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Subversion in the Classroom: Anarchist Thought and Practice in Higher Education

Brogan, Andrew (2018) Subversion in the Classroom: Anarchist Thought and Practice in Higher Education. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent,. (KAR id:75259)

Language: English

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This thesis is a critique of critical pedagogy which questions several of the key political assumptions behind critical pedagogy's calls for social change. Over the past decades critical pedagogy has become established as the progressive response to dominant approaches to education, first addressing issues of economic oppression and then expanding its analysis to include race, gender, sexuality and more. The wide range of authors contributing to critical pedagogy reflect this growing field of analysis and despite the variation in background and focus, all authors are united by a central tenet: education is political, and education can help to change the world for the better through greater justice, equality, democracy, and freedom. In recent years critical pedagogy has turned its attention to neo-liberal approaches to education which emphasise individual competition, personal gain, and free market economics, positioning itself as the progressive and critical response to neo-liberal education. The aim of this thesis is to question the assumptions behind this call for greater justice, equality, democracy, and freedom, and to argue that rather than offering a progressive response to neo-liberal practices of education, critical pedagogy leaves key structures of neo-liberalism unquestioned.

Building on anarchist theory and practice, and specifically on areas concerning the subject, governance and subversion developed following poststructuralist insights, I argue that rather than critical pedagogy offering a response to neo-liberalism, the unquestioned assumptions of critical pedagogy reveal a vision of social change and individual transformation which is constraining. Developing my critique through an anarchist reading of critical pedagogy's reliance on the state, and Foucauldian reading of the attempt to govern the individual subject, I propose and explore a subversive approach to educational theory and practice which operates in the gaps and tensions created by the education systems. My exploration occurs in the context of a UK higher education institution in which I was teaching as a Graduate Teaching Assistant for three years, and I examine the tensions and difficulties of working in a neo-liberal Higher Education (HE) institution while simultaneously pursuing an approach to education entirely alien to it. To this end I utilise autoethnography to capture, re-tell, and analyse specific experiences from my teaching practice, using a combination of Gray's work on exilic space and de Certeau's work on la perruque ('wiggery') as a lens to establish the possibility of subversion in constrained and constraining systems like neo-liberal HE.

I contend that the anarchist thought and practice developed in this thesis offers a possibility for subversion which avoids the pitfalls of critical pedagogy by creating and developing moments in which we take responsibility for our actions, our (trans)formation as a subject, and our relationships to others in ways which are unaccountable for by neo-liberalism and critical pedagogy alike. I conclude the thesis piece by arguing that no matter the practices of governance we are subject too, be they neo-liberal in nature or emanating from critical pedagogy, there always exist moments and means of subversion.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Rossbach, Stefan
Uncontrolled keywords: Anarchism, Critical Pedagogy, Higher Education, Subjectivity, Governmentality, Freire, Foucault, de Certeau
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Politics and International Relations
SWORD Depositor: System Moodle
Depositing User: System Moodle
Date Deposited: 08 Jul 2019 14:10 UTC
Last Modified: 08 Dec 2022 20:20 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Brogan, Andrew.

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