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Curriculum Studies, Critical Geography, and Critical Spatial Theory  

Robert Helfenbein and Gabriel Huddleston

During the late 20th and early 21st centuries, spatial terms have emerged and proliferated in academic circles, finding application in several disciplines extending beyond formal geography. Critical geography, a theoretical addition to the home discipline of geography as opposed to being a new discipline in itself, has seen application in many other disciplines, mostly represented by what is collectively called social theory (i.e., sociology, cultural studies, political science, and literature). The application of critical spatial theory to educational theory in general, and curriculum theorizing in particular, points to new trajectories for both critical geographers and curriculum theorists. The growth of these two formations have coincided with the changes in the curriculum studies field, especially as it relates to the Reconceptualization of that field during the 1970s. In terms of critical spatial theory especially, the exploration of how we conceptualize place and space differently has allowed curriculum studies scholars to think more expansively about education, schools, pedagogy, and curriculum. More specifically, it has allowed a more fluid understanding of how curriculum is formed and shaped over time by framing the spatial as something beyond a “taken-for-granted” fact of our lives. The combination of spatial theory and curriculum studies has produced a myriad of explorations to see how oppression works in everyday spaces. The hope inherent in this work is that if we can understand how space is (re)produced with inherent inequities, we can produce spaces, especially educative ones, that are more just and equitable.


Diaspora Literacy, Heritage Knowledge, and Revolutionary African-Centered Pedagogy in Black Studies Curriculum Theorizing and Praxis  

Joyce E. King

The original mission of Black Studies is producing consciousness transforming knowledge, and teaching for social change in close connection with Black communities, not mimicking other disciplines in producing esoteric knowledge for establishment legitimacy in the academy. Two principal pillars for Black Studies curriculum theorizing and praxis have been: (a) knowledge making as (and for) consciousness transformation and (b) social change for (and as) Diaspora literacy knowledge making also refers to the ability to “read” various cultural signs as continuities in African-descended people’s experience. As a foundation for collective cultural agency, Heritage knowledge or group memory, refers to a repository or heritable legacy that makes a feeling of belonging, peoplehood, and communal solidarity as an outcome of education possible. Vèvè A. Clark, scholar of African and Caribbean literature, African American dance histories, and African diaspora theatre, coined the concept of Diaspora literacy in a 1984 paper analyzing allegory in Guadeloupean writer Maryse Condé’s novel, Hérémakhonon, which situated an Afro-Caribbean women’s identity quest in postcolonial West Africa. Clark later revised and expanded the concept to denote a narrator’s or reader’s ability to understand and/or interpret the multilayered meanings of stories, words, and other folk sayings within any given African diaspora community. Heritage knowledge takes the unjust system out of the center and puts the Africanity of group memory, the Black perspective, which is the cultural foundation that generates people’s collective cultural agency, at the center. While Heritage knowledge is a cultural birthright of every human being, the experience of Blackness as “ontological lack” obstructs and denies African people’s humanity and agency. These conceptual tools and revolutionary African-centered pedagogy provide opportunities for consciousness transforming education for Black liberation. Such theoretical concepts and praxis in Black Studies are neglected in curriculum theorizing discourse and praxis. This is so even though curriculum is viewed as racial text and reconceptualists focus on autobiography, subjectivity, identity, transformation, and more to define curriculum as a process (currere) not an object of study. Likewise, curriculum theorizing has yet to become an identifiable subfield within the transdiscipline of Black or Africana Studies, notwithstanding decades of institutionalizing curricula in higher education since the 1980s, including a National Council of Black Studies curriculum framework. Because African-descended people’s continent of origin and history, as well as Black children, their families, and teachers have been maligned in society, the radical introduction of African content in Afrocentric curriculum and pedagogy is needed to change the quality of education and to create new understanding of the racial politics of knowledge for all students and teachers. Revolutionary African-centered pedagogy aims to undo “twisted thinking” about Africa; challenge the oppressive educational system’s vision; defend students from self-hatred, and support agency for those who have been marginalized by hegemonic concepts, themes, and curricular ideas. The aim of examining relevant theoretical, epistemological, curriculum, and pedagogical developments in Black Studies and Black education scholarship is to clarify the meaning, significance, and implications of (a) African diaspora/s as a concept in education, political discourse, and method in Black Studies; (b) what deciphering Africanity in Diaspora literacy consciousness and Heritage knowledge reveals about the importance of the Black (Studies) perspective; and (c) revolutionary African-centered pedagogy as a philosophy and method of teaching for consciousness transformation.