I were competing for the prize of the best disguise, the mask worn so well that it was almost a face. Suddenly I was aware of that almost …Behind the almost I seemed to see how things stood. I was afraid.” This outlines the embodied violence of learning in the presence of violence where subterranean oppressions clash – the hegemonic values of bourgeois culture, the erasure of histories through white supremacy, the silencing of women’s intelligence by patriarchal males. Here I speak from a class position. While everyone has their story, they also have their myths. It’s complicated, intersecting always, but also not useful to get stuck in who is the most oppressed or hurt.
In these clashes, growing up working class has taught me how to be polite and how to change my accent, how to choose carefully the words I say. Dodging in and out of the art world and academic world with its certain “map of prestige” (Ferrante) and power, we learn how to pass but mainly to negotiate confidence, slippery values, and act within a received benign landscape. It’s not always clear what people want from you. Oppression is always asymmetrical. The fear is that what rubs off from them to you, is nothing compared to what they want to rub off of you. Are we supposed to give up our own values and learn to move in their wake and fit our own ways of being, knowledges, treasures, trajectories, dislikes and harsh opinions into that wake? Or do we need to provide realness, an exciting biography, an untamed body? Faced with a subliminal passive authority, the mask grips the face.
You’re educated but you don’t talk educated, you’ve sort of come out of your class, you’re in between, you’re trying to be us but you’re not one of us…But you don’t want us to be like you either…You must be mad!
– David Robins and Philip Cohen, Knuckle Sandwich: Growing Up in the Working-class City, 1978
It’s hard to put yourself back to together from the contradictions of being around middle-class good intentions. The above quote is from a teenage girl addressing a politicised youth worker. Its brilliance lies in her profound lived understanding of the class relations present when middle class people do “engaged” work. Such double-helix conclusions might be applicable to the kind of “pedagogy NOT” structures that we are reviewing. I don’t want to be you and you don’t want to be me, and yet things are still unequal!
In the last few years, there has been a strong pedagogical challenge to the notion of “participant” and “ally,” and these pointed criticisms come from below. There is a challenge for those who seek to break hierarchies and break privileges by becoming partisans (not participants!) and to become accomplices (not allies!) and to truly give something up. By this we mean economically and culturally, although these processes are linked. There is much to be realised in these new and profound roles. There are others, such as the dirigente (someone who conducts or “puts together” as a practice of leadership) or the creation of an andante politics where the temporality of collective organising is at “a walking pace sustainable over the long haul.” How do we walk together?
I have had my hand somewhat forcibly held and taken to a new horizon, that a participant or ally wants to show me. This has often seemed more like an abyss than a sunrise. If we step into that abyss, and in times where we can talk and practice failure in our encounters, the question remains: who fails harder? If we take the risk that we can practice in convivial moments, who does the risk fall more heavily upon? Will you be there on the other side or will you be somewhere else, somewhere else exotic?
Any struggle to get out of it, to get out of the “almost,” is tough. Where is beyond that double face, that mask that can truly lock down? Can I decide where I don’t belong? Ferrante’s protagonist Elena Greco describes the paradox of passing and the claustrophobia of reaching through to a horizon that may not be her own, because she did not want to slot into “…a universe that was too protected and thus too predictable.” This also rings true. In the class room, looking up at the class ceiling, I still want to have my feet be mine on the class floor.
If there is a debt of understanding to be paid as an accomplice then it may have to be paid beyond—and endure after—the temporary togetherness. The practices we inherit, invent, mutate, and hopefully project into the future then have to be put into practice where we live, or where we want to work, and not just in the temporary encounter. That is solidarity, without qualification.
Much love to those expanding and strengthening our understanding of these double negatives. LOVE / NOT LOVE.
 Ultra-red, “State Listening: The Politics of a Critique of Participation” (Forthcoming).
 Ultra-red, “Andante Poltics: Popular Education in the Organizing of Unión de Vecinos,” Journal of Aesthetics and Protest, Iss. 8 (Winter 2011/12).
Chris Jones tries to stand with his feet on the floor of learning through membership of the political sound art collective Ultra-red and by being a part of the radical social centre and archive 56a Infoshop in South London. Jones is a writer and researcher within the Southwark Notes anti-gentrification website and active research group.
Kelly Teamey & Udi Mandel
As we have found in many places of learning we have visited around the world, to re-imagine higher education invariably involves a different kind of relationship between learners, co-learners, and their contexts. Re-learning to be together and the meaning of togetherness, where openness, trust, and care form a foundation and a basis from which to practice inquiry-in-solidarity. In doing so, we are engaging with a politics of care and attempting to reweave relational fabrics that have been rendered too fragile through so many institutions of modernity, including educational institutions.View Full Response
Kelly Teamey & Udi Mandel
Engaging with the words, the visions, the practices, the imaginaries from many of our friends writing in this Pedagogy, Otherwise series is to become present, to awaken from any torpor (as described by Vanessa Andreotti) in which day-to-day life in our current world can rather easily entrap us.
Reading these pieces, we are once again in the presence of those—close and far—with whom we have been in a circle, being challenged and provoked, but also cared for and enlivened. We experience a re-connection with many we feel have been with us on a continual and emergent conversation, through an extended walk, over a new and unfolding landscape. Sometimes we walk separately, exploring side-paths or clearing new ones through the bushes and trees. At other times, we re-appear to walk together again and tell stories of what we found.
The conversation with these friends started some years back and led up to two gatherings of what we have named Ecoversities (Tamera, Portugal, 2015) and EARTH University (Costa Rica, 2017). Each of these Ecoversities gatherings brought together 50+ kindred folks from around the world, individuals working or creating in places of higher education who are re-imagining what it means to learn through hopeful and creative experimentations in this age of manifold and urgent crises. Such places can be seen as part of a broader knowledge movement, an emerging alliance of people and communities reclaiming their local knowledge systems and imaginations to restore and re-envision learning processes that are meaningful and relevant to the call of our times.
We had visited many of these Ecoversities as part of our Enlivened Learning, a project that began after walking out of academic jobs in 2012, and that, at its center, intended to explore and support the unfolding insurrection connected to the transformation of education systems. As the pieces in this series so eloquently describe, places within this growing knowledge movement overlap in not only critiquing our broken education systems but also in cultivating new stories, practices, possibilities, and emergences that reconnect and regenerate local ecological and cultural ecosystems. (Hence the name Ecoversities.)
One strong commitment we had as co-hosts of the Ecoversities Gatherings was that we would be open to the emergent. That we would try to experiment and model other ways of being together and sharing our stories and learnings, to purposefully re-imagine ourselves as a learning collective, to co-create a fragile and temporary learning space. We considered the emergent—or unknown—as that of a wise, hospitable, vulnerable, and non-ego-centric process that would unfold if nurtured and given space. The process of merging such a diversity of cosmological and epistemological orientations and commitments has been incredibly difficult, and, yet also incredibly powerful and transformative. Through our six days together, in each of the Ecoversities gatherings, we had many opportunities to get to know one another’s work, day-to-day lives, the difficult questions and challenges we face, as well as our individual and collective hopes and dreams.
In this re-imagined way of learning there is also an emphasis on the reweaving of relationships and friendships, between each other and with the non-human, including our local ecologies. There is the primacy of an ethics and politics of care and an attention to that which is so often left out of educational institutions: the heart—healing, playing, and learning with and across different generations. There is also emphasis on learning how to be together, supportively—to learn and inquire in solidarity with one another and in support of communities and the ecologies we inhabit. And in this re-imagination of learning we are co-creating—and re-creating—other ways of knowing, doing, undoing, becoming, and relating.
Through this process there is also an intense vulnerability, which has become one of the deepest learnings, leaving space to an awareness of a seemingly contradictory sensibility. We are calling this sensibility a kind of vulnerable confidence. How uncomfortable it is to remain with a group of people in a space that is seemingly empty! How fragile it is to nurture that and keep egos and projects and desires and voices from drowning out what is waiting to come to life!
Our experiences with Buddhist philosophy and practice in different contexts, refers to emptiness as the pregnant void. As something, or the absence of things, that is filled with life and possibility. But how to practice this at a collective rather than an individual level is an immense challenge! As never before, we feel very strongly the sense of confidence that it is through such a space that the pregnant void can weave its magic and other knowledges, practices, and relationships come into being.
Alongside this fragile and vulnerable confidence that we are each embracing, and also repelling to varying extents, we have also been experimenting with practices of inquiry-in-solidarity together. Understandings and practices of our inquiry-in-solidarity is also very much emerging. We feel it encapsulates both the sense of healing, of unlearning, and of being open to learning from the other, of weaving social relations and also being reflexive about the ego, our own drives, programs, desires, and our own contexts. A quieting of all of this in relation to the projects, the struggles, the wishes of the other, and of an emerging collective, a greater “we.”
The impacts of our being together at the Ecoversities meetings are, for many of us, still being felt as new questions and provocations, as changed sensibilities and practices, as reinvigorated confidence, and perhaps most importantly as new friendships. Many of us who were at the meetings have deepened our friendships and conversations since we met, visiting each other, getting to know more of each other’s work and life, exploring collective projects and inquiries. As a loose alliance or community, we have also continued our conversations through regular virtual conversations, furthering our explorations of questions we have in common. This way we continue to share tools, skills, and experiences; co-create joint projects and inquiries; and continue to collectively re-imagine what another form of higher education could look like.
As we have found in many places of learning we have visited around the world, to re-imagine higher education invariably involves a different kind of relationship between learners, co-learners, and their contexts. Re-learning to be together and the meaning of togetherness, where openness, trust, and care form a foundation and a basis from which to practice inquiry-in-solidarity. In doing so, we are engaging with a politics of care and attempting to reweave relational fabrics that have been rendered too fragile through so many institutions of modernity, including educational institutions. As we become more confident in our vulnerability (or more vulnerable in our confidence) the hope is that such weavings are stretched out across multiple localities around the world.
Kelly Teamey is a film-maker, writer, educator and mother, balancing part-time work as an instructor in education and sustainable development at the SIT Graduate Institute in Brattleboro, Vermont and as co-founder of the Enlivened Learning non-profit organization. Enlivened Learning arises from a project started in 2012 where Kelly and her partner, Udi Mandel, travelled on a year-long round-the-world journey to visit with, learn from and document various places of higher education emerging from indigenous communities and social/ecological movements that are completely re-imagining what a university can be. Enlivened Learning aims to act as a bridge between these various ‘knowledge movements’ by co-organizing gatherings through the Ecoversities Alliance, releasing films and other publications to support greater visibility of these inspiring places of higher education and by working with communities more generally to support transformative learning possibilities.
Udi Mandel is a film-maker, writer, educator and father and Faculty in Sustainable Development at the SIT Graduate Institute in Brattleboro, Vermont. Udi’s work focuses on regenerative practices for ecologies and communities and the role and possibility of higher education to offer hopeful futures. To this end Udi has co-founded with his partner Kelly Teamey and others the Enlivened Learning project and the Ecoversities Alliance. These projects provide a critique of current higher education systems and a collaboration with alternatives that are emerging from social and ecological movements and indigenous communities across the globe offering innovative practices around sustainable development and regeneration.
At Swaraj University, we try to support a radical pedagogy of slowing down, scaling down and unplugging in the spirit of a pause. These notions appear to be ridiculous paradoxes in the modern world which stresses urgency, speed, scaling up, and non-stop technological communication. We have found pedagogies of techno-fasting and collective silence to be powerful tools for a deep kind of unraveling and opening ourselves to new explorations as they help us reclaim different notions of time and place.View Full Response
Radical Pedagogies as Living Experiments and Messy Affairs
I am just returning from the Indian Multiversities Alliance gathering, recently held in Nagpur, India, co-created by over 30 radical higher education projects from around the country. Every year, more than 5,000 autonomous learners attend programs hosted by the Multiversities across India, which seek to de-center, pluralize, regenerate, and connect diverse learning processes, types of knowledge, wisdom, meanings of love, power, and economies outside the realm of official universities and the global economy. They are involved in many spheres such as sustainable living, social justice, compassion, dance and music, healing, community media, spirituality, activism, etc.
As I sit to write this note, I still reflect on one of themes that emerged as a common concern in the gathering, which was about the recovering and expanding of the Self from modernity. In many different ways, this is an exploration carried out through the Multiversities: healing from past trauma; decolonizing our perceptions of Self, including notions of body, senses, purpose and spirit; remembering our vernacular knowledge systems; re-rooting to a sense of “home,” reclaiming love, trust, and compassion, re-imagining larger political-economic systems.
How can we delve deeply into the Self without being captured by the narcissism of the Selfie culture which surrounds us all? The notion of swaraj (rule over the self or harmony of the self), posited by M.K. Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore during the Indian freedom struggle, helped to guide our enquiry into the notion of Self—one that is simultaneously unique and inter-connected, local and transcendent, time-bound and timeless, being and not-being, holistic and dynamically evolving. Many of the questions on “decolonization and entanglement” referred to by Vanessa Andreotti in her text “Multilayered Selves” also showed up in our enquiry. During this process, I could see that we were struggling with the messiness of our own “undoing,” an idea Vanessa writes so eloquently about.
In her piece “In the Cracks of Learning,” Alessandra Pomarico discusses the need to move from “safe spaces” to “brave spaces,” a question I very much resonated with.
Through our project, Swaraj University in Udaipur, Rajasthan, we have intentionally invited in conflict and chaos, seeing them as gifts that can open up new explorations within us as they tend to surface our deeper fears, dilemmas, and shadows. It is often challenging because our institutional conditioning is usually towards blaming, avoiding or running away from these potent learning opportunities.
Our experiences of community living as a core radical pedagogy, align deeply to what Alessandra discusses in her text. The recovery of everyday acts of cooking or cleaning together become important processes for triggering both disruption and deeper healing and connection. At the same time, we feel it is important to challenge the false divide between “intellectual activities” and “physical labor.” We also have tried to expand our notions of community beyond just other humans to include our neighbors in nature. We ask the khojis (seekers) to empathize (even speak to) and reflect on how our neighbours in nature such as the trees, the birds, the snakes, the butterflies, and the mountains would view a particular issue or incident.
I also resonate with Manolo Callahan’s text “Insurgent Learning and Convivial Research,” where he emphasizes the need for engaging everyday realities, reclaiming public spaces and the use of a wider variety of cultural and social resources and tools, as we re-imagine pedagogy.
There is no need for a single campus, particularly one that looks like a golf-course, factory, or corporate office. It is a powerful rejoinder against the “deficit” frameworks of development and modernity which keep teaching us in India (and the global South) that we are “poor,” “uneducated,” and “backwards,” and instruct us to look down upon our own “informal” or “local” social spaces and tools, with an elitist arrogance and disdain.
In Swaraj University we invite the khojis to play a game, a “treasure hunt,” whereby they try to “re-discover” many people, places, and processes for learning and unlearning in their own local areas such as potters, farmers, artists, musicians, chefs, etc. They quickly discover that they are living among a “rich” web of learning resources and don’t need to travel to faraway Western countries or big metropolitan cities to learn. In this way, they start to shift out of the artificial scarcity paradigm that has been induced by modern education.
When we seek to invite in and engage different cosmologies and worldviews, we face a deeper challenge: how to host and sustain inter-cultural and inter-species dialogues in meaningful ways, where we are neither over-romanticizing or over-dominating the “Other.” This is a constant struggle, since the violence of modernity runs deep within us. Letting go of the rational, linear, anthropocentric, fear-based, and anxious mind (and the tools that shape it) is a major challenge and an important step. Are we really willing to let our bodies, our intuitions, our friendships, our spirits, the non-human animals and the other species guide us? Are we really willing to walk into the co-creation of utopias without a map or a master-plan? Are we really willing to give up the power—in the form of degrees, money, identity—that has been bestowed upon us by institutions?
At Swaraj University, we offer a radical pedagogy called cycle yatra (outer and inner pilgrimage), in which we invite khojis for a one week cycling trip without any money, without any food or medicines, without any technologies, and without any plan about where to go or with whom to stay.
This is an attempt to strip away many of the symbols of modern institutional power in order to enter more humbly into and experience another worldview of local villages, as much as possible, on their terms. One powerful dimension of this involves exploring life from the perspective of gift culture rather than from capitalism, hyper-consumption and transaction-based relationships. Khojis of the cycle yatra are invited to experience what it feels to co-create a powerful field of trust with each other, and with the communities and ecologies they encounter as they travel.
My own journey in the search for radical pedagogies leads me to agree with Andreotti’s call for “epistemic reflexivity”—to induce and dance with disenchantment, hopelessness, disgust, and disillusionment of our modern systems. I have found that this practice can help us free our imaginations from always trying to reform or resort to problem solving within the existing frameworks of the dominant education system. Being fully present and courageous in this space can take us into to exploring other worlds of power and possibility.
At Swaraj University, we try to support a radical pedagogy of slowing down, scaling down and unplugging in the spirit of a pause. These notions appear to be ridiculous paradoxes in the modern world which stresses urgency, speed, scaling up, and non-stop technological communication. We have found pedagogies of techno-fasting and collective silence to be powerful tools for a deep kind of unraveling and opening ourselves to new explorations as they help us reclaim different notions of time and place.
In conclusion, I am quite inspired and challenged by this collection of essays. They provide several very meaningful mirrors to examine and deepen our efforts. Radical pedagogies and radical learning spaces are living experiments and therefore messy affairs and always a work-in-progress. As we continually experiment and reflect on ourselves-in-them, we are slowly learning to better hold our contradictions and failures with love, joy, forgiveness and care, and trying not to get overwhelmed by the intellectual purities that exist in the world of text and theorization. It is important to keep reminding our selves of the need for both fierce patience and wild gentleness in the border-crossing, collaborative journeys that unfold ahead.
 Swaraj University is a self-designed learning program. There are no degrees, no exams, no textbooks, no classrooms, no competition, no imposed teachers, no fees. Khojis (seekers) from ages 17-28 come together from all over India for a two-year initiation.
Manish Jain is deeply committed to regenerating our diverse knowledge systems and cultural imaginations. He has served for the past 19 years as Coordinator and Co-Founder of Shikshantar: The Peoples' Institute for Rethinking Education and Development based in Udaipur, India and is co-founder of the Swaraj University, Creativity Adda, Learning Societies Unconference, Walkouts-Walkon network, Udaipur as a Learning City, and Families Learning Together network in India. He recently helped to launch the Indian Multiversities Network and the Giftival Network. He and his wife Vidhi have been unschooling themselves with their 16 year old daughter, Kanku, in Udaipur, Rajasthan. Manish is passionate about urban organic farming, filmmaking, simulation gaming, bicycling, group facilitation, clowning and slow food cooking.
Learning against-beyond hegemony, to me, feels like falling in love. I know it’s happening when my heart beats faster and something in my centre overturns. Making connections, dissolving separations, is learning. So, too, is tending the wounds created when the skin holding one body (of atoms and histories and soul; of knowledge) stretches and tears in order to receive and be refigured by another. So, too, is refiguring reality when we reassemble bodies and lives into no-longer-that and more-than-this and what-might-become. Learning is kinship and promise, and life and death.View Full Response
Learning Hope and Assembling sKin
This is a response to eight works in Pedagogy, Otherwise, which I feel connected to through friendships and encounters in two transnational collectives of radical learners and educators – the Ecoversities Network and Gesturing towards Decolonial Futures. The pieces are: Insurgent Learning and Convivial Research: Universidad de la Tierra, Califas – In the Cracks of Learning (Situating Us) – Introduction to Pedagogy, Otherwise – Learning to Learn in a Context of War – Multi-layered Selves: Colonialism, Decolonization and Counter-Intuitive Learning Spaces – The Radical Education Workbook – Radical Pedagogy is NOT – Torpor and Awakening. I write this piece from a small English city on the eve of the third week of a national strike by university workers to refuse the further marketization of our labour. Tomorrow I will party on the picket line with a friend whose work about resisting the “datafication of teaching” was read last week by the Radical Education Forum, which co-authored the Radical Education Workbook published in 2010 upon the last major student demonstrations, and is engaged here.
Learning against-beyond hegemony, to me, feels like falling in love. I know it’s happening when my heart beats faster and something in my centre overturns. Making connections, dissolving separations, is learning. So, too, is tending the wounds created when the skin holding one body (of atoms and histories and soul; of knowledge) stretches and tears in order to receive and be refigured by another. So, too, is refiguring reality when we reassemble bodies and lives into no-longer-that and more-than-this and what-might-become. Learning is kinship and promise, and life and death.
I was tired when I started writing this. I didn’t expect to re-cognize connections and wounds that would make my heart race or stomach flip or skin soften. Nor to catch a glimpse of the future real on my horizon of hope, which also contains the shadows of my complicity as a salaried academic working in a neo-imperialist English education system, where learning is valued to the extent that it reflects, affirms and consolidates the Patrix, the Fourth World War, our capitalist Thanatos. Being nanogoverned to embody the logics that fuel this ecological, social and epistemic crisis, and shackled to existentially impoverished institutions through wage slavery, debt and the destruction of community learning, makes it possible to bury the possible. The political construction of hopelessness – including desires to educate to obey, to educate to domesticate, to educate to allow exploitation – is an education in learning how to dis-member ourselves and each other; learning to mock and devalue the dream.
This is why learning hope and re-membering vital connections of possibility are such important parts of today’s movements to end reality as we know it, and to host the emergence of worlds that are “more adequate for us, without degrading suffering, anxiety, self-alienation, nothingness.” Hence the global wave of interstitial recognition that the pedagogical must be politicised and the political must be made pedagogical. Pedagogy, Otherwise explores how this is happening, what difference it is making, in diverse contexts across the global North and South where individuals and communities are learning to resist colonial-capitalist-patriarchal domination through self-organizing their own “counter-intuitive” learning spaces. Place-times in which we can unlearn, through projects of undoing great and small, the commonsense of patriarchal capitalist modernity – its parameters of possibility for loving, caring, imagining, organising everyday life, knowing one another, being in the world, and co-creating common new realities.
Many of these antihegemonic times and spaces are “Temporary Autonomous Learning Zones” and “Temporary Autonomous Zones of Knowledge Production.” They are born, organised, destroyed (sometimes by conflicts and silences within) and overtaken in the cracks and margins of the system. This is often understood as one of their strengths. In situations where aggressive forces of domination have colonized or eviscerated vital relationships, common resources, public space, knowledges and the senses; where society itself appears as a “total factory institution”, every collective act of delinking from dominant narratives and framings of reality matters. Every opportunity to witness and practice reciprocity and respect in the most difficult of pedagogical encounters, to get it wrong and dare to trust others to try and make new mistakes again, matters. Every embrace of radical tenderness as we face our own colonial, heteropatriarchal and capitalist monsters matters. Each moment we experience non-exploitative, non-expropriating, non-extractivist, heart-pounding, stomach-turning learning matters. Every time we enable one more atom, idea, muscle, word, deed to be “uncoercively rearranged” such that new horizons of possibility may be revealed – perhaps at once, but often through a cumulative process that we do not yet have the tools to comprehend – matters.
These temporal transformations matter. I do not mean that they matter temporarily, as a foot-in-the-door-until-the-real-revolutions-come. Or that their sole significance is that they may help us to “prefigure” alternative realities. I mean that “utopian gestures” in here and now radical learning space-times have material force as resources of hope and potentialities that play a durable and generative role in the formation of body and soul. They are also the threads that weave together place-based learning communities of resistance to create transnational communities of hope, and that are being used to suture fragile and emergent revolutionary alliances. This is important everywhere, including in the global North where our broken political imagination may, as Boaventura de Sousa Santos contends, render us unable to learn in noncolonial terms that “allow for the existence of histories other than the ‘universal’ history of the West.” It is only through shedding dying skin and assembling new kin in the radical learning community, represented by the pieces of work referenced here, that I have become able to accept the challenge of understanding my part, as an educator, in the struggle for an other world here. I will pull these threads of transformation as I walk into our action tomorrow, asking, painting, sharing experiences of Pedagogy, Otherwise with a “new generation of activists entering into struggles for a non-coercive, anti-authoritarian and anti-capitalist education.” My favourite new memories will be the ones where we feel we are not “beginning from scratch” but are part of a movement that is “collapsing the system from its very foundations” and learning hope in its ruins. It will be temporary and it will matter. To answer Alessandra’s question, “How can we fall in love again?” I might say: like this.
 Kelly Teamey and Udi Mandel, “Are eco-versities the future for higher education?” (2016) OpenDemocracy,
 Radical Education Forum blog, 26 February 2018, http://radicaleducationforum.tumblr.com/post/170939254054/monday-26th-february-beyond-the-exam.
 The “Patrix” is Andrew Langford’s term for a system of domination that “artificially separates individuals and groups from the other in order to weaken them against an oppressor and set them against each other creating conflicts that divert their attraction from the larger aggression. Divide and rule is a deliberate application of this effect.” See Gaia University’s podcast, “Politics and the Patrix” (2017): https://www.mixcloud.com/gaiauniversity/politics-and-the-patrix/, and Alessandra Pomarico, “In the cracks of learning (situating us)” (2016): http://artseverywhere.ca/2016/12/14/cracks-learning-situating-us/, in Pedagogy, Otherwise.
 Edgardo Garcia, “Learning to learn in a context of war” (2017): http://artseverywhere.ca/2017/02/10/learning-to-learn-in-a-context-of-war/, in Pedagogy Otherwise.
 “Existential poverty”, according to Vanessa Andreotti, is “a denial of relationship (Donald 2012), a denial of entanglement, a denial that our lives (both human and non-human) are all inter-woven. This denial leads to torpor and to the fear of awakening. Existential poverty also leads to material poverty because by trying to protect ourselves from each other, we start to accumulate stuff as walls between ourselves. We think that ‘stuff’ is going to give us the affirmation of individuality and security that we believe we are entitled to.” From “Torpor and awakening” (2016): http://artseverywhere.ca/2016/06/21/torpor-and-awakening/, in Pedagogy Otherwise; citing D. Donald, Forts, Colonial Frontier Logics, and Aboriginal-Canadian Relations: Imagining Decolonizing Educational Philosophies in Canadian Contexts. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers, 2012.
 Garcia, “Learning to learn in a context of war”.
 Ernst Bloch, The Principle of Hope, Cambridge: MIT Press, 1995.
 Sara C. Motta, “Politicizing the pedagogical and politicizing pedagogy” in S. C. Motta and M. Cole, Constructing 21st Century Socialism: The Role of Radical Education, London: Palgrave Macmillan.
 Vanessa Andreotti, “Multi-layered selves: colonialism, decolonization and counter-intuitive learning spaces” (2016) http://artseverywhere.ca/2016/10/12/multi-layered-selves/, in Pedagogy, Otherwise.
 Pomarico, “In the cracks of learning (situating us)”.
 Manolo Callahan, “Insurgent learning and convivial research: Uniiversidad de la Tierra, Califas” (2016) http://artseverywhere.ca/2017/01/26/insurgent-learning-convivial-research-universidad-de-la-tierra-califas/, in Pedagogy, Otherwise.
 The concept of “total factory institution” brings together what Erving Goffman and Michel Foucault called, in somewhat different ways, “total institutions” with the notion of the “social factory” developed from Mario Tronti’s work. See Alessandra Pomarico, “Introduction to Pedagogy, Otherwise” (2016), http://artseverywhere.ca/inquiry/pedagogy-otherwise/ and “Feminism and social reproduction: an interview with Silvia Federici” (2016) http://salvage.zone/online-exclusive/feminism-and-social-reproduction-an-interview-with-silvia-federici/.
 Alessandra Pomarico and N. O. aka Aliosha Pantalone, “Radical pedagogy is NOT” (2017), http://artseverywhere.ca/2017/03/22/radical-pedagogy-is-not/, in Pedagogy, Otherwise.
 Anna Hickey-Moody and Tara Page, “Making, matter and pedagogy” in Arts, Pedagogy and Cultural Resistance: New Materialisms, New York: Rowman and Littlefield.
 Boaventura de Sousa Santos, “Epistemologies of the South and the future” in From the European South 1, accessed at https://www.academia.edu/35018801/Epistemologies_of_the_South_and_the_future.
 Radical Education Forum and Ultra-red, Introduction to The Radical Education Workbook (2010), http://artseverywhere.ca/2017/11/20/radical-education-workbook-part-1/, in Pedagogy, Otherwise.
 Garcia, “Learning to learn in a context of war”.
Sarah Amsler is Associate Professor in Education, Faculty of Social Sciences, at the Nottingham University, England. Sarah's research focuses on the politics of knowledge and education at multiple levels: theoretically, and in local practice, institutional formations and national and global relations. It is located at the intersections of educational studies, sociology and critical theory - with an overarching interest in how different kinds of knowledge, learning and educational organisation shape social subjectivities and relations, and how they diminish or expand people's capacity to organise social life in autonomous, creative, dignified and radically democratic ways.