- Department: Education
- Module co-ordinator: Information currently unavailable
- Credit value: 20 credits
- Credit level: M
- Academic year of delivery: 2022-23
- See module specification for other years: 2023-24
In this module, we will examine the relationship between education and the world’s shared future. We will discuss questions like: What is education’s responsibility for, and its potential in addressing, environmental decay? How might education help us imagine alternative futures? How does education shape the political ‘horizons of the possible,’ particularly for marginalised learners? We will consider different modalities of education—not only schooling but also activism and intergenerational knowledge transfer—in finding answers to these questions. We will utilise both theoretical insights from a range of theorists, with an emphasis on epistemic justice and decolonisation, and empirical research from multiple disciplines on this journey, which will ultimately expand our own imaginations of education’s role in shaping possible futures.
|A||Spring Term 2022-23|
To examine the relationship between education and the world’s shared future. To consider different modalities of education—not only schooling but also activism and intergenerational knowledge transfer—in finding answers to the questions we discuss. To utilise both theoretical insights from a range of theorists, with an emphasis on epistemic justice and decolonisation, and empirical research from multiple disciplines on this journey, which will ultimately expand our own imaginations of education’s role in shaping possible futures.
Engage with theoretical concepts, including but not limited to decolonisation, southern theory, the sociology of absences and post-development
Critically examine the relationship between education and society’s future-making practices
Grasp the concepts of decolonisation and epistemic justice and analyse their implications to the practice of education
Assess education’s historical role in bringing about environmental decay, and the ways it might aid humanity in navigating the Anthropocene
Expand the understanding of education as a set of learning processes that go beyond formalised schooling
Academic and graduate skills
Develop an understanding of and appreciation for the role of critical and social theory in asking and answering ‘big questions’ about society
Expand the understanding of diverse knowledge-making practices and non-Western epistemologies
Master at least one theoretical lens and its application to the practice of education
Develop new ways of expressing academic ideas through unconventional mediums, including visual expression
Hone academic reading skills, particularly for theoretically dense reading
Learn how to participate more effectively in a democratic exchange of ideas about highly contentious topics
Imagination, education and futures
We will together think about the meaning of the three concepts at the core of this module—imagination, education and futures. What is education, exactly, and what should its social role be? Is there a singular future for the world or are different futures possible? And where does imagination fit in?
The Anthropocene, marginalisation and decolonisation
We will learn about the concept of the Anthropocene which will act as a unifying thread of the course’s focus on environmental decay. The Anthropocene might seem straight-forward as a concept in the natural sciences, but what is its meaning for the social sciences and humanities, and for the theory and practice of education? In this session, we will also talk about decolonisation as a theoretical lens when we tackle the question of responsibility for environmental destruction, the parallels between colonial empires and the colonisation of nature, and impacts on marginalised populations, including Indigenous groups and low-income countries in the ‘Global South.’
Slow violence and southern theory
We will talk about two theoretical lenses that might help us unlock the potential of education in tackling the Anthropocene—the notion of slow violence by the environmental humanities scholar Rob Nixon and Raewyn Connell’s southern theory. How might these lenses illuminate the relationship between education and future-making? What is the role of epistemic diversity in addressing questions about the world’s shared future? How do different theoretical perspectives relate to one another and what can be learned by working with multiple lenses?
Politics, action and learning from history
We will explore the work of Hannah Arendt whose theoretical concepts help us learn from humanity’s past as we navigate the future. In particular, we will focus on Arendt’s discussion of politics, action, bureaucratisation and natality as we ponder the parallels between present-day global challenges of environmental destruction and endemic inequality and the histories of totalitarianism, imperialism and racism that Arendt examined in her work about the 20th century.
Imagining different futures through education
We’ll reflect on the use of non-verbal expression as we ponder the question: What does it mean to imagine alternative futures through education at the levels of pedagogy, policy and education research?
Activism, political imagination and unsettling the status quo
We will learn about several case studies of activist groups battling environmental decay, and the ways these groups might provide inspiration for educational efforts elsewhere.
Art, creativity and ecocriticism
What is the role of art in fostering creativity and imaginations of alternative futures? What can we learn about education’s role in enabling alternative futures by studying ecocriticism (including the work of Amitav Ghosh)? This week we will examine these questions.
The sociology of absences, post-development and degrowth
We will enrich our understandings of different knowledge-making practices with theories put forward by scholars whose work is rooted in the experience of the ‘Global South.’ These perspectives will include the sociology of absences by Boaventura de Sousa Santos and the post-development school of thought, as articulated by Gustavo Esteva and Arturo Escobar. We will explore the concept of degrowth and its cultural manifestations.
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Artefact and 1500 word Report
Students choose one of the following artefacts to develop:
An executive summary for a policy brief with bullet pointed recommendations for changes to the education system(s) the students participated in (max. 2,000 words)
A non-verbal expression of a vision of a shared future (drawing, photograph, video, sound recording, movement/choreography).
The artefact will be accompanied by a 1,500 word report outlining how the academic literature, theoretical concepts and personal experience informed its development.
A 1,000 word reflection about either:
the students’ own education journey in their lives so far and the ways their own education enabled or constrained their imaginations of alternative futures,
a media artefact (poster, tv show, podcast etc) or cultural event (play, gig, conference) that influenced their way of thinking about alternative futures
using at least one theoretical lens covered in the module (due week 6).
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Artefact and 1500 word Report
You will receive feedback in a range of ways throughout this module. You will be provided physical written feedback on assignment report sheets. The feedback is returned to students in line with university policy. Please check the Guide to Assessment, Standards, Marking and Feedback for more information
Akiwowo, Akinsola. ‘Universalism and Indigenisation in Sociological Theory: Introduction’. International Sociology 3, no. 2 (1 June 1988): 155–60.
Arendt, Hannah. The Human Condition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998.
Bonneuil, Christophe, and Jean-Baptiste Fressoz. The Shock of the Anthropocene. London: Verso, 2017.
Connell, Raewyn. Southern Theory: The Global Dynamics of Knowledge in Social Science. Cambridge: Polity, 2007.
Ghosh, Amitav. The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable. New Delhi: Penguin, 2016.
Hickel, Jason. Less Is More: How Degrowth Will Save the World. Random House, 2020.
Holfelder, Anne-Katrin. ‘Towards a Sustainable Future with Education?’ Sustainability Science 14, no. 4 (2019): 943–52.
Prakash, Madhu Suri, and Gustavo Esteva. Escaping Education: Living as Learning Within Grassroots Cultures. New York: Peter Lang, 2008.
Santos, Boaventura de Sousa, ed. Another Knowledge Is Possible: Beyond Northern Epistemologies. Verso Books, 2008.
Scranton, Roy. Learning to Die in the Anthropocene: Reflections on the End of a Civilization. San Franciso: City Lights Books, 2015.
Smith, M. ‘Ecological Citizenship and Ethical Responsibility: Arendt, Benjamin and Political Activism’. Environments A Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies 33, no. 3 (2005): 51–64.
Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. A Critique of Postcolonial Reason: Toward a History of the Vanishing Present. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999.
Sutoris, Peter. Educating for the Anthropocene: Schooling and Activism in the Face of Slow Violence. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2022.