Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Teaching our students the ethic of the heart



The pedagogy of communication in the backdrop of the dramatic inequalities we witness across the globe has to be grounded in an ethic of the heart. How to build communicative practices that embody this ethic of the heart is the key question for culture-centered scholars working on social justice projects from/with the margins.

The journey of culture-centered pedagogy begins with this realization: to address the global challenges we are in the midst of, communication has to be placed at the center. Not the forms of communication that simply serve as the loudspeakers for the 1%, but communication that is fundamentally transformative. Such transformative practices of communication begin by turning toward communities at the margins as entry points to discursive sites, discursive processes, and discursive articulations.

Communication that begins not from the pre-determined agendas of those in power, but instead from the very margins that are reproduced by the consolidation of power in the hands of the global elite.

The basis of this renewed emphasis on communication is grounded in a commitment to developing practices and processes that seek to build infrastructures for communication where the poor participate, enact their agency in deliberating over decisions and reasons that are meaningful to them, and find avenues for these decisions to be enacted. The pedagogy of the culture-centered approach grapples with this challenge of how best to build infrastructures of communication that open up discursive sites to the agentic possibilities from the margins. 

An ethic of the heart works through the concepts of friendship and listening as anchors to learning to do relationships, dialogues, and participatory practices, attentive to the margins that are (re)produced by contemporary social systems, and seeking to undo the social structures that reproduce marginalization.

To work from the concept of friendship is to first and foremost change the very basis of the relationship with the margins, from one of unequal power to one that seeks equality in the relationship, deeply aware of the inequalities that are fundamental to the nature of relationships between academic-activists and communities at the margins. An ethic of friendship seeks to understand through conversations with the margins the practices that produce the margins from the standpoint of those at the margins, reflect upon the productions of privilege through these conversations, and participate in communicative processes to change the inequalities that produce the margins in solidarity with communities at the margins. To be in solidarity is to lend one's body to the struggles of the margins, placing the body amid the risks and challenges that come with communication that seeks to transform structures.

The concept of communication as friendship with the margins works alongside the concept of communication as listening. The work of the academic-activist as a listener foregrounds the role of communication in building theories from the margins through collaborations at the margins. The struggles of the margins amid the global dissemination of the ideology of neoliberalism as the basis for global organization disrupts the pseudoscience of neoliberal claims-making. Listening thus becomes the basis for challenging and transforming the theories disseminated in global structures of neoliberal governance. The unfounded bases of the claims that form the foundations of the free market ideology are disrupted through stories from the margins, building evidence that "makes impure" the dominant knowledge structures.

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