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Friday Ephemera

Slacking for Social Justice

It’s the latest thing, according to Riyad A Shahjahan, an assistant professor at Michigan State University, and whose areas of expertise include “social justice theory” and “pedagogies of dissent.”

In recent years, scholars have critiqued norms of neoliberal higher education by calling for embodied and anti-oppressive teaching and learning. Implicit in these accounts, but lacking elaboration, is a concern with reformulating the notion of ‘time’ and temporalities of academic life. Employing a coloniality perspective, this article argues that in order to reconnect our minds to our bodies and centre embodied pedagogy in the classroom, we should disrupt Eurocentric notions of time that colonise our academic lives. I show how this entails slowing down and ‘being lazy’.

Yes, comrades. We must “disrupt Eurocentric notions of time.” And temporalities, obviously. Postcolonial theorising is the only way to challenge the “neoliberal higher education climate” – hold that thought - and those “colonial binaries such as superior/inferior.” We must “dislodge higher education from neoliberal personhood.” As the exact nature of Dr Shahjahan’s problem has been buried under rhetorical rubble, I’ll translate as best I can. You see, being expected to keep up with the pace of lessons and deliver course work on time can induce feelings of discomfort and inferiority in those less able and conscientious, thereby resulting in “exclusionary effects,” which, it turns out, are oppressive and unjust:

These internalised temporalities may have especially exclusionary effects on bodies and selves. For example, Brandt (2008) found that the hurried pace of homework, exams and research associated with molecular biology laboratory class conflicted with a Navajo student’s sense of time. Thus, Navajo students internalised a sense of ‘being less than’ and felt guilty.

However, armed with our postcolonial theorising and postmodern bafflegab, and by stressing the mystical exoticness of people with browner skin, we shall set the people free from the “dominant culture of disembodiment” and the “temporal colonisation of our bodies” – i.e., expectations of punctuality, attentiveness and general competence:  

To undo this colonisation of our bodies, we should strive to ‘embody’ ourselves: inhabit our bodies fully, acknowledge the interconnection between mind, body, spirit, and contest the insertion of the body into the market.

Yes, we must contest the insertion.

To re-embody the body in the learning environment, we need to slow down, be mindful, and embrace present moments… How can we embody ‘laziness’ in the classroom?  

Well, according to our expert in education, “we” should work more slowly and distractedly - say, by pondering the “parts of our bodies” that are “rendered invisible.” Like stomachs and knees. And we must embrace “sensorial ways of knowing,” which are, we’re informed, “tactics of resistance,” along with “the burning of medicines, cleansing ceremonies and/or the telling of personal stories.” “Music, dance and artistic expression” are also recommended as classroom diversions. Because the way to “disrupt” stereotypes of dimness and sloth among “indigenous and subaltern individuals” is to behave in ways that suggest dimness, sloth and a serious lack of focus. 

Those of you itching to read the whole thing, preferably in a slow and half-arsed way, can do so for a mere £26. Or just click here

Via Damian Counsell