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Curriculum, Violence & Safety Crispin Hemson Director, International Centre of Nonviolence, DUT Honorary, senior lecturer, UKZN
Focus and rationale • South Africa still a remarkably violent society in African and international terms • Unusually high rates of homicide (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 2011) and very high levels of domestic violence (Vetten, 2005) • Particular sources of violence include processes of colonisation, labour migrancy, political suppression, inter-generational patterns of violence • When violence affects education, disruption, damage to conditions for teaching and learning • How then do universities create the conditions for effective teaching and learning? • How do universities strengthen the capacity of students (especially in education) to end violence in the broader society?
Violence • “The intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment, or deprivation.“World report on violence and health • Violence is here understand as systemic; its use is consistent with the notion of ‘structural violence’ (Galtung, 1996) • Physical violence, even implicit, is caught up in relations of power and subordination (Waterston & Kujac, 2007) or with the notion of ‘social suffering’ (Kleinman, 2000) • Working with narratives of violence makes it clear how the concept of violence needs to make connections between ‘cultural violence’, social and economic structure, physical violence
Violence and universities • Ministerial Committee on transformation and social cohesion and the elimination of discrimination in public higher education institutions (Department of Education, 2008) • Various forms of discrimination on university campuses • Related to violence of different kinds • Collins (2011): research project on violence at UKZN • Intimate partner violence, sexual harassment • Student violence in strikes: ‘It’s the only language they understand’ • Relate these to the wider issues of cultural violence
Theoretical framework • Valerie Walkerdine (2005, 2010) on border crossing • Subjects are expected to make transitions smoothly, but are always constrained by the burden of emotions and practices of the past • Sensory experience (not just language) holds us to contexts of the past • Transitions (such as career changes, leaving and entering institutions) are fraught with pain and grief (Hey, 2006) because they require the leaving behind of memories, of connections, of embodied responses • Emancipatory limits and possibilities – can we mourn for the past?
Relevant to institutional transitions: what people (students, staff) leave behind when they enter university, what they bring • Relevant also to social transitions: how do institutions preserve the echoes of the past? How does a society leave racist practices behind? How does a society with long histories of violence recreate itself as a nonviolent society? • Issue of safety: what we sense as places of safety in our lives were also places of violence (family, church, school) • Walkerdine: education needs to create conditions of safety in which subjects can make transitions
The study • Research questions: • How did the teaching of a course on diversity and violence enable participants to make transitions towards non-violence? • What are the implications for teaching on issues of violence and nonviolence in higher education? • Qualitative case study • Researcher is within the case, and participating in the events • Access skewed by gender • Data from newsprint record of class discussion, transcripts of discussion
Context • Class for adult educators, Certificate level • Typically, diverse occupational backgrounds: university, trade union, church, NGO • Course focus is on issues of justice, diversity, violence and nonviolence • 2009 course largely women, group of Muslim women • 2011 course all African, strongly isiZulu-speaking; age range 23 to 50, 22 students, even gender split • Both courses co-taught by same staff: white middle-class man, African woman from working class background
Ethical issues • Research names UKZN as the site of the research • Important to build up a body of research around specific institutions – requires identification • Necessary to distinguish institutional access from ethical issues of personal anonymity • Signed consent forms, anonymity • Prolonged negotiation of guidelines at outset, including on issues of visual representation
Account of course • First part of course focused primarily on violence, second part more on social identities and relationship to violence and oppression • Seven day-long workshops • Early negotiation of guidelines • Pedagogical framework Freirian, participatory • Following experience of gender confrontation in workshop with school students (December 2010), decision to address experiential work in separate gender groups • Structure enabled extensive use of isiZulu in class
Caucus work on experience of violence • The focus here is less on the actual experiences of violence than on the process • However, it is important to note three points about the experiences of violence • 1 Within the group of men (and it was reported also from the group of women) there was ample experience of very high levels of violence, ranging from racism, domestic violence, political violence (e.g. student’s entire family were killed) • 2 The forms and extent of violence reported often related to the social identities of the speakers • 3 Anger visited upon children
Development within men’s caucus • Growing openness about acknowledging vulnerability • Shift towards expression of emotion • Anger at fathers, challenge to the fathers in the group • Shift towards acknowledgement of our roles not just as victims but also as perpetrators • Sense of mutual support, recognition • Democratic sense: we are all in this together • Similar processes within women’s caucus • Understood as a process of mourning for what was lost?
Response to working separately • Sense of relief in both caucuses, linked to anxiety at consequences of speaking directly across gender:What was it like to work in separate gender groups? • Thabisa: It was effective; we were open to each other. It gave an opportunity to discuss the issues without problems. • Musa: We focused on the common things that were happening to men. It was easier. • Woman: There was no debate, because there was only one gender. • Woman: I had a fear when we started, but when the others spoke I became more confident. • Was it less secure when we were together? • Sibonelo: Yes, when a woman spoke about men, there was a violence in it. Someone was going to be beaten, some people see it as an offence when you spoke the truth. • What do you mean by violence? • Sibonelo: Each one will blame a man or a woman depending on who they are.
Violence and social identities • Relationship of gender to violence a particularly complex area: how do we acknowledge both the power relationships between men and women and the degree of violence against people of both genders? • Robustness of challenge by women after the gender caucuses • Educational process needs both to acknowledge ‘same life experiences’ related to social identity and to acknowledge that we don’t know (including from social identity) the specifics of experience of violence
Analysis of violence and social identities • Students very quick to identify groups particularly targeted by violence, on basis of class, race, sexual orientation, etc • Cheerful acknowledgement over seeing oneself as a member of groups targeted • My mystification over Christians as targeted through violence
Students and nonviolence • Accounts of experiences of acting against oppression • Confrontation as nonviolence • Very little ‘teaching’ of nonviolence
Strengths and limitations • Strengths lie in the acknowledgement of experience, connection between experience and theory, recognition of complexity • Teachers: valuable to have access to different social identities, limitations of language • Need for teacher to have strong historical knowledge, and to shift from facilitating to theorising and back – students develop questions over where the violence comes from • Transitions to written work very varied; some gems, some very weak • Reading, plagiarism remain as areas of challenge • Such a course cannot resolve everything
Conclusions on research questions • How did the teaching of a course on diversity and violence enable participants to make transitions towards non-violence? • Gradually emerging sense of a value on non-violence, greater clarity on what it entailed • Sense of shared struggle, commonality not so much of experience as of mutual recognition
What are the implications for teaching on issues of violence and nonviolence in higher education? • Critical is the need to recognise where people have come from • ‘People’ means all people in the system • How do educational processes enable such recognition, across all disciplines? • Some of this work requires relatively small groups • Recognition of role of social identities without essentialism
Discussion • Neoliberalism an extreme form of ignoring where we have come from • Walkerdine: the unsaid things about coming into the middle class • What does entering university (as student, as staff) require that we cut ourselves off from? • What changes would enable a greater sense of being an African university? • However harsh the experience, recognition of where we come from provides a strength, allows for different forms of knowledge to enter the university