Jennifer C. Ingrey
A survey of key contributors and theoretical tensions in the applications of queer studies in education is purposefully partial namely because of the impartiality embedded in the nature of ‘queer’, a verb whose action unsettles, dismantles and interrogates systems of normalization, beginning with heteronormativity and heterosexism. Queer theory emerged in the 1990s before influencing education, including both elementary and secondary schooling; however, queer is complex in that it involves the signifier or signified term: it is both the integration of queer content in curriculum as well as the practice of queering educational practices (i.e., curriculum, pedagogy and practice). The queering of pedagogy involves the queering of the educational subject, both teachers and students. In such a survey of queer in education, the ontological groundings for queer are important to consider given the paradoxical nature of queer to unpack and unsettle whilst maintaining its hold on an identity category in order to do its unsettling work. Indeed, the consequent recognition of the subjecthood of queer in educational contexts is a significant note in this attention to queer’s application in education. Queer also moves beyond not only an inclusion of queer content, but also exceeds queer sexualities to cohere and contrast with trans-infused approaches. Queer theory considers that the future of queer may well exceed beyond sexuality and gender altogether to become a practice of unsettling or critique more generally. Its continuity in education studies as well as its potentially impending expiration are concerns of scholars in the field.
Activities that actively and deliberately support museum visitors’ engagement with art and promote learning occupy a distinct, though contested, place in the history and current framing of the art museum across the globe. Despite its many benefits, educational work in art museums has grown erratically, frequently without formal structures, systems, or strategies, and it has been critiqued in the past for lacking a robust theoretical framework and consistent methodological principles. It remains the case that the field is broad, diverse, and continually evolving; in the early 21st century, the boundaries are shifting, for example, between what constitutes curatorial practice and learning practice in contemporary art museums. This fluidity and heterogeneity has enabled the emergence of creative and responsive practice that encourages visitors to learn with, through, and about art, but it poses challenges when the goal is to present a coherent overview. Therefore any summary of this complex domain will necessarily be selective. Nonetheless, taking the practice as it has been developed in the United Kingdom and the United States, where this work has been theorized and communicated to the greatest extent (and with reference to the practice in Europe, Canada, and Australia), it is possible to identify common historical developments, shared philosophical and pedagogical principles, and collective challenges and opportunities that contribute to a comprehensible picture, albeit one that is replete with contradictions. As a field, art-museum education continues to define itself. And although valuable research and theorization have been undertaken, in part by practitioners drawing on their own experiences, further work is required, not least to broaden the understanding of the practice as it is manifest globally and to make explicit the increasingly important role of art education within the art museum.