The contact zone, indigenous dissensus, critical pedagogy

Year: 2013

Author: Hattam, Robert, Matthews, Julie

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The aim of this paper is to make a case for researching hopeful sites of cross-cultural negotiation as resources for rethinking critical pedagogy, that make a difference for Indigenous communities. This paper works with ‘critical pedagogy’ as a conceptual framework that is understood as a significant educational movement that is neither monolithic nor coherent, and one that is open to ongoing reflexivity. ‘Critical pedagogy’ as an educational movement can also be understood in terms of an ongoing conceptual reinvigoration from various theoretical sources and sites of empirical research. The points of departure for this paper include: the failure of antiracism pedagogy in Australia; the need for critical pedagogy to engage sites of hopeful Indigenous politics/pedagogy; and ongoing demands to rethink the relation between ‘politics’ and ‘pedagogy’. This paper especially foregrounds the ‘contact zone’ as a conceptual framework for understanding contemporary Indigenous struggles against old and new forms of colonisation and also as a new framework for thinking about pedagogies for justice. Specifically, this paper draws on research into reconciliation and pedagogy (Hattam & Matthews 2010) as an example of a site of hope and resilience, that are defined in these terms: the refusal by marginalised peoples to accept the conditions of their subordination; for healing after loss or trauma ; and for forming possibilities for a different, better future. The paper will also outline briefly research into the contact zone around Ngarrindjeri Nation, (S.E. Australia). The paper proposes using Ranciere’s notion of dissensus to provide, not only a map of the case of Ngarridjeri contact zone, but also a possible intervention into the debates about critical pedagogy. Ngarrindjeri dissensus engages in claiming sovereignty, acting sovereign and re-occupying the very idea of sovereignty. This empirical case is an exemplar of Ranciere’s notion of dissensus: an interruption in ‘the distribution of the sensible’ through claiming and acting on one’s equality as a founding assumption. The paper engages with the idea of a pedagogy of dissensus being articulated by Rancierian scholarship (Säfström, 2013).