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Identity and Agency in Informal Science Education Through the Lens of Equity and Social Justice  

Jrène Rahm

Learning and becoming are understood as emergent from participation in practices at the intersection of formal and informal science education. What learners value, engage in, and transform is understood as entangled with who they have been, think they are, and yet aim to become, calling for an intersectional lens to any analysis of learning and identity in science. Who one is and can become in science, given recognition by others as a science person, is political and a product of intersecting patterns of racism and sexism, to name two key dimensions, which are not additive but instead form a symbiotic relationship. Intersectionality foregrounds the structural, political, and representational of an oppressive system at work and is a lens essential to an equity- and social justice–driven conceptualization of science education at the intersection of formal and informal educational venues. Critical transdisciplinarity facilitates the unpacking of what science is and what kind of science a science person engages in, and it can move studies beyond paralyzing ideologies and meritocracies that undermine full participation in science by youth of color, for instance. Engagement with intersectionality, critical transdisciplinarity, and the political can make rightful presence a shared goal to work toward among science educators and researchers, a much-needed commitment in the informal science education field. Community-based educational spaces (CBES) challenge deficit discourses of youth and, instead, aim to build on youths’ funds of knowledge and identities through empowering practices. Identity work is approached through a grounding in practice theory, which calls for a focus on the figuring of worlds, lives, and identities. Becoming somebody in science is presented as a creative act by youth, who challenge what science is and who can become somebody in science. Actions by youth can make evident desirable identities that result in the “thickening” of their affinities with science, a process also charged by emotions. That is, intersectionality can be experienced as emotionally taxing, while agency and transformation by youth may result in positive emotions. A mobile view of learning and identity in science, captured by the notion of wayfinding, calls to attention hybridity, intersectionality, and critical transdisciplinarity. That grounding can move the study of learning and becoming in science beyond a binary vision of formal and informal science education while also making it political. A deeper commitment and engagement with social justice work in studies of learning and identity in CBES, a process well captured by the notion of rightful presence, could become a common goal to work toward in the vast field of science education, both formal and informal.


Critical White Studies and Curriculum Theory  

James C. Jupp and Pauli Badenhorst

Critical White studies (CWS) refers to an oppositional and interdisciplinary body of historical, social science, literary, and aesthetic intellectual production that critically examines White people’s individual, collective, social, and historical experiences. CWS reflexively assumes the embeddedness of researcher identities within the research, including the different positionalities of White researchers and researchers of Color within White supremacy writ large as well as whiteness in the social sciences and curriculum theory. As an expression of the historical consciousness shift sparked by anglophone but also francophone African-Atlantic and pan-African intellectuals, CWS emerged within the 20th century’s emancipatory social sciences tied to Global South independence movements and Global North civil rights upheavals. Initiated by cultural studies theorists Stuart Hall and Dick Dyer in the early 80s, CWS has proliferated through two waves. CWS’ first wave (1980–2000) advanced a race-evasive analytical arc with the following ontological and epistemological conceptual-empirical emphases: whiteness as hegemonic normativity, White identity and nation-building, White privilege and property, and White color-blind racism and race evasion. CWS’ second-wave (2000–2020) advanced an anti-essentializing analytical arc with pedagogical conceptual-empirical emphases: White materiality and place, White complexities and relationalities, Whiteness and ethics, and social psychoanalyses in whiteness pedagogies. Always controversial, CWS proliferated as a “hot topic” in social sciences throughout the 90s. Regarding catalytic validity, several CWS concepts entered mass media and popular discussions in 2020 to understand White police violence against Black people—violence of which George Floyd’s murder is emblematic. In curriculum theory, CWS forged two main “in-ways.” In the 1990s, CWS entered the field through Henry Giroux, Joe Kincheloe, Shirley Steinberg, and colleagues who advanced critical whiteness pedagogies. This line of research is differently continued by Tim Lensmire and his colleagues Sam Tanner, Zac Casey, Shannon Macmanimon, Erin Miller, and others. CWS also entered curriculum theory via the field of White teacher identity studies advanced by Sherry Marx and then further synthesized by Jim Jupp, Theodorea Berry, Tim Lensmire, Alisa Leckie, Nolan Cabrera, and Jamie Utt. White teacher identity studies is frequently applied to work on predominantly White teacher education programs. Besides these in-ways, CWS’ conceptual production, especially the notion of “whiteness as hegemonic normativity” or whiteness, disrupted whitened business-as-usual in curriculum theory between 2006 and 2020. Scholars of Color supported by a few White scholars called out curriculum theory’s whiteness and demanded change in a field that centered on race-based epistemologies and indigenous cosmovisions in conferences and journals. CWS might play a role in working through the as-of-yet unresolved conflict over the futurity of curriculum theory as a predominantly White space. A better historicized CWS that takes on questions of coloniality of power, being, and knowledge informed by feminist, decolonial, and psychoanalytic resources provides one possible futurity for CWS in curriculum theory. In this futurity, CWS is relocated as one dimension of a broad array of criticalities within curriculum theory’s critical pedagogies. This relocated CWS might advance psychoanalytically informed whiteness pedagogies that grapple with the overarching question: Can whiteness and White identities be decolonized? This field would include European critical psychoanalytic social sciences along with feminist and decolonial resources to advance a transformative shift in consciousness.