NOTES on: Gale, K. (2010) ‘An Inquiry In To The Ethical Nature of a Deleuzian Creative Educational Practice’, in Qualitative Inquiry, 16 (5): 303 –08.
[This is really a lyrical nearly ecstatic description of educational practice in the progressive mode. Deleuze is clearly only one source of inspiration for this practice. As with Gale 2007, the idea is to see how particular concepts from various philosophers might illuminate some ethical implications and sensitivities.]
Gale’s own practice is described as ‘the construction of personal subjectivity’ in his research and practice. He is aware of the context of the classroom which provide ‘spatial and temporal reference points’ (303). His practice is collaborative and so relationships with the others and reflecting about relationships is important. He has only recently begun to sense that his self and his work are not constrained by Cartesian duality of minds and bodies, but act as ‘an embodied lived experience’ (304).
The influences on his perceptions are described. There is bell hooks on Freire and the need to live intensely and passionately, and on the pain of not understanding one’s place in the world. There is Maxine Greene on the management of complexity in neoliberalism. There is hooks on Eagleton and how children make the best theorists with their unconventional questions.
Deleuze taught him that the formal institutional territories can be de- and re- territorialized. They can be seen in terms of the becoming of nomads, ‘spaces that are always shifting between the smooth and the striated’ (304). Foucault taught him about the consolidating effect of discursive practices and how they can be challenged by asserting ‘diversity, contradiction, and complexity’ (304). Davies explained that haecceity is central to the notion of smooth space, which escapes over-coded striations and thus escapes the dominant (304).
Ceaselessly wandering involves creating concepts ‘that are always new’ [apparently they must be, because concepts should not be seen as solidified or ready made, ‘fixed and congealed.[but]… part of a continuous process of nomadic inquiry and narrative expression’ (305)]. Defined subjectivities of teacher and student, and manager and researcher become 'troubled' by exploring these spaces. Deleuze and Guattari [in Thousand Plateaus] talk about how intensive traits can break the hegemony of the signifier, and how children can extricate themselves from the teacher’s language [page 15 apparently. Actually, the examnple is Little Hans!]. Intensive spaces like this involve affect, embodiment and performance, and in this way, prevent their own containment and promote learning instead – Pelias and Butler agree [in the case of Butler, the argument is expressed that subjects only emerge from performance].
Deleuze’s notion of the concept as an event reminds us of this interconnected character. Becoming helps us see this emergent subjectivity which Butler talks about. Subjectivity is thus a ‘machinic assemblage’, integrated with teaching and learning, unlike the separation of the cognitive, psycho motor and affective domains in Bloom. The usual divisions are based ultimately on the Cartesian dualism of mind and body, and fail to grasp complexity. Lyotardpromotes tolerance of ambiguity in his incredulity towards metanarratives. His views on the decline of the narrative function are also noted, but the Deleuzian assemblages might open up ‘multiple , changing, and contingent forms of communication that embrace the informative, the affective, the intuitive, and the evaluative and fragile, tenuous and temporarily homologous and corresponding forms of knowing’ (305-6) [incantatory language here -- and below].
Deleuze’s concepts of the fold and becoming refer to the processes of creating concepts which are fluid and open, never fixed, and reflexive. In pedagogical terms, they require intensities in the shape of the performative and the affective to overcome the rigidities of structure, producing a ‘praxis of contextualization’ (306), where ideas are formed and tested against others’ lived experience.
Concept, affect and percept are all required in the logic of sense. This could be the basis of a radical pedagogy forming collaborative construction of the territories of teaching and learning. It could involve constructing ‘traditional forms of knowledge’ together with ‘an emerging sense of personal agency’ (306), to encourage students to make the familiar strange, to open up new spaces for inquiry, smooth ones.
There are also ethical implications. It is necessary to resist neoliberal definitions and concerns such as operating with rigid schemes of work unspecified assessment criteria, evidence based practice. Instead it is necessary to operate ‘between the agonistic and the voluptuous’, between public meanings and individual values, interpretations and feelings, to open new areas of undecidablity in order to encourage learning ( 306). Abandoningthe binary distinctions between teachers and learners, experts and novices is risky and opens participants to vulnerabilities. The Deleuzian notion of creative evolution should involve participants in recognising that concepts are not fixed, that teaching and learning is complex and transgressive, innovative and multiple, and this is clearly destabilising as far as conventional systems are concerned.
Teachers have to ask themselves what they actually do, and how they will actually teach. Freire and the pedagogy of the oppressed is a guide here, with his culture circles and critical thinking. Other heroes use collective biography, and narratives, or storytelling, moving towards openness and new possibilities (307), or advocate the performative such as Pelias. Apparently, his practice involves paying attention to bodies, thinking of the body as a source of new practices, and constantly asking the question “What work does it do?” (307). [Sounds extremely pragmatic to me].
Asking this question and other similar practices developed ethos rather than techne. Knowledge is reflexively tested. ‘Exploratory lines of flight, and nomadic forms of enquiry’ are embodied, and ‘Teaching in this sense would be an lived practice of constant becoming, based upon risk taking and disidentification, offering disruption, challenges to the habitual, and invitations into the unknown’ (307).
He is prompted to wonder what the institution, students and colleagues actually expect of him [none of this is my guess!], and how this alternative construction can gain legitimacy. This involves placing their ‘ethical, political, emotional and other dispositions on the line (307). Braidotti points out that nomads never assume fixed identity. Thus practice is best seen as ‘an aesthetics, a poetics in which I am deeply attentive to the interaction of selves and in the continually changing creation of a world’ (307). [illustrated with some pretty basic exhortations to explore the environment].
This will be destabilising, but this is necessary to avoid the stifling nature of conventional practice. It must acknowledge that selves are multi layered and promote what Foucault calls the ethical self, encouraging reflexivity and challenge to domination, ‘engagement with the interconnected multiplicity of Self and Other’ (308). He is with St Pierre on the need to think differently and get free of one’s self. This seems essential to becoming, to ‘opening up and allowing the senses to be alert to all that is new, this nomadic freeing of the self’(307).
Such performative and enunciative teaching is dangerous, but danger should inform ‘praxis towards a better life’ ( 307). However, there is still insecurity and self questioning.
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