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Richard Johnson
The Language of Imperialism in Teacher Education: Subjugation and the Visual Teacher

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 9, 2007
Translocalities/Transmodernities: Thinkspace

2:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. Polycentric Session, UC-Berkeley, Townsend Center for the Humanities
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Bio

We must visualize and enact our own “recasting of borders, in the immemorial violence with which a body becomes separated from another body in order to be” (Kristeva, 1982)

Foucault argued that, “The world we know is not this ultimately simple configuration where events are reduced to accentuate their essential traits, their final meaning, or their initial and final value. On the contrary, it is a profusion of entangled events" (1984, p. 116). Building from there, this work seeks to further untangle some of the ‘entangled events’ that are a part of our so-called progressive field-based teacher preparation program, a part of the new master narrative in teacher education. Through the critical lenses (Lather, 1998) of visual culture I will consider issues of colonization, desire, tourism, and identity as these are impacted by typical field-based teacher education programs.

Undoing the done

Because of my individual and greater collective professional and personal interests in issues of globalization, imperialism, and colonization, in the theoretical work proposed here I am choosing to critically engage and critique discourses of teacher education through both local and global lenses. In my analyses I will read teacher education in a particular traditional way and then seek to critically question the orderly, patterned, ritualistic ways in which it is structured, seemingly beyond dispute, especially if one seeks recognition as an accredited (i.e., NCATE) institution. This stance mirrors Tobin’s work in which she critically engages sets of particular eighteenth century paintings as colonial discourse (1999). Her research offers, “one way to recover subaltern subjectivity from an elite text is to read the imperial text symptomatically—that is, reading what is not there but is implied and called into existence by a series of oppositions” (1999, p. 12). Like Tobin, I am interested in a particular set of images, how they represent a field of study, and how they too speak to a dominant discourse in teacher education. Here I recognize that as a poststructuralist reading, “words and images do not merely reflect the world, but mediate, even create, what we believe to be reality” (Tobin, 1999, pp. 13-14). For instance, many of the visual artifacts I’ll critique from textbooks and journals and curriculum catalogues represent the field of early childhood education’s (ECE) reliance on the pedagogical subject as natural, innocent, to-be-protected and saved, happy and safe, normative child(ren) of the esteemed discipline.

This work incorporates visual culture theory(s) as I’ve been keenly aware of the importance of looking closely at popular images in schooling, and borrowing from that cultural theory (Jameson, 1990; Jenks, 1995; Metz, 1982; Secula, 1983) I am particularly interested in what images have been included in various educational contexts and how can we further understand the meaning of these images? In this active, participatory movement my research will attempt to more dynamically call to question—things that once seemed stable, appeared to be readily fixed, looked as if they were normal and typical—but upon further viewing/theorizing were visualized as strangely unfixed and unfamiliar. In my pursuit of the unknown, visual culture theory(s) has been highly assistive given our interest in countering these truth(s), theoretically recognizable “by an awareness of spectacle as an autonomous site of contestation” (Cohen, 1998, p. 7).

In concert with Alan Sekula’s work on photographs I too am intrigued and interested in understanding and using images/photographs to assist in understanding, “How is historical and social memory preserved, transformed, restricted, and obliterated by photographs” (Sekula, 1983, p. 22). For me, like other visual cultural methodologists, I’ll look at images representing various aspects of teacher education illustrating how “visual images and visualities are articulations of institutional power” (Rose, 2001, p. 168).

In this active, participatory movement my research will attempt to more dynamically call to question—things that once seemed stable, appeared to be readily fixed, looked as if they were normal and typical—but upon further viewing/theorizing were visualized as strangely unfixed and unfamiliar. In my pursuit of the unknown, visual culture theory(s) has been highly assistive given our interest in countering these truth(s), theoretically recognizable “by an awareness of spectacle as an autonomous site of contestation” (Cohen, 1998, p. 7). In his work In/different Spaces, Victor Burgin illustrates that, “visual culture—the combined product of ‘the media’ and a variety of other spheres of image production—can no longer be seen as simply ‘reflecting’ or ‘communicating’ the world in which we live: it contributes to the making of this world” (2000, p. 21-22).

References
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