Fifth Annual ACGS Conference. Amsterdam, 18-19 October 2018. Organisers: Jeroen de Kloet, Esther Peeren, Leonie Schmidt (University of Amsterdam) in cooperation with the International Institute for Asian Studies. Keynote speakers: Maggie Berg (Queen’s University, Kingston, Canada) and Barbara Seeber (Brock University, St. Catharines, Canada) Jack Halberstam (Columbia University, New York City, US) Elisio Macamo (Zentrum für Afrikastudien Basel (ZASB), Basel, Switzerland) Françoise Vergès (Collège d’études mondiales, FMSH, Paris, France)
In a time of fake news, internet memes, and a global information overload, questions of education and pedagogy have become all the more pressing. Globally, institutes of higher education are under threat, facing budget cuts and an increasing demand for directly and immediately applicable knowledge instead of open-ended critical reflection. In the context of discussions about the Anthropocene and current geopolitical changes – including the upsurge of populisms and nationalisms worldwide, and the alleged rise of Asia – there is a renewed urgency to re/thinking knowledge production and dissemination. How to re/think pedagogy in the midst of all these developments? And what specific role can the social sciences and the humanities play in this?
The fifth conference of the Amsterdam Centre for Globalisation Studies (ACGS), organised in cooperation with the Humanities across Borders network of the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS), focuses on critical global pedagogies. It does so along the lines of four interrelated themes:
The secluded environment of the classroom is a privileged space. Increasingly, the need to move beyond and outside the classroom is articulated. How can everyday practices, such as craftsmanship and vernacular knowledge, be integrated into the curriculum and how can the boundaries between the teacher and the student be destabilised – as propagated, for example, by Rancière in his The Ignorant Schoolmaster (1987)? We are particularly interested here in two domains that may help to blur the boundary between theory and practice, and between the university and the everyday: art and activism. Action research and artistic research have slowly gained momentum in curricula across the world, but how do we transform these research practices into critical pedagogies? And how do we forge creative synergy between academic knowledge and artistic and activist practices?
The spectre of Europe continues to haunt knowledge production worldwide, with its implicit claims of universalism. As Chen writes in his Asia as Method, “Universalist arrogance serves only to keep new possibilities from emerging, since it allows only one set of accepted analytic language to enter the dialogue and is itself a product of a specific set of historical experiences” (2010: 245). While postcolonial scholars like Chakrabarty call for a provincialization of knowledge, Chen’s plea for inter-Asia referencing suggests an even more radical turn away from ‘the West’ as the primary interlocutor. Simultaneously, in the West, universities are proving very stubborn in their refusal to allow different forms of knowledge from different locations to be integrated in curricula. Indeed, most curricula continue to center on Western knowledge and Western cultural forms, with "the rest" being relegated to at most a case to prove Western theory. How can we decolonize our universities and pedagogies, and how can we move towards more worlding pedagogies geared towards resisting the danger of intellectual parochialism?
In the past years, we have witnessed different protests at universities across the world, ranging from the Sanctuary movement at NYU to the Rethink movement at the University of Amsterdam, and from the Umbrella protest movement in Hong Kong to Fees Must Fall in South Africa. Both students and teachers are asking for structural reforms in education and research. While universities increasingly focus on making profit – through attracting more and more students, through real estate speculation, or both – on increasing productivity, and on global rankings and H-indexes, the call for a sustainable, workable, slower-paced, and less neoliberal alternative is getting louder and louder (Berg and Seeber 2016). What strategies have been developed to work towards this alternative, and how do these strategies explore different critical pedagogies?
The global, and arguably neoliberal, mindset of higher education institutions has excluded the possibility of failure through the constant validation and celebration of notions of progress, development, innovation, excellence, and improvement. But is more always really better? How can we rescue failure from its negative connotations? How can we bring it back in and beyond the classroom as a valuable tool for thinking, for knowledge production, and also for creative production as well as political activism? According to the late Marc Karlin, politics is a learning process about how to live with pessimism and how to work on yourself in relation to that pessimism. We may think the same of failure. In the words of Jack Halberstam, “…failing, losing, forgetting, unmaking, undoing, unbecoming, not knowing may in fact offer more creative, more cooperative, more surprising ways of being in the world” (2011: 2). How can we bring failure back into our pedagogies?