Ah, but the whiteys love to talk about themselves’: discomfort as a pedagogy for change

Ah, but the whiteys love to talk about themselves’: discomfort as a pedagogy for change

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   PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE This article was downloaded by: [Leibowitz, B]  On: 11 March 2010  Access details: Access Details: [subscription number 919658787]  Publisher Routledge  Informa Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK Race Ethnicity and Education Publication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information:http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/title~content=t713443511  Ah, but the whiteys love to talk about themselves : discomfort as apedagogy for change Brenda Leibowitz a ; Vivienne Bozalek b ; Poul Rohleder cd ; Ronelle Carolissen d ; Leslie Swartz da  Centre for Teaching and Learning, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa b  Rectorate,Teaching and Learning, University of the Western Cape, Bellville, South Africa c  Department of Psychology, Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, UK d  Department of Psychology, University of Stellenbosch, Stellenbosch, South AfricaOnline publication date: 04 March 2010 To cite this Article  Leibowitz, Brenda, Bozalek, Vivienne, Rohleder, Poul, Carolissen, Ronelle and Swartz, Leslie(2010) ''Ah,but the whiteys love to talk about themselves': discomfort as a pedagogy for change', Race Ethnicity and Education, 13:1, 83 — 100 To link to this Article: DOI: 10.1080/13613320903364523 URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13613320903364523 Full terms and conditions of use: http://www.informaworld.com/terms-and-conditions-of-access.pdfThis article may be used for research, teaching and private study purposes. Any substantial orsystematic reproduction, re-distribution, re-selling, loan or sub-licensing, systematic supply ordistribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden.The publisher does not give any warranty express or implied or make any representation that the contentswill be complete or accurate or up to date. The accuracy of any instructions, formulae and drug dosesshould be independently verified with primary sources. The publisher shall not be liable for any loss,actions, claims, proceedings, demand or costs or damages whatsoever or howsoever caused arising directlyor indirectly in connection with or arising out of the use of this material.   Race Ethnicity and Education Vol. 13, No. 1, March 2010, 83–100 ISSN 1361-3324 print/ISSN 1470-109X online© 2010 Taylor & FrancisDOI: 10.1080/13613320903364523http://www.informaworld.com ‘Ah, but the whiteys love to talk about themselves’: discomfort as a pedagogy for change Brenda Leibowitz a *, Vivienne Bozalek   b , Poul Rohleder  c,d  , Ronelle Carolissen d   and Leslie Swartz d  a Centre for Teaching and Learning, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa; b  Rectorate, Teaching and Learning, University of the Western Cape, Bellville, South Africa; c  Department of Psychology, Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, UK; d   Department of  Psychology, University of Stellenbosch, Stellenbosch, South Africa TaylorandFrancisCREE_A_436630.sgm10.1080/13613320903364523RaceEthnicityandEducation1361-3324(print)/1470-109X(online)OriginalArticle2009Taylor&Francis124000000December2009BrendaLeibowitz bleibowitz@sun.ac.za This article reports on an interdisciplinary and collaborative educational module prepared for fourth-year Psychology and Social Work students at two higher education institutions in the Western Cape, South Africa. The aim of the modulewas to provide students with the opportunity to experience learning across the boundaries of institution, discipline, language, race and class, and to provide theteam with data to enhance understanding of how students grapple with issues of difference. The study was based on data obtained from student texts produced inresponse to the final reflective essay assignment. The texts provided valuableinsights into how students, some of whom appeared to come into contact with peers from different socioeconomic backgrounds for the first time, grappled withthemselves in relation to ‘the other’. A theoretical framework based on the notionof a ‘pedagogy of discomfort’ and the complementary relationship of recognitionand distribution, was used to explicate the data. The data revealed that there arecognitive as well as affective dimensions in learning about difference. Itsuggested that a pedagogical intervention can enhance what students learn aboutdifference, but that this depends on various factors: pedagogical factors, and factors pertaining to the students’ own prior experience and cultural capital. Theanalysis of the assignments suggested that power differentials and inequality interms of material and cultural resources can limit the transformational character of such initiatives. Keywords:  pedagogy of discomfort, higher education; South Africa; identity;difference Introduction In contexts of extreme social inequality such as South Africa, the intersection of raceand class differences has a profound impact on the power relations, interactionamongst students (Erasmus 2006;  Nkomo and Dolby 2004; Jansen 2005; Walker  2005) and ultimately, on what and how students learn. Many higher education institu-tions tend to remain exclusive to particular socioeconomic, race or language-based groups. These settings do not provide students with much opportunity to learn from – or learn how – to engage with students from differing sociocultural backgrounds, nor do they prepare students to engage with a plurality of perspectives about an issue. This *Corresponding author. Email: bleibowitz@sun.ac.za  D o w nl o ad ed  B y : [ L eib o wi t z ,  B]  A t : 15 :20 11  M a r ch 2010  84  B. Leibowitz et al. leads to an impoverished preparation for a professional future for students fromadvantaged as well as disadvantaged backgrounds.A team of educators from two universities in the Western Cape, South Africa,decided to respond to this problem by creating a course for social work and psychol-ogy students in which they would learn together about issues of community, self and identity. In doing so we were mindful that merely providing students with the prospectof learning in the same institution did not necessarily imply that meaningful engage-ment or learning across divisions of difference would occur. This has been demon-strated by various writers who describe students learning across divisions of ethnicityor religion ( Nelson, Dickson, and Hargie 2003; Hansen 2006; Halabi 2004). As Jones (2005, 67) acknowledges, when optimism and an avoidance of ‘cautious critique’ predominates, dialogue between individuals of the dominant and ‘other’ groups caneven reproduce inequalities.In such a context, the question to be asked is: what kind of pedagogy can beadopted to enhance the learning experience of students, whose development as care professionals requires them to understand how to manage difference in relation to theself and community? The initiative on which this study is based, drew on the notionof a ‘pedagogy of discomfort’, as developed by Boler and Zembylas (2003) as a usefulframework for understanding difference. This pedagogy invites students to critiquetheir deeply held assumptions, and destabilise their view of themselves and their worlds. The process is painful, but contains the promise of hope for the future (Halabi2004). The ‘discomfort’ within this pedagogy impacts upon all members of a group,whether these are members of the dominant or marginalised groups. Boler and Zembylas (2003, 115) note that ‘no one escapes hegemony’, and that while white people may be more uncomfortable discussing racism than black, there are momentsin which this is uncomfortable for individuals from any identity position.This pedagogy locates the exploration of embedded assumptions within a broader set of dimensions that include the emotional. Knowledge, especially in the context of care work, has both an intellectual and an emotional component, and as the writers’own previous work has shown, taking into account the emotional aspects of learningand care work is key (Gibson, Swartz, and Sandenbergh 2002; Swartz, Gibson, and Gelman 2002). The pedagogy also includes a moral dimension (Boler 1999). Drawingon the model of the pedagogy of discomfort, Aultman (2005) maintains that it is theeducators’ responsibility to ‘give students what they need to professionally and morally to develop within and external to the academic environment’ (Aultman 2005,264). The moral dimension calls upon students to ‘take responsibility’ (Boler and Zembylas 2003, 108), which is described in relational terms: ‘Taking responsibilityfor oneself, in this sense, involves acknowledging our situatedness and location, mate-rial, historical, and bodily specificity, the interconnections between our own well- being and the existence of others’. Taking responsibility requires learners to have asense of their own agency. However, agency is interrelated with larger material and structural forces, which influences one’s learning (Walker 2005). According to Norton(2000, 8–9) the question ‘who am I?’ cannot be understood apart from the question‘what am I allowed to do?’ and the question ‘what am I allowed to do?’ cannot be understood apart from material conditions that structure opportunities for therealization of desires.Thus questions of identity and agency are influenced by broader economic and  political forces that shape our society. For this reason our view of a ‘pedagogy of discomfort’ is influenced by Fraser and Honneth (2003) bivalent view of social  D o w nl o ad ed  B y : [ L eib o wi t z ,  B]  A t : 15 :20 11  M a r ch 2010   Race Ethnicity and Education 85  justice, which sees recognition of identity and distribution of resources as complemen-tary. This view calls upon educators to strive towards participatory parity in the class-room by being mindful of the way a learning opportunity is structured and the wayresources are allocated in a course. It serves a cautionary function, in remindingeducators that there are larger material and structural forces in society, which influ-ence the final outcome of what students may take away from a learning opportunity.Drawing on these ideas, in this article we describe a strategy we developed tomitigate the conditions of relative homogeneity among students within a broader context of inequality. We reflect upon the potential and the limitations of thisapproach, and demonstrate how an alignment of the pedagogy of discomfort and a bivalent view of social justice can serve as the basis for an analysis of how studentsin a socially divided and unequal setting engage with issues of difference. Educational setting The study took place in the Western Cape province of South Africa. A higher education development expert and lecturers teaching Social Work at the University of the Western Cape (UWC), and Psychology at Stellenbosch University (SU), teamed up to design and deliver an interdisciplinary project entitled ‘Community, self and identity’ (CSI) to fourth-year students at the two universities. The two institutionsvary in terms of levels of resources, cultural capital and ethnicity. Twelve years after the demise of apartheid, the University of the Western Cape (UWC) remains acomparatively under-resourced institution serving mainly coloured and African 1 students from the Western and Eastern Cape, speaking English, Afrikaans and IsiX-hosa. UWC tends not to be the university of choice for students who are academicallysuccessful in their secondary schooling. Since English is the language of instruction,the majority of students at UWC study in a language which is not their home language.Traditionally UWC has been characterised by a left-wing discourse. The dominantcultural ethos remains Christian, though of various forms.SU remains a predominantly white university with a majority of Afrikaans speak-ing students. The students at SU have enjoyed the privilege of studying in their homelanguage and are typically from middle class backgrounds. One could argue thatalthough social capital and economic privilege would be enjoyed by most students atSU, these students would suffer more starkly the disadvantage of being isolated fromthe social realities, for example poverty or cultural differences, for which their univer-sity education is intended to prepare them to live and work within. SU has experienced a more conservative, and at points in its institutional history, a distinctly more right-wing ethos than UWC. The dominant cultural ethos is strongly Christian Calvinist and more recently, evangelical. Motivation for the project The team which implemented the project was concerned with the problems of socialand educational inequality as well as with the need for educational innovation and curriculum reform in their own institutions. We were all convinced that an interdisci- plinary and collaborative approach would be beneficial, in order to share resourcesand ideas, as well as to overcome some of the problems created by the relativehomogeneity of the specific settings outlined above. The team hoped to gain valuableinsights from the project about how our students learnt about difference, and how to  D o w nl o ad ed  B y : [ L eib o wi t z ,  B]  A t : 15 :20 11  M a r ch 2010  86  B. Leibowitz et al. harness this information for our own professional development as lecturers and curriculum developers. The team itself was unrepresentative of the two institutions inwhich we were working. Out of the five team members, four were white and onecoloured; three were female and two male; all were English speaking and middleclass. Only one member of the team identified with a Christian Church, which wasatypical of one of the universities in particular. Implementation of the CSI project The seven-week ‘Community, self and identity’ course was planned and designed bythe project team over several months. The course was piloted in 2006. This course wastaken by approximately 95 students, half of whom were studying fourth year SocialWork at UWC and half of whom were studying Community Psychology in thePsychology Honours and the Bachelor of Psychology degrees at SU. Student identi-fying details provided in Table 1 below show that the student compositions varied significantly in terms of race and language, and thus in terms of educational background. In South Africa, for students who grew up during apartheid years, issuesof language and race tended to cohere with educational and economic privilege(Alexander 1997), where white students speaking English or Afrikaans as a homelanguage tended to be the most privileged.The course made use of a combination of face-to-face engagements and onlinelearning through an e-learning platform developed at one of the universities. Therewere two day-long face-to-face engagements, one at the beginning of the course, and one at the end. It was planned that the face-to-face engagements were held at eachuniversity, so that students could experience the other learning environment, and sothat no one particular institution would be privileged. The first face-to-face engage-ment focused upon participatory action learning techniques which required students – divided into groups of six with equal numbers from each institution – to explore and share information about their educational and personal biographies and aspirationswith each other. The team wished to decentre power relations and educational Table 1.CSI2006 Student identifying details.ItemStellenboschWestern Cape No. of students 4550 Race African  None19 Coloured 1231 White 33None Age Range 21 – 52 (1 persons age unknown)21 – 48 (5 persons ages unknown) Mean 24.1 yrs27.4 yrs Median 22 yrs25 yrs Gender Female 3844 Male 76 Language African  None17 Afrikaans 2422 English 1711 Dutch 4None  D o w nl o ad ed  B y : [ L eib o wi t z ,  B]  A t : 15 :20 11  M a r ch 2010
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