White and Black with White Identities in Self-Studies of Teacher Education Practices
Paulus Murray, Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester, U.K.
Jack Whitehead, University of Bath, Bath, England.
A paper presented to session 31.36 of AERA 2000, in New Orleans, on Studying our own Teaching: Considering Context, Collaboration, and Differences.
“The events and situations that have produced racial blending reach far back into the misty and unrecorded annals of history. Whenever and wherever peoples move about coming into contact with others different in race and culture, amalgamation and acculturation are possible”
(Gist and Dworkin Ifekwunigwe,J: 1999)
Mutse atsi! To S-STEP colleagues and community: I wonder if you can help Jack Whitehead and myself, Paulus Murray, in our learning? It is a special and peculiar kind of learning that has erotic, spiritual, dialectical and dialogical textures that characterise it as an authentic engagement or beginning in hybrid writing. Our respective whiteness and “mixed race” otherness is merged in this text as we try to demonstrate within a community of teachers how our self-study can be enhanced by speaking through a vocabulary of hybridity, a vocabulary that is white, black and of colour. We are unable to make any claims about how this is going to work. This is a “new vocabulary” [Smith, 1997]: it is experimental, uncertain, unknowable and exciting. We hope that it is also radical and transgresses [hooks, 1994] while remaining attractive and invitational to those who do not locate themselves in a hybrid space.
We both relate to the work of Connelly and Clandinin  and believe that they do show us how and why a new vocabulary of hybridity can appeal across time and boundaries when they write:
“Our puzzle, then, was that we sensed that teachers could use our work to get answers to their questions and to figure out who they were, yet in doing so, they were answering different questions from those with which we began. As we listened to practitioners an conducted the work on which this book is based, we realized the theoretical puzzle was to link knowledge, context and identity. We developed a further term to begin to make this link, namely, “stories to live by”. This term is the intellectual thread that holds the book together. This thread helps us to understand how knowledge, context and identity are linked and can be understood narratively.” (page 4)
We would take the view that we see ourselves contributing our ‘stories to live by’ to the S-STEP group as part of our commitment to help to reconstruct educational knowledge and theory.
To begin – A kind of White Story, A kind of Hybrid story:
I am learning to write in a language of colour that is a language of hybridity [paulus]. This language has a syntax that is non-essentialist. I would like to show you how I can relate to Jayne Ifekwunigwe  in her project, when she writes:
“Scattered Belongings is a book with two major objectives. First, this text begins to redress the imbalance in British literature on “mixed race” theories and identities. Second, this book centralizes the everyday words of working-class and middle-class “mixed race” people in England. As sociocultural and political critiques of “race,” gender, class and belonging, fluid contemporary “mixed race” narratives of identities engage with, challenge, and yet have been muffled by two competing racialized, essentialized and oppositional dominant discourses in England” (page xiii)
As a ‘mixed race’ person I am presenting this paper, and my doctoral inquiry, as a contribution to redressing the imbalance that Ifekwunigwe has identified above. As a “mixed race” person I have experienced the distorting effect of a vocabulary of “Whiteness” and “Englishness” shaping my world, determining how it is for me, riding roughshod over the different ground of my situated life, in colour, in hybridity and talking over me, through me and for me. So this paper is an opportunity to present the voice of a middle-class [middle-aged] “mixed race” management educator in the UK, through the prism of my words and stories, my imagery and metaphor, my vocabulary of hybridity.
As I write, I am reminded that I also experience a parallel in the Academy when certain discourses dominate the way in which knowledge claims are to be presented. There is a propositional and positivist form that is privileged. Here my inquiry into what it is to be a “mixed race” male in the UK working as a management educator touches on issues of social and political and educational exclusion. In trying to bring a post-positivist form for representing knowledge claims in my University College through working with my students I have found a resistance, an active rejection, an exclusion of ideas that mirrors my exclusion as a “mixed race” person in English society [unpublished internal transfer document, University of Bath,1996]. So the positive and transformational hope we cherish is that my inquiry into my hybridity [paulus] becomes the point of confluence for Jack Whitehead, my supervisor, friend and a White English male to contribute his verse to our hybrid experience of the Exclusion of Ideas.
A rejection of contradictions between statements in a theory would suggest that a theory of race, a prevalently binary theory, cannot hold the contradiction of multiple forms of racialisation. The existence of my ‘I’ , as the living contradiction of a “mixed race” person, in my theory, is a logical impossibility according to Popper . Therefore, the existence of my ‘I’ as a living contradiction within my theory is challenged. Yet some other logic, a dialectical logic given expression within the theory of the living contradiction [Whitehead 1993] confirms what I have suspected, have even noticed for 47 years now, and hold to: that I am the One and the Many as a multiple and hybrid person.
Establishing identity, shaping it, and sustaining it over time is problematical for me as a ”mixed race” male, and Ifekwunigwe’s project, and our paper [Jack and I] really does help to show why.
I intend contacting Jayne Ifekwunigwe post-New Orleans to explore ways in which her work could inform my self-study as a management educator [paulus], and how my inquiry might be helpful for her own project.
Relating to her ideas I can be more accepting of my hybridity, a hybridity that masks my African origins perhaps? How you will be trying to see me as you read this piece? I am wondering when you see me if you will know that I am ‘mixed race’ and in my unique celebration of what it is to be mixed race whether my whiteness will overpower your capacity to see in me my African ancestors?
This is the cosmology of the ancestors who mediate our language of colour, created through what in South Africa is called the miscegenation of black and white. God, I have always found this word so ugly and accusatory. In the South African context, a context whose contours have been shaped by a white vocabulary and language, this word is loaded with the symbolism of sin rather than the neutrality of a biological proposition, a term for inter-breeding.
My Khoikhoin ancestors were the hunter-gatherers of the Cape. The Griqua were the ‘free’ descendants of Khoi, of San, of African and of White forebears: the creation of a “mixed race” in southern Africa. A similar hybrid group had been formed in Kenya and Tanzania on the Swahili Coast. Here Arab and African had intermarried for generations and my wife, Asma Hamoud Al-Kindi while identifying with her Arab culture acknowledges and embraces her African ancestors. The idea of mixture or metis(se) as used by Ifekwunigwe:
“ (Re)deploying this term demonstrates the portability and mutability of language as well as its potential reinterpretation across borders. My linguistic informants are Senegalese – that is Black continental African. As mentioned, what they suggest is that alternative translations of metis (se) can extend beyond “racial” that is “Black/White” discourses to encompass convergences across ethnicities, cultures, religions, and nationalities. The Senegalese interpretation of metis(se) clears space for “the consideration or recognition of individuals as bearers of multiple subject positions; that is how ‘racialized identity intersects with other aspects of identity such as gender.”
My great-Grandmother, and Grandmother are Griqua. To be Griqua is to be metis(se). My brown father, Jacobus, never described himself as Griqua and regarded his identity as ‘Cape Coloured’. This identity group is not white or black but a mixture of religions in Christian and Islam, of ethnicities - Malay and Hottentot – and a blurring and in-between-ness of colours and tones, and facial shapes.
It is not a question of colour only that describes you as “Cape Coloured” because some ‘Cape Coloured ‘people would be regarded as ‘white’ in Europe or ‘black’ in Europe. What determines this ‘Cape Coloured’ identity is the language of Apartheid and this was initially couched in a white vocabulary.
However, it is also the case that before 1948 and the advent of a/Apartheid this identity group existed and that it was enshrined in two vocabularies: white and that of colour.
When speaking to me of his aspirations when I met my metis(se) family in Cape Town for the first time in 1977, my Uncle Sydney/Sadek told me:
“ One day we will build a wall across the Cape and kick out the Africans and the Whites. The Cape is a coloured place, for us coloureds only”.
I wondered, silently in respect of my Uncle, who would occupy this Cape, his Cape, and whether I would be allowed to stay or would want to?
You see, I was born and raised in the UK. I am a British bearer of multiple subject positions. My language of hybridity is a concomitant of this multiplicity. I have been influenced by this idea that Jack Whitehead and myself have been considering for some time of ‘white and black with white’. For that is how I am, and that is how we are as we write together in this project.
At school and through higher education in the UK, I rarely experienced any help or encouragement from my teachers or lecturers in finding a form for making sense of the human condition situated in my language of colour and hybridity. In my work as a management educator I have not found ready encouragement from white colleagues as I have developed my awareness and my expression in this language of colour.
When I started doctoral research at Bath University [UK], I went through a three years period of intense exploration and expression. It was highly energised and intense but without focus. I think, looking back, that the act of learning to write in my language of hybridity was my major pre-occupation and the heart of my own personal darkness.
I have had to develop a disciplined belief in the value of my writing spaces. Only Jack, Asma [my wife] and sons, Hassan, and Adam-Hussam who has studied cultural and media studies, have ever read my language of hybridity with an inherent comfort. I would like to speak in this vocabulary with my granddaughter, Layla. This reclamation of my vocabulary has given me and my colleagues a hard time at work when they would literally ask me to ‘speak in English’.
In my teaching spaces I found the support of my students vital. Several could see that my language of hybridity translated into a form of difference, diversification and a diversity of educative practice that truly encouraged them to develop. Being told that my work was influencing the learning of my students affirmed me, gave me the courage to stick at what I was doing, and the will to create a disciplined disposition to make my practice public. Students enable me to continue, while my relationships with most of my colleagues are disabling.
Minh-ha (1992:14) suggests that, “The place of my hybridity is also the place of my identity”, and the place of my work is a place where my hybridity struggles to find expression. The resulting dialectical tension influences the way I teach and relate and the nature of the narrative that I produce to explain my practice.
Belief in my ability to make sense of my ‘self’, the ‘I’ at the centre of my educative practice with students, so that I can regard my practice in a more reflexive manner has been sustained with Jack’s critical and compassionate steadfastness in learning. Alongside this process of learning how to find an effective written form for my oral language raced the exploration into new knowledge, new cognate areas for me, that are located within different and exciting discourses. This became the enterprise of formal scholarship running alongside the learning of my language of hybridity.
So that debates in educational research, knowledge of action research, ideas and constructs from African philosophy within a post-colonial discourse, post-modernist ideas and their influence on theories of the present. Narrativism, constructivism, story-telling too, all of these areas of knowledge belong within the ‘auto-didactic’ curriculum that I am co-creating with students as I supervise their research inquiries and with Jack through his supervision of my doctoral thesis.
Finding a written form of expression to explain who I am in my teaching practice through my ‘new’ language of colour and hybridity has become the focus of my learning relationship with Jack Whitehead. I can now see why Jack invited me to S-STEP and why he suggested that this community of practitioners would be tolerant of my account of my learning journey. I now understand why Jack said to me in Montreal last year that S-STEP would be a place where I might take some risk with my language of hybridity as I begin to account for my teaching practice through disciplined inquiry and self-study:
“Teacher researchers are uniquely positioned to provide a truly emic, or insider’s, perspective that makes visible the ways that students and teachers together construct knowledge and curriculum. When teachers do research, they draw on interpretive frameworks built from their histories and intellectual interests, and because the research process is embedded in practice, the relationship between knower and known is significantly altered.” [Cochrane-Smith, M., and Lytle.S, Inside/Outside: Teacher Research and Knowledge]
From the first time we met, my intuition made it clear that Jack is a person who speaks like a hybrid person, yet he is in many glorious senses White and English through and through, and would, I feel, be pleased that I ‘see him’ in this way among others. When I worked with Jack’s ideas, especially my first encounter with his book, The Growth of Educational Knowledge  I shouted out to him, ‘Mutse atsi! Jack’.
For while Jack does not write from a situation of hybridity that stimulates my vocabulary or language of colour, Jack’s vocabulary of the living contradiction enables him to reach out and grasp the other in dialectical dialogue. And while this sounds metallic, experiencing Jack in this way is anything but metallic; it is replete with his humanity.
I recognised in Jack the origins of his capacity for love and empathy for people of institutional exclusion who want to do something to improve the situation. Then, more recently, Jack’s response (Appendix) to Cochrane-Smith’s and Lytle’s (1999) writing exploded onto my pc screen. Yes, I felt the anger in Jack’s response and I wanted to see where this might be coming from. As I engaged in Jack’s critique I could feel a connection, again, with the experience of exclusion – often unwitting, and this is not a play for a conspiracy theory - and how unwitting exclusion can discount and at worse make voices invisible.
So I see my project within S-STEP as one of reclamation and one of invitation and one of visibility as I make a modest contribution to the reconstruction of educational knowledge. Yet the reclaimed part of me also has to have a form of expression and representation. I see this as my language of colour, of hybridity.
There have been so many catalysts to this project of self-inquiry, this scholarship of inquiry [personal conversation with Jack Whitehead]. I have come to ask who can articulate the memories of my oppressed ancestors? It is those powerful people who speak power to truth whose voices are heard, whether it be the dominant language of the Academy, or some overtly political force, but what of the deeply located memories of the oppressed, the dispossessed?
History or her-story will always be written by those in power. So the memories of my colour have been shaped through the logic of those in power who write history. A language and logic that in the UK and its major institutions can be claimed, reasonably so, to be exclusively White.
This links to the idea of exclusion, and to Jack’s claim about the capacity of exclusion inherent in Karl Popper’s logic [Appendix]. It is through this interplay of Jack’s critique of Popper’s ideas and my emerging awareness of my knowledge-in-practice and my commitment to a ‘stance of inquiry’ as proposed by
Cochrane-Smith and Lytle, that I framed my response to their overview of educational research.
It is held in a question of the kind, ‘How is my memory and my present being represented within the form of logic and language of categorisation used by these educational researchers to scape the multiple terrain of educational research? For any overview of this kind is a project of reduction and generalisation.
 Colour, Identity and Language: what logics, which confluences?
I am a “mixed race” British male of European and Griqua origins:
“In 1815, a representative of the London Missionary Society, the Rev. John Campbell, was visiting a community of “coloured” people north of the Orange River [South Africa] who called themselves the Bastards. He objected to this appellation and, as they wished to maintain cordial relations with him and his society, “on consulting among themselves, they found the majority were decended from a person of the name of Griqua, and they resolved hereafter to be called Griquas”. In fact, no such persons seem ever to have existed. Rather the term referred to a Khoikhoin tribe, the Chariguriqua, which had lived about a hundred miles north of Cape Town”. [Ross 1976]
I have lived my life around my family of brown and white skins. My birth mother was white, my father brown. This explains the whiteness of my skin. My wife, Asma Hamoud Al-Kindi, is Arab-African and she is brown, although in the UK her physical appearance is explained in the language of racialisation as being black.
Our sons, Hassan and Hussam, are brown-skinned, and both define their identity in terms of being ‘mixed race’. My father’s colour is very similar to theirs. My granddaughter, Layla, is ‘mixed race’ in the way that I am, looking olive and oriental and eastern in the sunlight, the hints of her in-between brown suffusing her whiteness. I feel so close to tiny Layla in this matter of our hybridity. For we are so alike in colouring and complexion. She is hybrid as I am hybrid and it is beautifully ironic to see that she too will have a unique opportunity to cast an identity in ways that are defiant of the binary split of Black/White.
Throughout my life I have been immersed in languages of colour, languages nuanced by Africa. To be touched by the variegation of the colours of hybridity is what distinguishes my human landscape. I only know white spaces when I leave my home or my family. The texture of hybridity, the experience of hybridity, the oral accounts and stories of hybridity, they do make for a different syntax, a different vocabulary and imagery, indeed, a different form from white language. Not better than a white language, not less than a white language: simply part of the problematic of how vocabularies come to get heard?
I have noticed in my life through friendships with Arabs and Africans that their vocabulary of imagination and metaphor when applied to their social experiences, while different to that of mine, shares so much overlap with my language of hybridity.
This does produce a special kind of knowing and seeing that is not accessible to the vocabularies of my life experience:
[Driving to a hotel in Dubai in the UAE, the Somali taxi driver asked me: ‘Where are you from? Are you Palestinian? How do you speak Arabic? I told him that I was from everywhere and nowhere - very Popperian this – and that I lived in the UK.
‘But you are not an English!’ he exclaimed.
‘No, I am not’ I assured him proudly.
Then I remembered that sitting beside me was my friend and colleague, Nigel Bridges. A proudly ‘English’ man and stalker of Deer. Eater of the forbidden fruit of beef on the bone, who had once told me about a woman at a dinner-party who had said that she felt alienated and intimidated by the distinctive patois of African-Caribbean youths in the UK and that he could see where she was coming from on this. Me too: my English friend Nigel.
‘And my friend?’ I asked, ‘where is he from?’
‘But we speak the same way, so how come I’m not English then?’ pushing this mini-inquiry on in true Socratic spirit.
‘Aahhh,………look at your face, its shape, your nose and eyes, the colour of your face, how you speak with me and know my language and that I am Somali, and how you joke with me……you are not English!’. And here I understood that what this stranger was telling me is that he could see my hybridity, my difference that marked me out from Nigel even if I could not, or would not choose to make such a distinction. Though unexpected this situation left me glowing with re-assurance about the shared sense of my own identity. Whenever I experience this consensual gaze, I feel my spirit swollen with joy for who I am, might be, am not and can become]
This is not a romanticisation. This is not a diaspora story of self-pity, though God knows the collective diasporic pain is immense. This is living story or a ‘story to live by’. Let me tell you that to be touched by a language of colour means to be touched by something other. A language of colour is as dependent on black and white constructions of identity for its form and referents as it is reliant on what emerges, uniquely from the interstices of both: the poiesis of hybridity.
This hybrid vocabulary produces very different explanations of everyday events and experiences, which lead to different and therefore multiple understandings about worth, about power, about whose voice really counts, about different kinds of making sense.
But most of all it leads to different ways of living and explaining how it is to live in the space of hybridity. Accounts of occupying this space can be fascinating and poignant, tinged as they are with existential suffering. The experience will be determined by context and place, as Alcoff , notes: “Mixed-race people who are not easily categorizable by visible markers create unease precisely because one doesn’t know how to act or talk with them. All of these practices change enormously across cultures; for example, in Latin America mixed race persons do not create a cognitive crisis because they are the norm. There, racial identity is determined along a continuum of colour without sharp boundaries”
Let me try to show you how I first began to become conscious of this effect in my life in a UK that could only distinguish race and ethnicity in terms of either/or:
[In 1966 when I was 14, our school team played a local side in a Cup tournament. There was a lot at stake for both sides. We had beaten them 8-1 the previous season. Throughout the game two of us were subjected to abuse about our assumed ‘otherness’ which was expressed in terms of race and ethnicity. We were called names and we were kicked on and off the ball. What was amazing is that some of our own so-called team-mates, guys we shared classes with, were egging the other lads on to abuse us and give us a good kicking. Eventually I lost it and kicked one of their lads when he had gone to ground after I tackled him, and actually he was one of the few who had more or less refrained from the shitty behaviour. I felt immediately ashamed. But I also sensed, in the way youths do, that he was excluded from the in-crowd of the other team, and so he was a softer target for my retaliation. What struck me as odd at the time is that I received a bollocking [sorry, a reprimand] from the Referee and my football coach, a teacher. I wondered where they had been the whole game, as they were alongside of us and seemed to have waltzed through the racist name-calling and snide digs, and kicks for the duration. But I was labelled as the bad guy. I protested about the racist abuse and provocation. I was dismissed from the pitch, and it was as if they had seen my belligerence and nothing else. No context of provocation, no kicking, no racist name calling.
‘Where were they looking?’ I asked myself as I took a shower. I considered my action of retaliation as a statement of intent, of a redress of grievance that ‘institutionally’ I knew I wasn’t going to receive.
“Where white eyes always look in relation to people like us – past and through us so that they are certain not to see”, my Griqua Grandmother replied.
The next day after Assembly we had History with Mr Munawar Saeed.
He was a British-Indian, who had been a journalist in Bombay and imprisoned for his anti-Nehru articles. I had liked this guy for the last two years since he decided not to whack me for messing around in his class. As he was about to whack my arse with a sports shoe he stopped short, looked up, saw the leering faces – all white – and I think a knowing exploded onto his face. What an irony, the lippy wog kid, getting whacked by the deep-thinking and rather intellectual ‘Paki’ teacher, while the class of white kids gloated over the spectacle. “No feeding the Christians to the Lions today, Murray”, Mr Saeed whispered, and laughed in an Islamic way which had an added nuance given that ours was a very Roman Catholic school. Some special kind of knowing passed between us and I didn’t diss or disrupt his classes again. This was some performance of dialectical dialogics though I didn’t know it at the time.
Munawar Saeed asked about the previous evening’s football game. He said that he had heard that I had been given particular attention for abuse. While calm and measured I could feel his anger. I felt that his anger was not aimed at me, but it was because of me in some strange and connected and including way. He asked me to explain to the class what had happened: how it had started, who orchestrated it, what their motives might be, and how I now felt about the episode. I didn’t enjoy that questioning, that critical inquiry too much. But Mr Saeed had pierced the white silence and blindness that morning. My football coach, a scouser, Ron Hall whom I had always liked paled into insignificance in the eye of this vocabulary of colour spoken by my brown teacher. His words had penetrated the knowing that wasn’t being spoken about. The knowing that can be spoken through a vocabulary of colour, and believe me in my life I have observed that the white vocabularies I have been exposed to, do find it incredibly difficult to express this kind of knowing. As if, perhaps, the white vocabulary – alone - doesn’t really extend it’s semiotic range to be able to encompass the multiple meanings of ‘otherness’. His incisive vocabulary of colour spoke truth to power with harsh, coarse and grainy imagery. Munawar Saeed’s outrage was as clear as Jack Whitehead’s in his response to Marilyn’s and Susan’s paper though they are separated by more than thirty years of my life. That day my hero teacher, who had his own mixed race sons from a German wife whom I later met, taught me how to talk from the excluding gaps within the white syntax.
As I write this I ponder again, and ask: Is the syntax of educational research being produced by Cochrane-Smith and Lytle (1999) through their paper, capable of holding the complexity, the multiplicity of educator knowledge?
Or do the words from the gaps remain unseen and unheard and ‘unwittingly excluded’ because their form doesn’t easily fit within the structure? As I read their very erudite paper I thought about Ron Hall my football teacher/coach, and his vocabulary of abstinence. For some reason his language could not account for that game through words of empathy, or of concern, or of a public statement about the abuse. His vocabulary lacked the compassion to recognise the pain of being trapped in ‘otherness’. His narrative could not account for this particular story of colour, of this idea of hybridity. But why might this be? I think I know: Ron’s form of language could not hold the complex and contradictory experience of hybridity. It was not able to contain and express the shock of the contradictions he had witnessed, his own and others.
I do now wonder if Cocrhane-Smith’s and Lytle’s remarkable structure may unwittingly have the same impact on teacher’s accounts of their experience in their vocabulary? I would like to bring to S-Step a vocabulary of hybridity and let’s see together what this vocabulary can and can’t do to influence how we talk and write about educative practice, and to safeguard against the exclusion of ideas and of the people behind these ideas]
My Grandmother was brown and designated as ‘Cape Coloured’ because her father was a Boer, a white South African while her mother was Griqua. She left the farm of her birth in her teens when her Boer-‘half-brothers’ evicted her because the price of their gaze upon their father’s son was too much for them to contain. My Grandmother’s mother, who was Griqua and a domestic servant on a sheep farm in the Karoo would have been born at the time of the decline in the powers of the Griqua nation as suggested by Ross :
“This is a tragedy, sensu stricto. It describes the growth, the aspirations, the flourishing, the decline and final collapse of the Griqua Captaincies of Philippolis and Kokstad…… The Griquas were descendants of early Boer frontiers: of the remnants of Khoisan tribes – hunters gatherers and pastoralists: of escape slaves from the wine and wheat farms of the Southwest Cape: of free blacks from the colony who could find no acceptable place for themselves in it: and of African tribesman, detached from their tribes by war or by choice. They formed a community which attempted to discover what their role in South Africa was, or if there was none, to create one for themselves. In the end they could no do this…. Far more of the descendants of the Griquas are spread around the towns of the four provinces of South Africa, but their sense of community has gone, and many now forget their heritage.”
I have no knowledge of her name or identity, nor of her place of birth or her death. I know that my Father used to visit her before he left the ‘white’ Republic of South Africa in 1950. She would certainly have been part of the diaspora of the Griqua nation, left to find near-slave employment with Boer farmers. Her story is not known, and it is now lost. However, one story is passed down from or through this woman, the anchor of my being and inspiration of my teaching practice. In the epistemology of our family we are believed to be descended from Chief Adam Kok. The Griqua are the tenuous but self-proclaimed custodians of the indigenous voice of South Africa, a residual of their origin in the Khoikhoin people. Yet as you will see me, the physical me, you may ask, ‘Where is his colour? and Where is his Khoikhoin?’ They both live in the vibrancy of a language of colour and my vocabulary of hybridity. And in the stories I choose to live by as a mixed-race teacher in the UK.
In my educative practice and in my voice, in my work with my students, and in my accounts of self-study as I bring a belated but disciplined research joy into my life, you will see my colour, and hybridity within and through my language: refraction and reflection.
Reconstructing a context from which a story can be woven of my great-Grandmothers past in the present and future of my living practice as an educator is my contribution to Griqua narrative. A narrative of enjoyment: of the values of freedom and assertiveness, of choice and liberation, while enshrining these values in my relationships with my students. Here is a form of evidence for this claim, in an email response to a communication I had sent out to colleagues and students:
Sorry I haven't been able to reply to your mail earlier. Hope you are well
and going strong as usual. Its in your blood my man, the Griqua’s are hard
Paul, your Story of Exclusion and Inclusion is one that I am aware of,
having been a student at the Royal since 1995.
First and foremost, I must congratulate and help you celebrate your
uniqueness to this institution. You asked this question: How is it that my
students have found ways of working in community with me around ideas, while
my colleagues and I have not been able to achieve this ...? Paulus, you are
one of the few members of stuff who see through a different lens. You have a
unique paradigm to ground your educational practice from which no other
lecturer shares, maybe one or two other share this paradigm. For this very
reason, your ideas, suggestions, character and possibly YOU, are excluded,
alienated and discriminated from the Royal. Good or Bad? I think its
something we should celebrate, Paulus. Its something that shouldn't stop you
from wanting to express your ideas. You are here for the students, for your
enjoyment and fulfilment of those things that make you tick. Raise your
head above your shoulders. Remember, 'Subjective' information is never
received positively for it normally challenges people's paradigms. Maybe if
you were presenting some arithmetic problems, then people would turn to the
formula tables and check where you are coming from. Hell no, there are no
formula and answer books for your subjective information hence the
People who share the same paradigm are more likely to stumble over their
mistakes without noticing it. (Stacey, 1996) Is that new to the Royal? The
Royal has become an expert at doing its job, hence needs people who
question, shatter the shared paradigms and raise anomalies. It needs
extraordinary management. This is not easy, as you may have realised. It
takes persistence, determination and a spirit of the Griqua, that spirit
that can survive in the Kalahari desert. (In exclusion, in the middle of
nowhere.) I know you are well equipped for this, you have started the journey
...! Students have been interested in seeing through your lens, for this
very reason. You bring different ideas to our ways of learning. We are in a
new world, a changing, global and very dynamic world. We can all see the
chaos in British farming. It needs new blood, new ideas, global thinking,
critical, constructive thinking and I am sure that is what you bring to this
And finally Peter Senge, in his book 'The fifth Discipline', asks: "why do
we value knowing more than we value learning?" The answer and part of the
Royal's problem - is because it's safer to know than to learn. We learn by
admitting that we don't know and admitting to not knowing is
counter-cultural in most businesses. Yet the real problems start when we do
not learn from our mistakes or admit that someone else may have a better
answer than we do.
[Farai Madziva, email, April 6th 2000: a postgraduate programme student]
My mother is white and British and I have Dutch South African ancestors too.
An early contradiction I experienced was when I had to complete an Equal Opportunities form. There were several ethnic and racial categories. I did not fit into any of them. This is exclusion, and I felt it, lived it. I questioned my existence. My sons have talked to me about how they question their identification[s]. But at least they have the logic of pigmentation to identify them as ‘other, not white’. For me it was never this easy. Belonging was a game that I played through mimesis, or mimicry. Voices, accents and the iconic language of significant others or ‘in-groups’ at the time. Learning about my South African family through my fathers stories was to learn a language of Africa, a form for knowing Africa and ultimately making peace with the warring and dislocated parts of my ‘self’. My white mother insisted on protecting my sense of whiteness. She did this because she knew that whiteness was privileged in 1950’s and 60’s UK. So when I told her about racial abuse at school, brought my anger into the kitchen and over the meal table, she sought to subvert my stories of colour in the face of this white narrative of abuse, even going so far as to deny the truth of my experience.
[In my work with students I steadfastly refuse to ‘colonize’ their ideas, or to infer any kind of primacy for my ideas and interpretations over their experiences and social encounters that form the bases of their knowing. Their experience, and their ideas are inherently valid. They are precious. The multiple realities that my students bring to me to work with in supervision have an inherent and precious validity. Their ideation is precious and not specious. Yes, I do help students to unravel their ideas, to give them shape through mapping and creative expression. And yes, again, I do point students towards the ideas of others in canonical texts and so on but only to the extent that the ideas of others are suggested as ways of supporting my students in their inquiries as they give birth to their own knowing. The evidence for this claim resides in my room at college, and in the college library, in the postgraduate and undergraduate dissertations that are eclectic in ideation, diverse in social theory, broad in methodological ways too, and epistemologically various. But what is most evident is the variety in the forms of representation, with story-telling and narrative emerging as valid ways in which to present knowledge claims in our college. That we sustain and cherish through hybrid vocabularies the precious validity of the student and her ideas as they merge in a form that is satisfying for the student and is also acceptable within the Academy]
This denial of my truth by my Mother paradoxically came from a place of protective love in her, a place of stark truth and knowledge. I think that she knew very well as a white person whose vocabulary could not fully reach out and protect me in my hybridity that I would encounter hurtful and demeaning white vocabularies.
I think that she also knew that those who used these vocabularies would not be able or willing to engage in respectful ways with my origins in colour, and my language and vocabularies of hybridity. I think that she knew this because she was white and tolerant and loving of colour and hybridity and difference. What she didn’t know or realise, unwittingly and occluded by her love for me, was that she was contributing to the suppression of my own, autonomous vocabulary of colour and hybridity, and this became a point of recurrent tension in our lives together. Despite the immense love she could not hold the dialectical logic of my hybridity, that I could be both white and not white at the same time.
While my father, ‘publicly’ silent in such matters always explained to me ‘privately’, never in front of the white members of the family, that he knew and understood my anger. On one occasion, he led me from the kitchen and into the garden, and we walked and talked about this:
“Look”, he said, “your mother and the others can’t understand what it is you are talking about, they don’t want to, it confuses them and it worries them so they become angry with you for persisting in talking about these matters of racism. But, yes, I do know what you are talking about and that is how it is for people like us…but they are white and can’t see these things as we do”.
From my white family I felt that my experience was never ‘seen’, never offered an unconditional acceptance, never held as precious and inherently valid, I think because their white vocabulary of existence could not contain the knowledge and the experience of the contradictions of hybridity. This dialectic in our existence was so powerful that it was perceived as too threatening to acknowledge. It contained the energies of destruction. From my brown family I have always been clearly acknowledged and seen in my dialectics of existence and identity.
At college, my white colleagues do not know how to ‘recognise ‘ all of me, and can only connect with those elements that they can construct a dialogue with. These are my organisational white bits. They do exclude my being-in-colour and hybridity. Yet my black, white and hybrid students engage, and communicate with me in a dialectical language. For my students I am multiple and they have a willingness to stay with this confusion. This leads to me ask a question about my practice: How is it that in my educative practice as a teacher-facilitator I can find suitable vocabularies from which to commune, yet with in my educative practice as a colleague I have not been able to find a vocabulary of communication?
Thank you for today. I thank you for inviting me to your home and for sharing your precious time with me. This morning you effortlessly extracted all of the ideas, feelings and thoughts I have always wanted to express in an approach that I have never experienced before. The struggle I have always had in transferring my thoughts and ideas onto paper simply did not exist while working with you this morning. I found this morning extremely exhilarating and fulfilling. I left you this morning with an incredible feeling of achievement. Thank you for giving me this feeling……..”
[Extract from an email 10 April 2000, from Lester Jones and undergraduate student to Paul Murray, Thesis supervisor]
This story of my racialisation is a story that defies Poppers  form of logic.
For I am a living contradiction, biologically.
I am the one in the many of the gene stream, of the logic of languages.
I am a constituent of a new theorisation of mixed race or hybridity and this theory does contain contradiction for it challenges the wisdom of a binary Black/White racialisation in the face of hybridity.
[When I met S-Step in Montreal I was struck by the whiteness of the group. I wondered how the logic and form of representation of Teacher self-study would be shaped and influenced over time without a language of colour. This concerned me because there are teachers of colour. As a teacher of hybridity I also wondered how I could bring the language of hybridity into this community and into our work without it being intimidating or irrelevant for my white colleagues. So often generic human interests become balkanized. I would like to contribute to writing about difference, situated in my hybridity, and in doing this demonstrate a scholarship of inquiry into my teaching practice. I am finding a form of practice, a teaching performance that reflects my experiences of hybridity in ways that truly inform, enhance and inspire my work. My commitment to self study in the form of my doctoral writing and my growing love of educational research can also be seen as my commitment to a language of colour and hybridity in a white educational institution in the UK. White vocabularies have been privileged in their accounts of social experience.]
Well out of this defiance of a unitary logic of language, and through asking the question with Jack Whitehead as a facilitator, ‘What varieties of logic inform my teaching practice?’, we have decided to piece together a first attempt to write from our differently situated lives within a new vocabulary of hybridity.
In this paper we begin to show what it takes epistemologically to address the project and Jack’s articulation (Whitehead, 1999) of ‘exclusion’ through Aristotle and Popper is both an anchor and a beginning.
In my story-telling and narrative form of representation I am making a complementary contribution from an ontological situation of hybridity.
What my hybridity has meant in terms of the exclusion of ideas in my institution, as I endeavour to find a language and form of representation for my practice that defies that form of proposition that is so metallically white and western. This metallic whiteness implies both a deflecting and defensive quality, and one that reflects and bounces light sources from it. Powerful as it is for some purposes of communication this logic of language does not embody a quality of refraction that a language of hybridity can bring to learning relationships.
As hybridity becomes part of the discourse on ‘race’ and ‘racialisation’ and as hybrid learners continue to segment their experiences of higher education in terms of their own sense of self, hybrid discourses need to be heard. Particularly in relation to how self-study of teacher practice accounts for how teachers who are white or black speak to and with hybridity.
Just now I am suggesting that in the academy white and black discourses are part of a binary perspective for recognising difference and in relation to a hybrid language of colour they are both privileged. But together they are inadequate in explaining learning and loving, oppression and injustice, exclusion and inclusion for those of us who are hybrid. We are silenced by these vocabularies. Their derivation in the Enlightenment and colonialism [a white vocabulary] and in reflexive modernity and post-colonial discourse [ a black/African vocabulary] separate these ageing discourses from a vocabulary of hybridity in which it is claimed the condition of globalisation is creating displaced and dislocated transnational/multiple migrants who, as cultural nomads, represent a cultural metis(se) [Ifekwunigwe, 1999]
Last year in Montreal I attended Native American and Black presentations. The leitmotif of establishing a viable and credible discourse and philosophy for Black and Native American epistemologies was clear. I can understand why in the contested terrain of the politics of knowledge, a stakeholding has to be established in order to sway what is a white, male, and ageing Academy.
What both groups had to say was of real interest to me, immediate and gripping interest, though I know they were not consciously addressing my concerns situated in my hybridity. Yet our experiences and vocabulary for accounting for them had contours of similarity. I felt included. I felt connected with their projects and their antecedents; it was a feeling of belonging.
Jack Whitehead asked me to attend the S-STEP group in Montreal because he believed that I could bring something that otherwise seemed to be missing as an ingredient of teacher self study. This joint paper is our attempt, together and apart, from a position of immense respect and love for each other’s different voices and different epistemological enquiries to begin to explore Jack’s belief in ways that are public, critical and compassionate of difference.
 The Contextual and Institutional Hybridity that affects my contribution to the authorship of our joint paper:
There is a confluence of discourses and epistemologies that guide my scholarship of inquiry and I will appraise these briefly below.
The context of my teaching practice is management education within the School of Business of the Royal Agricultural College in the UK. I lecture in Human Resources Management, Organisational Behaviour and Research Methodology. In my doctoral work I am shaping my own curriculum, searching new epistemologies, drowning in the depths and currents of new discourses, as I fashion a framework that adequately mediates my vocabulary of hybridity.
We are currently seeking University College status, and we specialise in Agriculture, Land-Use and Agri-Business. So my context for teaching is hybrid. This doesn’t make things easier however, because the curriculum is not hybrid; it is homogeneous. Diversity is actively discouraged through the iconic language of those whose speech shapes the curriculum with words like vocational, hands-on, practical, scientific, experimental, non-contentious, technical.
However, words like soft systems, epistemology, problematic, critical, philosophy, personal development, educational standards of judgement, andragogy, liberation, emancipation are absent. When I bring these words into those meetings it is usual for colleagues to sneer, deny, dismiss, and question the appropriateness of these words. I feel that my vocabulary attracts derision. I feel that my identity is exposed to ridicule. Some of this feeling may be phantasised or exaggerated and I heed Alcoff’s  advice here:
“Yet Rodriguez’s projection is of course over determined by the denigration of mixed identities, particularly mixed racial identities, that is a painful feature of many, though not all, societies. The mixed person, unless she or he declares in her self-representation as well as her everyday practices to be identified with one group or another, feels rejection from every group , and is ready to be slighted on an everyday basis for presuming an unjustified association. She is constantly on trial, and unable to claim epistemic authority to speak as or to represent.”
Back at college I find that speaking in this vocabulary of exclusion ensures inclusion in meetings on course development, on-line learning, and educational development working parties.
Speaking from discursive and diverse vocabularies that weaves between discourses ensures that I am not invited into the key decision-influencing ‘spaces’. These spaces of educational management are homogeneous and exclusive. They exclude. All of the people who are invited into these spaces and whose vocabularies are spoken, are white people of English-British origin. This is not surprising, as I am the only staff member who is not White and English. So these are not spaces for conceptual, theoretical or methodological hybridity. My colleague, a Malaysian who shared my vocabulary of colour, resigned after being identified for redundancy. I stayed on and slogged it out.
Yet working outside of these spaces and in others constructed and sustained with black and white students [classes, seminars, supervision] I find that the kind of diversity that is excluded from the formal ‘institutional spaces’ thrives in the inclusive eaves and informal spaces that we create for learning. This is what I have come to understand as my narrative of resistance as a management educator.
 The Epistemological Hybridity that affects my contribution to the authorship of our joint paper:
Epistemological hybridity, what a phrase, does not imply a lack of coherence, focus, discipline or chronology. The ways of exploring knowing and making knowledge claims that have affected my self-study have not emerged suddenly and without a sense of order or timing. Additionally, I have cast my interpretative schema over the ideas and re-ordered them. So let me try to establish a temporary form of coherence and order.
In 1996, I wrote:
“Recently much has happened in my life as a teacher. The way in which I am choosing to live my life as a teacher is proving to be difficult and challenging for me, and those around me. I would like to let you into some of this. Would you be interested? Tricky question but consider your feelings and your response based in what you have read so far.
I cannot and will not tell it all. I don’t really know how to tell you yet. In time when I come to believe that my story has a meaning which is greater than my sense of it being self-indulgent I may be able to say more. Perhaps you will hurt me through my disclosure without malice or intention and merely by words which mean something to you but something else to me. I can only be partial in my account and I don’t believe I can know it all. This telling will be incomplete and imperfect. I will take my chances and leave you, the reader, to gather the fragments and arrange these with the figments in a manner convenient to you. I am writing so that the unheard voice can be reclaimed and heard. What is it that you hear? I would like to know” [Figments, Fragments and Situation: a Doctoral seminar paper, University of Bath]
This early writing marks my commitment to a disciplined, if yet unfocused, form of inquiring self-study into my teaching practice. As I worked with Jack I found that I was able to relate and identify with his ideas:
“ I believe that a systematic reflection on such a process provides insights into the nature of the descriptions and explanations which we would accept as valid accounts of our educational development. I claim that a living educational theory will be produced from such accounts [Jack Whitehead, 1988]
This idea, given a graphic flesh and blood, synchronic form in Jack’s own teaching practice, has enabled me to grow in confidence in my own knowledge claims about my teaching practice. In reading Elliot Eisner’s  paper, my desire to find expression through new forms of understanding and new forms of representation took hold:
“Don’t the meanings of poetry transcend the meaning of words? I worry about such matters because I want to understand the connection between experience and meaning and the contribution that different forms of representation make to each. It seems to me that such matters reside at the heart of any useful theory of education.”
Encountering Eisner’s ideas made clear to me the need to ground my self-study within a useful theory of education. I think that Jack’s living educational theory is a useful theory of education and provides an epistemological framework in which I can imagine and create a vocabulary of colour, a poiesis of hybridity.
I have chosen to weave and plait story-telling into a narrative account for my doctorate. While acknowledging my intellectual debt to Jack’s theoretical project, I am also indebted to my earliest encounters with the teacher self-study ideas and thinking of others:
“We argue that it is possible to imagine a different knowledge base for teaching – one that is not drawn exclusively from university-based research but it also drawn from research conducted by teachers, one that is not designed so that teachers function simply as objects of study and recipients of knowledge but also function as architects of study and generators of knowledge……Lack of significant teacher participation in codifying what we know about teaching, identifying research agendas, and creating new knowledge is problematic. Those who have daily access, extensive expertise, and a clear stake in improving classroom practice have no formal ways for their knowledge of classroom teaching and learning to become part of the literature of teaching”[Cochran-Smith and Lytle, 1993]
During the period 1996-1999 these ideas became a beacon of hope for me. I was finding a particular platform for my own scholarship and inquiry within educational research. Last year in Montreal Rishma Dunlop, a doctoral student at UBC and a published novelist, discussed how her published novel ‘Boundary Bay’ was also being submitted for doctoral examination. It constitutes a narrative of her educational journey and I also think that it is a delightful response to the idea that creating new knowledge is problematic. It can be, but as Dunlop claims and demonstrates I think, when a teacher-researcher-novelist chooses to transgress and cross over traditional boundaries a reconstruction of educational knowledge and theory takes place:
“Fictions are conditions as a premise for epistemological beginnings. A Novel is a narrative inquiry. To transgress, I move across boundaries. Boundary crossing, blurring of genres and radical rethinking…. I’ve chosen a form to say what I could not say otherwise” [personal notes and journal notes, Rishma Dunlop on her novel/doctoral thesis, ‘Boundary Bay’]
New forms that are intimate expressions of self with other through auto-biographical accounts, fiction, and dream-writing can all be ways of locating new forms for teacher self-study that contribute to a ‘new scholarship’. As Eisner said in his session in Montreal, “We need to represent data in meaningful ways to consumers” and he identified three ways that this can be achieved  magical feat  contents of consciousness turning these into forms of representation, forms of report, which allow people to understand and to see. As I write this paper and reflect on the ideas of Dunlop and Eisner, I relate to John Smith’s warning:
“ As new stories and vocabularies emerge, they most often are difficult to locate and difficult to track and describe. There are at least three understandable and related reasons for this difficulty. First, the stories and the vocabularies that are being tried out by various people do not arrive on the scene as well-developed and well-articulated packages. New vocabularies are not presented all at once in neat, tidy, and systematic packages to challenge the old story and, if successful, instantly seize the collective unconsciousness of people. On the contrary, the struggle to say something different seems to move in fits and starts and only gradually develops over time” .
How working with Nceku Nyathi and Farai Madziva demonstrates Smith’s idea in practice, in a form of living educational theory:
In 1998/99 I supervised both students in the development of their undergraduate dissertations/theses. Both are Zimbabweans, Ndebele-Nguni and MaShona respectively. Starting from different concerns and questions though similar situations, they both set out to ‘critique’ the Eurocentric skew in management theory and practice. Nceku was focused on the ‘colonizing’ and seductive power of a white, western-shaped discourse of management and organisational education that seemed to exclude African ways of thinking and knowing.
Nceku had read Senge’s book  and discovered how the author was weaving the concept of Ubuntu into his management and organisational frameworks. This inspired Nceku’s inquiry and moved him forward.
Farai, more grounded in experiences arising from a placement with an UK farming company, wanted to make sense of relationships, authority and power from the perspective of an African male. How would his account differ from a White, English account? Should it? Why and why not?
At this stage I questioned the quality and scope of my epistemological hybridity, and interrogated it particularly stringently in terms of my knowledge and my capacity to provide a theoretical guidance for their work. I re-traced my early thinking about African philosophy to Ben-Ami Scharfstein  and his question, Why Are There Only Three Philosophical Traditions? Here he presents the arguments for considering that there is a distinct way of thinking that can be called African.
He does not make any interpretation though he cites the positions of several African writers. I found myself relating to Hountondji’s  idea that the theoretical creativity of the African people’s has been arrested by colonialism and is yet to be liberated as this resonated for me following lengthy conversations and story-telling with Nceku. Born in colonial Rhodesia, I asked Nceku to tell me stories of his recollections of colonialism through his experience. When I read his account of how his father was called ‘boy’ by a white colonialist who was checking the family car at a road block, I think we both felt an immense anger and outrage. Nceku’s image of a strong and respected elder-figure in the community fragmented in his story, destroyed by a particularly cruel and vulgar white vocabulary. We sat as Africans, both. Not crying but gripped in a silent resolve to use this collaboration in scholarship to find a new form of representation of an African voice within the Royal Agricultural College. Using analogies from the language of psychotherapy, the transference was complete. We were liberation fighters, an intellectual guerrilla cell. While the college had become the repository for the most negative transference or projection: it had taken on the form of a hegemonic colonial power. Yet projection is not all one way, or entirely the phantasy of the projector, as this vignette points out:
“When I joined the college in 1991 there was a student society known as the ‘Colonials’. I refer to them historically and back then as the ‘so-called colonials’ refusing to extend any validity or legitimacy to their title. Its members were white Africans, and other international and home students ‘invited’ into membership. They were renown for violent initiation ceremonies, bullying of students who showed signs of difference – hairstyle, sexual preference – and had terrified and eventually beaten a German student they referred to as a Nazi. At their annual ceremony, the Colonial Ball, the College Principal would be the guest of honour. It was well-known that much of the focus of the humour at the Ball were in the form of stand-up routines caricaturing African leaders, and culture in a racist manner. I had written a letter to the secretary of this society in 1995 expressing concern about the unacceptability of the ‘colonial’ name. The response was for a senior manager of the college to ask for disciplinary action to be taken against me for potentially ‘offending’ an important niche market of students. This was followed by an aggressive deputation of southern African students coming to my room at college and telling me:  I was different to other members of staff and because of this,  that my concerns were not to be taken seriously, and  that this view was confirmed by the Principal and several members of the academic staff.
When I spoke to my line manager, Dean of the School of Business, he told me that while he understood my predicament he had it on good authority [the Principal] that my grievance would get ‘squashed’ by senior management. In this moment I experienced the very phenomena that had caused my father to leave his home: apartheid. That a/Apartheid had been allowed to permeate the Royal Agricultural College in 1990’s UK was a bizarre scenario, and it was a product of a particular social construction, a hegemonic white vocabulary.”
In discovering the work of E.Chukwudi Eze  I was at last able to access richer and deeper epistemological support to apply to my supervision of Farai’s and Nceku’s inquiries. A closer encounter with writings about colonialism has pointed me towards a post-colonial discourse.
Beyond this, I have began to open myself to writing within what Thabo Mbeki, the President of South Africa, refers to as “African Renaissance”. Central to this project emanating from South Africa is the process of reconciliation and the role that memory plays in being able to locate a past through the multiple vocabularies now able to ‘speak’ within South Africa. Nuttall and Coetzee in Negotiating the Past , provide a vital link between their ideas of narrative, story-telling and autobiographical accounts that connects Connelly’s and Clandinin’s  ideas of ‘stories to live by’:
“The chapters in this part are concerned with narratives of the self, and often the complex relations between autobiographical identity and collective identity. The contributors in this section concern themselves with what could be called the distortions of memory, necessary to the narration of the self in autobiography. In particular, the focus is on the structuring metaphors that shape personal and collective memory.”
Farai, Nceku and myself found ourselves held together in learning through our different stories that helped to explain who we are and how we came to be working on these inquiries. Bound together within a particular distortion of memory created within a colonial and apartheid southern Africa these stories have shaped a narrative by which we had determined not to live our lives.
Jack Whitehead writes:
Paulus – Mutse atsi!
Since the S-STEP meeting at AERA ’99, I have problematised my Whiteness. You have helped me to understand the importance of doing this if I am to embrace, understand and use languages of colour. Let me see if I can reflect back to you the languages of colour you saw intuitively through my ‘whiteness’ and which I think you value in my supervision of your research programme. I am thinking of my erotic, spiritual and psychotherapeutic languages of colour.
I’m going to focus on my understanding of the spiritual/erotic energy I believe that I bring into my educative relationships with you. I think this is not only based on a ‘tolerance’ (see note 1). I think it is based on my exhuberance for life when I encounter other human beings who communicate their own. I am thinking of exhuberance in the sense of a life affirming energy which I associate with the erotic impulse to assent to life up to the point of death (Bataille, p. 11. 1987). I link this erotic energy to Buber’s (1947) I-You relation where he writes that ‘trust, trust in the world because this person exists, this is the most inward achievement of the relation in education’.
In writing this I am getting clearer about my expression of empathy for a student, in relation to psychotherapeutic relations, and my boundaries as a professional educator. I am also aware that this spiritual/erotic impulse is what moves me to work/dialogue with you. It is because I experience your own spiritual/erotic base, as assenting to life even in death, with your life-affirming exhuberance, that my creative and critical energy is sparked off by your own. It isn’t only a tolerance of your difference. It is a positive embrace, a delightful acceptance without cognitive mediation of agreement or disagreement. It is grounded in my wholehearted acceptance of a mystery at the heart of my being. A mysterious source of life affirming energy which I know directly and feel no necessity to name. In fact I resist naming because I wish to remain open to accepting and embracing others who appear to be exploring the implications of bringing such energy and their associated, life enhancing values, more fully into the world.
In my early studies of psychotherapy I was interested in R.D. Laing’s (1969) notion that a psychotherapeutic relation involved a stubborn attempt by two people to regain the wholeness of being human through the relationship between them. What I think distinguishes my educative relationships from this ground of a psychotherapeutic relation, is that I am not involved in an attempt to regain the wholeness of being human through my educative relationship with my students. I think that both my ethic of responsibility as an educator and my ethic of care (Gilligan, 1982) for my students are grounded in my expression of erotic energy and trust in my I-You relations. They are both focused on enabling my students to create their own living educational
theories as they explore the implications of living their own values, understandings and skills more fully in the world.
I can also identify with John Heron’s point about spiritual growth, in being:
‘....alert to the hazards of defensive and offensive spirituality, in which unprocessed emotional distress distorts spiritual development, either by denying parts of one's nature, or by making inflated claims in order to manipulate others.’ (Heron, 2000, p.3, http://www.human-inquiry.com) . Here is an image from Heron’s website which carried for me some of the spiritual energy which flows through my practice.
At the point where ‘unprocessed emotional distress’ prevents a focus on exploring the implications of living one’s values more fully in practice, I am at the limits/boundaries of my responsibility as an educator. What I then do is move outside these limits in ways which are contingent on my perception of the needs of the other as a person, rather than my student.
In my educational enquiry, ‘How do I help you with your enquiries?’, I exist as a value-centre, as a centre of consciousness where my “I” has no beginning and no end. In this I believe with Bakhtin in existence as dialogue. I also see my certainty of my own death in the following:
“The only way I know of my birth is through accounts I have of it from others; and I shall never know my death, because my “self” will be alive only so long as I have consciousness - what is called “my” death, will not be known by me, but once again only by others... Stories are the means by which values are made coherent in particular situations. And this narrativity, this possibility of conceiving my beginning and end as a whole life, is always enacted in the time/space of the other: I may see my death, but not in the category of my “I’, For my “I”, death occurs only for others, even when the death in question is my own.” (Holquist, 1990, p.37.)
I also bring into my educative relationship with you the following assumptions about your own ‘I’; your existence as a living contradiction; your capacity to create and test your own living educational theories and your capacity to create your own discipline of education through your action research into your life as a professional educator. I think we both find these assumptions helpful in taking our enquiries forward.
Through my ‘White’ language and my ‘Languages of Colour’, what I am seeking to do is to help you to create and criticise your own disciplines of education and living educational theories as you exercise your originality of mind and critical judgement as a professional educator. My imagination is captivated by the life-force, images and the passion for social justice in your relationship with me and with your students. I find your languages of colour are helping me to extend my own living educational theories to include a greater responsibility for living my values of social justice.
I am thinking of ‘responsible’ in the terms used by Bakhtin to discuss a problem a ‘rationalist’ philosophy in relation to the creation of his literary theories:
“As Bakhtin explains “I” do not fit into theory - neither in the psychology of consciousness, not the history of some science, nor in the chronological ordering of my day, not in my scholarly duties...... these problems derive from the fundamental error of “rationalist” philosophy... The fatal flaw is the denial of responsibility - which is to say, the crisis is at base an ethical one. It can be overcome only by an understanding of the act as a category into which cognition enters but which is radically singular and “responsible”. (Morson & Emerson , 1989, p. 13.)
I also feel an affinity with Bakhtin in his views of responsibility, value, human subject and intention. I agree with his view that “intention’ does not signify a direct correlation between inner plan and outer act direct toward a specific telos:
for all deeds are connected to the deeds of others, so their meanings can never be grasped in themselves or from the point of view of a supra-situational end. (Holquist, M. p.155, 1990).
So, this is why our living dialogue is so important to me in our educative relationship as I seek to both help you with your enquiry and to understand my own learning as I do so. I need your responses in order to both help you to move forward and to exercise my artistry as an educator in ‘seeing’ my influence with you and in seeking to make an appropriate response.
Given these agreements with Bakhtin and knowing your fascination with literary theory, I look for points of disagreement where someone influenced by Bakhtin’s literary theories might not believe in my conception of my living educational theories. The main point of disagreement might be in his “Notes of 1970-71” where he says:
“Dialogue and dialectics. Take a dialogue and remove the voices (the partitioning of voices), remove the intonations (emotional and individualizing ones), carve out abstract concepts and judgements from living words and responses, cram everything into one abstract consciousness - and that’s how you get dialectics.”
I need to develop a fuller understanding of Bakhtin’s view of dialectics, but my own is different to the above view. In writing about dialectics ‘cramming everything into one abstract consciousness’ this seems close to Hegelian dialectics. I think the two strands of Marxist dialectics, dialectical materialism and historical materialism, explicitly reject a notion of ‘one abstract consciousness’. I also followed Habermas’ (p. 383,1987) rejection of the ‘philosophical ballast’ of historical materialism in his Theory of Communicative Action. I’m still attached to the view of dialectics in Plato’s dialogues on poetic inspiration in which he writes of the art of the dialectician as a process of coming to know through question and answer in which we hold together both our capacity to break things down into particulars and our capacity to hold things together in a general idea (Whitehead, 1999). I’m still attached to the view that my second original contribution to educational knowledge has been the inclusion of ‘I’ as a living contradiction, the nucleus of dialectics, in accounts of educational enquiries of the form, ‘How do I improve what I am doing?’ and ‘How can I help you to improve your learning?’.
So, the only point of disagreement so far, with Bakhtin, is the integration of my dialectical epistemology within a dialogical form of representation for educational enquiries of the kind ’How do I improve what I am doing?’.
Could it be that your gaze and educational judgements are structured by the Griqua ground of your being in Mutse Atsi!, and your representations of your educative influences and relations (Lomax, 2000)? I am thinking of the dialogical and dialectical nature of the living educational theories you create as a professional educator as you comprehend your own professional practice and learning. I am thinking of the influence on others, of your living educational theories, as you explain your educative practices and influences through the languages of colour of yourself, your students and others. I am wondering if our ‘educative relationship’ has developed to the point where we are seeing through our languages of ‘White and Black with White’ to our languages of colour and then through our aesthetically engaged and appreciative responses (D’Arcy, pp. 185-187, 1998) to our experiences as human beings as we seek to have a positive influence in the world (or our small bit of it!) from within our S-STEP community and beyond.
At the S-STEP meeting in Montreal at AERA’99 I agreed to work with you on a paper which would bring more fully into S-STEP, a language of colour. The March 2000 issue of Educational Researcher contains a book review by Young and Rosiek (2000), they call Interrogating Whiteness.
They explain that problematizing the meaning of whiteness is increasingly recognized as an important part of challenging inequality and oppression. In their review they say that:
“… despite the promises made by Apple in the introduction that the book would explore possibilities for the reconstruction of white identity, very little was offered in this regard…. Only a few paragraphs offer visions for new identity configurations that could supplant existing ones. This pattern is repeated, to greater and lesser degrees, throughout the book.” (p.42)
and they state that:
“…. On a more concrete and specific level, the book lacks any models of practical anti-racist white identity…..” (p.43)
I am hopeful that our collaboration meets such criticism. Mutse Asti! Love Jack.
Note 1 – My focus on the positive erotic/spiritual energy in my educative relation was promoted by correspondence with Jerry Allender as we prepared for our presentation on ‘An Educational Action Researcher and Humanistic Educator examine their world views of self-study’. When Jerry wrote about ‘tolerance’ of different values, I found myself focusing on my passion to understand the source of the life-affirming energy of others.
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Cochrane-Smith, M., and Lytle.S, ( 1993) Inside/Outside: Teacher Research and Knowledge. Teachers College Press, New York
Connelly, M, and Clandinin, J (1999) Shaping a Professional Identity: Stories of Educational Practice. University of Western Ontario; Althouse Press
D’Arcy, P. (1998) The Whole Story…. Ph.D Thesis, University of Bath. See the ‘Living Theory ‘Section of http://www.actionresearch.net)
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Habermas, J. (1987) The Theory of Communicative Action, p. 383, Cambridge: Polity.
(Heron, 2000, p.3, http://www.human-inquiry.com)
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Lomax, P. (2000) Coming to a better understanding of educative relations through learning from individuals’ representations of their action research. Reflective Practice, Vol. 1, No. 1, pp. 43-56.
Minh-ha, Trinh (1989) Woman, Native, Other: Writing Postcoloniality an Feminism. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University
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Senge, P (1994) The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook: Strategies and Tools for Building a Learning Organization. Nicholas Braley, London
Smith,J, ( 1997) The Stories Educational Researchers Tell About Themselves. Educational Researcher, Vol 26, No 5, June/July
Whitehead, J. (2000) How do I improve my practice? Creating and legitimating an epistemology of practice. Reflective Practice, Vol. 1 No.1, pp. 91-104).
Whitehead, J. (1999) Educative Relations in a New Era, Curriculum Studies, Vol. 7, No.1, pp. 73-90.
Jack Whitehead’s response to ‘Relationships of Knowledge and Practice: Teacher Learning in Communities’ by Marilyn Cochran-Smith & Susan Lytle, in Review of Research in Education, Vol. 24, 1999, pp. 249-305.
(This response was stimulated by conversations at a seminar organised by the Professional Learning Research Group at the University of Bath on the 22 March 2000. The group had invited participants to focus on the three different conceptions of knowledge in the above paper. My thanks to my colleagues in our Department of Education for the invitation to their seminar)
Cochrane-Smith and Lytle (1999) suggest three conceptions of teacher learning, Knowledge-for-practice, Knowledge-in-practice and Knowledge-of-practice for making sense of relationships of knowledge and practice. For each of these conceptions they provide a brief overview and then discuss their major images. They use the term images to mean the central common conceptions that seem symbolic of basic attitudes and orientations to teaching and learning.
I am seeking to understand my anger with the text. I want to improve my understanding in a way which can both take my leaning forward and can enhance my capacity to communicate my concerns and ideas to you.
The work of Cochrane-Smith and Lytle has been influential in the latest renewal of interest in teacher research and other forms of practitioner inquiry in the U.S. Their focus on different conceptions of knowledge for action, knowledge in action and knowledge of action, is particularly relevant to the theme of this year’s American Educational Research Association Annual Conference on Creating Knowledge in the 21st Century: Insights from multiple perspectives. Through responding to their work I am hoping to strengthen my own contributions to AERA 2000.
For Cochrane-Smith and Lytle, the conception of Knowledge-for-practice hinges on the idea that knowing more leads more or less directly to more effective practice. In this conception, teachers improve teaching by implementing, translating or otherwise putting into practice they knowledge that they acquire from experts outside the classroom. In their images of knowledge-for-practice, the knowledge teachers need to teach well is produced primarily by university-based researchers and scholars in various disciplines. This includes subject matter knowledge, educational theories, and conceptual frameworks, as well as state-of-the-art strategies and effective practices for teaching a variety of content areas. They say that their knowledge-for-practice conception is based on the premise that teaching as a distinctive knowledge base that when mastered, will provide teachers with a unique fund of knowledge.
In their conception of Knowledge-in practice the emphasis is on knowledge in action: what every competent teachers know as it is expressed or embedded in the artistry of practice, in teachers’ reflections on practice, in teachers’ practical inquiries, and/or in teachers’ narrative accounts of practice. In this view teachers improve teaching through opportunities to enhance, make explicit, and articulate the tacit knowledge embedded in experience and in the wise action of very competent professionals.
In their images of knowledge in their knowledge-in-practice conception, teacher learning depends on the assumption that the knowledge teachers need to teach well is embedded in the exemplary practice of experienced teachers. In this image, teacher learning is rooted in the constructivist image of knowledge. They say that this includes how outstanding teachers make judgements, how they conceptualize and describe classroom dilemmas, how they name and select aspects of classroom life for attention, and how they think about and improve their craft. They also agree with Schön that a new epistemology of practice will be needed to understand the nature of knowledge-in-practice.
I want to return later to my feelings that Cochrane-Smith and Lytle appear to be proposing a ‘conception’ of knowledge-in-action whilst at the same time acknowledging that ‘knowledge-in-action will require a new epistemology. I think my negative feelings are focused on their use of the logic and language of technical rationality to conceptualise knowledge-in-action, without appearing to appreciate the danger that they may be colonising the new epistemology through the assumption that it can be ‘conceptualised’ using the traditional view of ‘conception’. I want to explore the base of my anger, to see if it is justified. I am wondering if they should perhaps analyse their conception of knowledge-in-practice from a perspective of knowledge-of-practice
For Cochrane-Smith and Lytle, from the perspective of ‘knowledge of practice’:
“…both knowledge generation and knowledge use are regarded as inherently problematic. That is, basic questions about knowledge and teaching – what it means to generate knowledge, who generates it, what counts as knowledge and to whom, and how knowledge is used and evaluated in particular contexts – are always open to discussion.” (p. 272)
In relation to the images of knowledge in their knowledge-of-practice conception they say:
“… the knowledge teachers need to teach well emanates from systematic inquiries about teaching, learners, and learning, subject matter and curriculum, and schools and schooling. This knowledge is constructed collectively within local and broader communities….. the image of knowledge as collectively constructed is particularly striking; knowledge emerges from the conjoined understandings of teachers and others committed to long-term highly systematic observation and documentation of learners and their sense making.” (pp. 274/275)
I am starting to focus my attention on the last part of their paper on ‘Directions Forward: Inquiry as Stance’. I like what they say about teachers and student teachers who take an inquiry stance, work within inquiry communities to generate local knowledge, envision and theorize their practice, and interpret and interrogate the theory and research of others. They say that fundamental to the notion of an inquiry stance, is the idea that the work of inquiry communities is both social and political; that is, it involves making problematic the current arrangements in schools. They say that they are against the dualisms established by those who take as basic premises a) that it is possible to delineate two kinds of knowledge teaching, b) that this distinction accounts for the universe of knowledge types in understanding teacher, and c) that the practical knowledge concept adequately captures the work of teachers and the activity of teaching. I agree with their point that this distinction works to maintain the hegemony of university-generated knowledge for teaching and carries with it the same power and status differentials associated with the disconnections of basic from applied research and theory from practice.
I also like what they say about moving beyond the Idea that Practice is Practical. When I focus my own enquiries on the question, ‘How do I improve my practice?’, I do adopt a stance of enquiry in seeing that teaching and thus teacher learning are centrally about forming and re-forming frameworks for understanding practice: how students and their teachers construct the curriculum, co-mingling their experiences, their cultural and linguistic resources, and their interpretive frameworks; how teachers’ actions are infused with complex and multilayered understandings of learners, culture, class, gender, literacies, social issues, institutions, histories, communities, materials, texts, and curricula; and how teachers work together to develop and alter their questions and interpretive frameworks informed not only by thoughtful consideration of the immediate situation and the particular students they teach and have taught but also by the multiple contexts within which they work.
Given that I identify with and find engaging so many of their individual points why does the paper as a whole fill me with such fury? I think I’m getting close to an answer.
My own training in analytic philosophy focused on the kind of linguistic conceptualisations in their paper. I found that conceptualisations constructed from an analytic/linguistic base were too limited to conceptualising my learning as a professional educator when I considered the nature of the explanations I offered for my own learning. This isn’t to say that they aren’t of value. I find them of great value. I’ll explain below why I think they are too limited to provide a basis for understanding the relationships of knowledge and practice of professional educators. (I’m now getting closer to my fury and I can feel it subsiding as I come to understand that it is focused on Cochrane-Smith’s and Lytle’s hope that they have presented a conceptual framework for understanding teacher learning that interrogates underlying images of knowledge, practice, and their complex interrelationships, exposes a number of provocative issues about the whole topic of teaching learning and the role of communities).
I now understand that my fury with the text was focused on the intuitive feeling that their linguistic and propositional form of conceptualising was not permitting teacher-learners to speak for themselves, in a way which acknowledged the living and dialectical conceptualising of teacher-learners.
In my own learning I have explored the implications of asking myself questions of the kind, ‘How do I improve what I am doing?’ in the context of helping my students to improve their learning (Whitehead, 1999a, 2000). I found that I needed to develop a dialectical materialist’s conception of educational knowledge and educational theorising in a way which integrated knowledges-for/in/of-practice without being explained by any one of them or any combination of the three conceptions.
The dialectical and dialogical base of my relationships of knowledge and practice have a different logical base to Cochrane-Smith’s and Lytle’s linguistic and propositional logic. Let me see if I can communicate the essential difference between the two logics by drawing on the work of two dialecticians, Seve (1978) & Ilyenkov (1977).
The task of conceptual thought, understood like this is to ……. express the logic of the essential processes through which the development of this object is brought about. Doing which the concepts absolutely do not tell us how the singular concrete is in general but in general how the singular concrete is produced. This is precisely why the essence can then be reached in its concrete reality, the singular grasped in the generality of the concept: in dialectical forms of abstraction the essence is not what appears common to the object and to others which one compares it, but the necessary internal movement of the object grasped in itself i.e. it is the essence of this object; the generality of the concept is not constituted by eliminating the singular but by raising the singular to the level of its internal logic, i.e. it constitutes ‘the specific logic of the specific object’. (Lucien Seve, p.265, 1978)
Embracing such a dialectical view of concepts, does not mean rejecting propositional approaches. It does suggest however, that the taken-for-granted notions of ‘concept’, ‘conceptualisation’ and ‘conception’, used by Cochrane-Smith and Lytle, should become ‘problematics’ to be explored in a review of different conceptions of educational knowledge. I have explored such a problematic in ‘The Logic of the Question ‘How do I improve my practice?’ (Whitehead, 1999b).
Are Cochrane-Smith and Lytle writing about both knowledge generation and knowledge use, in ‘knowledge-of-practice’, as ‘inherently problematic’ from within an abstract, linguistic from of conceptualisation, which is taken-for-granted as unproblematic? Can their form of conceptualisation communicate the meanings of the knowledges-of-practice as lived by professional educators?
The living theory theses at http://www.actionresearch.net suggest that Cochrane-Smith’s and Lytle’s linguistic concepts are too limited to communicate the meanings of the knowledges-of practice of professional educators. I am also wondering, in relation to the politics of educational knowledge, whether Cochrane-Smith’s and Lytle’s conceptualisations of knowledge may be unwittingly suppressing the voices of teacher-researchers as they seek to gain academic legitimacy for their own knowledge-of-practice from within more dialogical and dialectical forms of conceptualisation?
Cochran-Smith, M. & Lytle, S. L. (1999) The Teacher Research Movement: A Decade Later. Educational Researcher, Vol. 28, No.7, pp. 15-28.
Seve, L. (1978) Man in Marxist Theory and the Psychology of Personality. Brighton: Harvester.
Whitehead, J. (1999a) Educative Relations in a New Era. Curriculum Studies, Vol. 7, No.1, pp. 73-90.
Whitehead, J. (1999b) The Logic of the Question, ‘How do I improve my practice?’, See Chapter Three in How do I improve my practice? Creating a discipline of education through educational enquiry. Ph.D. Thesis, University of Bath, in the Living Theory Section of http://www.actionresearch.netWhitehead, J. (2000) How Do I Improve My Practice? Creating and Legitimating an Epistemology of Practice. Reflective Practice, Vol.1, No.1, pp. 91-104. (JW, March, 2000)