Provoking the edu-political imagination through praxis

Paulo Freire saw education as an inherently political practice (1970). His influential perspectives on pedagogy, cultural politics, and power provide a framework from which educators can draw to explore the emancipatory possibilities of the multiple fields of education. Sociologists of education have certainly demonstrated the ways in which those who occupy privileged social positions are often able to leverage powerfully their capitals and networks to game schooling and higher education systems, perpetuating privilege (Whitty et al, 2016). This symposium seeks however to provoke the edu-political imagination of participants via a dialogical format that includes the consideration of research/practice projects founded on a critical hope of using praxis to explore the inedito viavel, or untested feasibility (Torres, 2014) of education.

The symposium will see participants engage with projects situated across the University of Newcastle. As Freire (2005) observes, when we imagine something, we do it conditioned by a lack in our concrete reality. These projects have each borrowed from a praxis-based framework to (re)imagine and to develop iterative cycles of theory, research and practice to develop deeper collective understandings of equity and social justice (Burke et al, 2017; Fraser, 2008) issues for underrepresented groups moving into and through higher education. Using micro-presentations of these praxis projects as foundations of provocation, participants (in dialogue with other conference participants) will engage with notions of space, time (Bennett and Burke, 2017), power, critical praxis, reflexivity, oppression and imagination to explore their own edu-politics and identify opportunities for 'testing actions' (Freire, 2005) in their own educational contexts.

The innovative format will provide conference participants with an experience of themed dialogic relation across the duration of the symposium. Each generative round of dialogue will guide ongoing discussion and be considered as input for the subsequent round. The symposium will benefit from embedded expert perspectives, including the chairperson and discussant who have intimate knowledge of the projects to be used as starting points for reflexive dialogue. Professor Penny Jane Burke (chair) has extensively analysed and critiqued the historical exclusions and subtle educational processes in which the knowledge, experiences and cultures of some communities across the world have been marginalized and ignored, whilst others have been privileged and given prestige and status. Professor Geoff Whitty (discussant) is a leading scholar and policy advisor on equity in education, he has evaluated major interventions to tackle educational disadvantage for more than 30 years. This pair, alongside co-convening academic-practitioner-researchers, will bring to bear their extensive knowledge of the field to provide a stimulating symposium environment.