In my interviews with the instructors an overarching theme emerged regarding power; this is not surprising, for, as Magda Lewis claims, In higher education, the industrialization of our collective enterprise is also apparent, at the very least, in the rise of surveillance and control mechanisms such as performance audits and measures of academic production and merit, in work intensification, in the entrepreneurialization of academic work, and in academic practices that seem increasingly to close down research and scholarship aimed at critical social intervention.
Lewis , 2 It is through these trends in the increasingly corporatized and neo-liberal university that instructors must navigate the places that they occupy and the powers that structure those understandings of place. The difficulty in engaging with literature on power and teaching is that most of the research on the topic does not speak to the intricacies of identity.
As such, this paper uses an inter- disciplinary framework in order to achieve the complex theoretical analysis that I wish to gain from discussions with the instructors. All eight instructors1 are women who teach critical identity studies, the majority six of the eight teach women and gender studies, while the other two instructors teach critical sociology.
Instructor A: I get their stories as they experience stress with their multiple identities. We hear the challenges that women face in our classes. Instructor B: I always tell [the students that] they are the 1 authority on what they understand and when I start to tell them or to expose them to the influences under which a lot of their belief systems lie, they react in one of two ways. Kannen Both of these instructors focus on what and how they teach in order to demonstrate the connections that they form with their students.
We sit here and we know it. We feel it. Very few of them try to make me feel like I have any control at all. These power dynamics are crucial to thinking through how it is that students and instructors are together in critical identity classrooms and what that being together can mean.
Bodies in power As Tanya Titchkosky argues, our bodies are enactments; while we all have and are a body, we also do them through our everyday practices.
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Bodies are never separate from what they do, how they are received by others, and what their relationship is to those around them. The body of the teacher is one that has been studied fairly often Hockings et al. I can see the sort of reaction on their faces. They stare at you. You are the one standing there. They are trying to figure you out. My body speaks to them. We do this thing after a few classes called the Line of Privilege, I made it so that it is not just about race privilege, but sexuality, gender, mobility, those kinds of things I place myself squarely in the mix with my students Both of these instructors address how their raced and sexed bodies become read in the classroom and, as they are conscious of these readings, they want to make their embodiments explicit.
Attempts to hide the body of the instructor are not as commonly addressed in the literature, but Monika Hogan speaks to her experience with this subject: There is a feeling of shocked helplessness, I told this group of 18 to year-olds, when you discover that you have crows feet, or chronic gas, or cellulite on your butt Terrified that they might be imagining my body, my flesh and blood, I quickly tried to suggest that I am actually made of plastic under my clothes.
They were relieved when I did so.
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I would imagine that me being the teacher, they would assign more importance to such an anecdote than it really warrants. So I would rather avoid that and remain neutral. Kannen All bodies that enter into the critical identity classroom are consistently engaged in relations of power; therefore, to attempt to remain neutral when in the position of authority, as the aforementioned instructor is, may not only be impossible, but also antithetical to the project of critical and progressive education. The medium is the message, and the image of the professor often matters more than the ideas of the lesson.
As a senior instructor explains, moving past discourses that praise instructor neutrality may be a process that occurs over time through deconstruction of privilege and experience. Instructor E: So, for me, through the 90s, that was the most difficult thing, learning how to teach issues, learning how to approach a class of mostly white students [at Northern University] about racism, help them to understand what it meant, helping them to see that it was important and had to do with them [laughs].
Many of the instructors spoke of the ways in which their bodies are stareable Garland-Thomson They are stared at, watched, observed and commented on by their students as though their bodies in themselves hold power. The power dynamic between teacher and student amplifies this engage- ment of recognition. As Instructor E claims, Teaching [women and gender studies] is all about de-centring power and making the students conscious of what I am doing as well and, of course, I never do completely de-centre the power. Teaching in Higher Education I give them the mark at the end, but I am always telling them that.
There are some things that I have to give them. I have to give them a mark and they have to get a mark. Interviewer: And because you have tenure. This instructor is articulating the ways in which her position in the academy, as a tenured professor, makes her feel that she has power over Kreisberg her students and that, even when she is critical of that power, it is still present and often unchanged. Acknowledging this power may be a new phenomenon, even for critical scholars, as Jane Gallop, Marianne Hirsch, and Nancy K.
It is important for tenured feminists to articulate that, as difficult as it may be for younger feminists to hear. Instructor F: We all have power. The students have power over me This is particularly notable, for if power is discussed in the classroom as a quantity or a possession one has, rather than in terms of having or doing power, then notions of privilege and oppression will likely also be taught in these limited and dualistic forms.
For the sessional instructors, their power dynamics in relation to the students were relayed quite differently than the more senior instructors. Instructor D: I try to be subversive and teach them to be critical of everything. I do worry about that. She talks about it as the total oppression of women. As you know, many of our students at [Southern University] are veiled, many by choice and some, rumour has it, not by choice.
Both of these instructors nervously laughed following their claim that they, of course, do not want to be fired from their job because of their pedagogical choices. The fear that these instructors are conveying is occurring early-on in their careers, yet as they go forward and earn seniority, their positions are likely to become more secured. The transformation that Foucault is discussing, however, is not as linear as his aforementioned quotation suggests; rather, power dynamics are in constant motion as bodies are disciplined in far more ways than just academic rank.
An intersecting factor into the power relations that the instructors also discuss is that of age.
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In actuality, Butler is implying here that these identity-claims fail to deliver these promises, and, rather, any claims to identity are being constantly altered as they are forever in motion. The study of age, for example, makes explicit how identities are never static. While the earlier discussion of power in the classroom rests with explicit academic rank and authority, the intersecting factors that are often made invisible, yet are involved with those classifications, must not be ignored.
Instructor E claimed that her age functioned to create a barrier between herself and her students, while Instructor F feels that her middle-age status may resonate as unusual for the students. Cultural references are just not the same. So that, again, is something that I find difficult and I have to [sighs] develop new ways of dealing with it.
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Interestingly, a similar disconnect was experienced with two of the younger instruc- tors as well. I was young when I started teaching too. You can tell that they feel there is no separation between me and them. Also because I am younger than some of their other profs. They feel free to ask me, for example, very personal questions. Invasive even. So inappropriate. Instructor H: The informal way that they deal with me has a lot to do with my age, I think. There is not as much respect there.
While these two studies cannot speak to the varying experiences that all women in the academy have, they do address the responses from the aforementioned interviewees. For the women in this study, age as combined with gender is seen as something to overcome, rather than an aspect of identity that will aid in greater classroom success either personally or pedagogically. One instructor was particularly grappling with her position in the classroom when she discussed disruptive students that she wanted to single out. Instructor D: I try to be respectful, but some of them are just terrible.
But can I do that? Well, I guess I could? But they are paying to be there, right? Similarly, Instructor C discussed the ways in which she had a white student enrolled in her course who felt that she could experience oppression if she painted her face black. Summary The gendering and racialization of academic bodies is ever-present in higher education, but in the space of the critical identity classroom these self-presentations are explicitly amplified. As I have outlined throughout this paper, critical identity instructors embody power. The productive notions of power, particularly demonstrated by the instructors in their discussions of age, are distinct reminders of the temporality and fluidity of the classroom space.
Exploring these power relations is key to understanding the complexities of teaching identity in higher education and, perhaps more importantly, teaching in higher education. Notes 1. As there are only eight instructors that were interviewed for this study, it could pose a risk to their confidentiality if I were to provide consistent descriptions of and pseudonyms for them. When there are details that are crucial to what they are discussing in a particular quotation, such as their race, age, university in which they teach, etc.
See Satrapi References Burghardt, Deborah A. Teaching in Higher Education Burns, Maree. Interviewing: Embodied communication. Butler, Judith.
London and New York: Routledge. Equity and Excellence in Education 42, no. Fisanick, Christina. Foucault, Michel. Discipline and punish: The birth of the prison. Toronto, ON: Random House. London: Harvester Press. Freedman, Dianne P. Orient Blackswan. Kharatmal Eds. In Portuguese. Christoph Wulf Berlin, Germany. A Continental Perspective. Performative and imaginary foundation of Culture. Disaster, Representation and the Assessment of Risk. Education,Self-consciousness andSocial Action. Bildung as a Neo-Hegelian Concept.
Routledge, Bildung und Anerkennung. Gesellschaftliche Modernisierung und lebensweltorientierte Bildung. Deutscher Studien Verlag: Weinheim u. Full Professor of Philosophy of Education. Between education and philosophy. Philosophy: the paradox of learning and teaching in Spanish. Professor of Philosophy of Education.
What Does It Mean to Move?: Race, Disability, and Critical Embodiment Pedagogy
Five philosophical approaches in Spanish. Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at University of Helsinki. Former Vice-president of the International Berkeley Society. Books: Naturaleza y teoria politica: Natural state and politcal theory.