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Postmodernism in Education  

Marek Tesar, Andrew Gibbons, Sonja Arndt, and Nina Hood

The period of postmodernism refers to a diverse set of ideas, practices, and disciplines that came to prominence in the later 20th century. It is the overarching philosophical project that responds to and critiques the principles of modernity and challenges the established ways of thinking. It opposes the ideas that it is possible to rationalize life through narrow, singular disciplinary thinking or through the establishment of a universal truth and grand narratives that strive for the value-neutral homogeneity that defined Enlightenment thinking. Postmodernism questions ontological, epistemological, and ethical conventions, and it opens up possibilities for multiple discourses and accepting marginalized and minority thoughts and practices. Openness to diversity is a key outcome of the multiplicities arising in postmodernity across a range of fields, including, among others, art, education, philosophy, architecture, and economics. Through its rejection of the totalizing effects of metanarratives and their intentions to achieve universal truths, goals, outcomes, and sameness, the postmodern condition opens an ethical responsibility toward otherness, to allow for diversity, and thus to elevate those who have been subjugated or marginalized in modernity. Postmodernism has been playing a significant role in what sometimes is termed the equity approach in education. While postmodernism may be eventually overtaken by other “posts”—post-qualitative, post-truth, post-digital—it still remains an important part of philosophy of education scholarship and broader understandings and conceptualizations of education.

Article

Educational Biopolitics  

Gregory Bourassa

Educational biopolitics is a growing field of study that explores the intersections of education, life, and power. A central question this literature has formed is a powerful, albeit familiar one: what types of life do schools validate, and what types of life do schools attempt to negate? Given this focus, the concept of educational life has emerged as one of the key units of analysis that informs inquiries in this field. There are two predominant modes of engagement that characterize studies in educational biopolitics: (a) analytical endeavors that seek to understand the operation of contemporary logics of biopower (a power over life) in schools and (b) affirmative educational endeavors that seek to highlight the potential of life to create power. Each approach begins with an understanding that schools do more than transmit knowledge; they are sites of struggle over the production, reproduction, and management of subjectivity. These approaches have led to unique inquiries that explore a number of tangentially related themes and make use of various concepts, including disposability, extractive schooling, and the common.

Article

Curriculum Influences: William James and Michel Foucault  

Bernadette Baker and Clare O'Farrell

William James (1841–1910), working primarily out of the United States, and Michel Foucault (1926–1984), working primarily out of France, are two very different figures who both made an impact on current theories of education. Even if the primary focus of their work is not education, their ideas challenge what it is that makes education recognizable as education and takes issue with its very identity as a discipline. William James, who began publishing in the 1870s, is generally described as a philosopher and psychologist. He remains well-known for his work on pragmatism in the wake of Charles Sanders Peirce’s pragmaticism and for his work on religion, ethics, and mind theory, but he also devoted considerable time to the study of parapsychology and gave some attention to teacher education. Foucault has been variously described as a philosopher, historian, historian of ideas, and a social and political theorist. His work addressed an impressive array of fields across the sciences, literature, art, ethics, and institutional, political, and social history, and spanned a wide range of historical periods mainly in European and French history from the 13th century to the 20th century with later excursions into the Ancient Greek and early Christian eras. Foucault’s work has been widely, but selectively, deployed within education studies across the globe, with a strong focus on his notions of power, governmentality, surveillance, subjectivity, discourse, and ethics in their various iterations. James’s work has been relatively less deployed, with emphasis on the application of his version of pragmatism, theories of mind, and talks to teachers. The work of the two thinkers may be considered to overlap in two important ways: first, in their respective approaches to the notion of practice, namely the idea of philosophy as strategic and located in day-to-day concrete experience rather than occupying the rarefied realms of abstraction; and second, their interest in the margins of knowledge – knowledge that has been excluded by mainstream science and accepted ways of thinking. In the case of James, this interest manifests in his long-term studies in the field of parapsychology and in the case of Foucault in his interest in the meandering byways and monstrosities of the history of ideas, of long-forgotten knowledge rejected by the scientific mainstream or formulated on the margins of society.

Article

Examining Education Reforms of India in the Matrix of Rights and Biopolitics  

Jyoti Dalal

Three significant reforms were established at the turn of the century in India: the National Curriculum Framework of 2005, the National Curriculum Framework for Teacher Education of 2009, and the Right to Education Act of 2009. All three reforms reflect a contradiction between the rights of citizens and the regulatory biopolitical inertia of the state. Indian State has undergone cyclical shifts in its orientation. In certain phases, rights became the fulcrum to guide policy and legal framework, and in other phases, the regulatory impulse of the state was at the center. The neoliberal turn of the 1990s marked a sharp shift in which the state left behind its welfare outlook and adopted a more regulatory structure. The rights-based agenda of the three reforms needs to be understood against the backdrop of the changing nature of the state. The three reforms stand apart from those instituted before and after, in that they were informed by a critique of the rights-based framework even while working within it. The three reforms and their social context provide an example of the tension between rights and biopolitics; the reforms emerged as a response to this tension. While proposing rights-based reforms in school education, the intent was much more ambitious, going beyond the immediate domain of education. Occurring in the middle of a neoliberal, market-driven discourse, these reforms critiqued the 21st-century state and pushed it to serve the role of a provider and not just a regulator.

Article

Foucauldian Discourse Analysis and Early Childhood Education  

Alexandra C. Gunn

Formal early childhood education is a relatively modern institution to which increasing numbers of children are routinely exposed. Since the modern invention of childhood, the early childhood years have been increasingly established as a site for public and private investment in the name of individual and community development, the achievement of educational success, increased human productivity, and ultimately labor market productivity and excellence. As various forms of early childhood education have developed around the world, each has been imbued with values, perspectives, norms, and standards of its pioneers. They have also drawn upon and reinforced certain truths, knowledges, practices, and expectations about children, childhood, education, and society. As microcosms of society whose inhabitants are largely novice members of the communities of which they are part, teachers in early childhood education are routinely addressing issues of exclusion, injustice, and inequity with children and families. French historian and poststructural philosopher Michel Foucault’s (1926–1984) interests in the nexus of power-knowledge-truth and its consequences for life offer avenues for comprehending how modern institutions, such as systems of early childhood education, invest in and bring about certain forms of knowledge and practice. His methods of genealogical inquiry and discourse analysis make visible the workings of power as it moves on, in, and through human bodies. The perspectives made visible by Foucauldian analyses show how techniques, developed and applied within institutions, form humans in particular ways. Thus, it is possible to see the interplay between power-truth-knowledge, how things come to be, and how they may change.