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Session Overview
SY-I-04: Selves in (social) movement(s): (Re)Creating subjectivities within and across social movements
Monday, 19/Mar/2018:
12:30pm - 3:00pm

Session Chair: Dr. Benjamin Bunk, Universität Erfurt
Session Chair: Prof. Susanne Maurer, Philipps-Universität Marburg
Location: V15 R03 H93
50 Plätze, Seminarraum
Session Topics:
qualitative, Other, Comparative Educational Research, Social Pedagogy/Education and Social Work, Socialization and Biographical Research, Civic and Political Education, Educational Theory, Sociology of Education, Philosophy of Education, General Education, theoretical, International Comparative Studies, Gender Studies, Organisational Pedagogy, Social and religious Movements in Relation to Education and Learning, Education for Sustainable Development

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Selves in (social) movement(s): (Re)Creating subjectivities within and across social movements

Chair(s): Dr. Benjamin Bunk (Universität Erfurt), Prof. Susanne Maurer (Philipps-Universität Marburg)

Discussant(s): Prof. Susanne Maurer (Philipps-Universität Marburg)

International movement research hardly ever addresses the issue of subjectivities, being shaped by social movements. Thus, their constitutive dimension and socialisatory impact can be overlooked easily. Hence, a 'Bildung'-oriented approach towards social movements explicitly addresses these processes of relating to oneself, to others or to the world – turning social movements into specific ‘pedagogical spaces’ and a matter of educational science. As an interdisciplinary research trajectory, it implies to shift perspectives by taking to the foreground the specifically situated (reflexive) individual in order to approach movement practices: analyzing individual and collective process-dynamics; taking into account structures, ruptures, transitions and conflicts; being aware of biographical passages; distinguishing different positions within.

The symposium brings diverse disciplinary approaches and global phenomena together, in dialogue with the symposium "Bildung und Soziale Bewegung(en)"


Presentations of the Symposium


Activist learning and knowledge production

Dr. Aziz Choudry
McGill University, Canada

Social movements, community organizing and activism for social, political and environmental justice are vital forces of change but also important, fertile terrains of learning and knowledge production in different parts of the world. This learning can produce knowledge that is relevant to, and grounded in actual struggles for social change, and generative of conceptual resources that can inform broader collective efforts to bring about change. While arguing that the learning, education and knowledge production that takes place in these milieus is of profound significance, these processes can also be fraught with contradictions, tensions, and impacted by power relations within these spaces. Yet both the learning and the ‘grunt work’ of organizing tends to get pushed out of focus in most insider or outsider descriptions and accounts of movements. What is the relationship between informal, often incidental learning, and the more intentional education work that takes place in activism? It suggests that in order to understand what it actually takes to organize for change, we must take seriously the learning and the production of knowledge that occurs in the intellectual work of daily struggles, as people come together to discuss problems and injustices, debate strategies, and act. Foregrounding the dialectical relationship between learning, knowledge production and action, it will discuss the importance of ‘learning in the struggle’.


Expansive learning in social movements: complementary scales of analysis

Prof. Yrjö Engeström
University of Helsinki, Finnland

Learning in social movements has been largely addressed in adult education literature as formation of political awareness and commitment to social justice through civic engagement. This literature tends to rely on case descriptions of specific social movements. Cultural-historical activity theory and the theory of expansive learning offer a potential framework for such research.

The very idea of social movements is transformation and generation of qualitatively new forms of practice and culture. Expansive learning may be characterized as “learning what is not yet there”, that is, as collective construction and appropriation of new patterns of activity that resolve historically accumulated inner contradictions in the existing practice. Thus, expansive learning is an inherent potential of social movements. One might say that all expansive learning processes have characteristics of a social movement - but not all social movements accomplish expansive learning. Expansive learning is a demanding longitudinal process and follows the general pattern of ascending from the abstract to the concrete.

This papers analysis draws on four studies on social movements (the New York City Community Land Initiative, the Abahlali base Mjondolo in the shack communities of Durban, the Herttoniemi Food Cooperative in Helsinki, and La PAH in Barcelona). Each case affords a specific scope and scale of expansive learning.

Co-authors: Mikael Brunila, Kukka Ranta and Juhana Rantavuori


Visuality and Embodied Self in Contemporary Women's Movement in India

Dr. Mallarika Sinha Roy
Jawaharlal Nehru University, India



Undeportable: How DREAMers radicalized the U.S. immigrant rights movement

Prof. Michael P. Young
University of Texas at Austin, USA

From 2010 through 2014, undocumented immigrant youth changed the direction of the immigrant rights movement in the United States. Through an escalating series of audacious protests, a loose network of “DREAMers” broke away from their patrons at large nonprofit organizations and energized a movement for and by undocumented immigrants. Their erstwhile patrons at influential nonprofit organizations quite literally conjured the DREAMer—the political character these undocumented youth identified with and then exploited as they launched their own movement. These liberal elites drafted the proposed piece of legislation—the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act or DREAM Act—that gave these undocumented youth their name. These elites also mobilized the first national network of DREAMers. Although the DREAM Act never became law, the politics around it nonetheless articulated a consequential categorical distinction that changed for a time the policing of the legal boundaries around the social closure that distinguishes legal immigrant and future citizen from “illegal alien.” In this altered space, undocumented youth came out of the shadows of illegality and into the public arena as DREAMers. They then exploited the political and cultural power of the DREAMer in a series of brilliant protests first to wrest control of their movement from nonprofit organizations and then to move forcefully to counter state violence against undocumented communities.

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