Destabilising or recuperating Whiteness? (un)mapping ‘the self’ of agentic learning discourses

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If one believes recent government policy and research literature, learning is everywhere; it is the new mode of being. Indeed, non-participation is a sign of waning commitment to a nation's role in a global economy (ANTA 2000, 2003; DfES 2003; OECD 2003). Formal and informal learning, community and institutional programs, individual and collective activities: all are implicated in the project of creating a learning society which will manufacture re knowledge for the new knowledge economy, in much the same way that industrial nations pilfered resources to establish their hegemony in colonial times. ln this context all forms of learning are part of a tightly sutured plan to link economic productivity, possibilities for active citizenship and pathways to personal empowerment. In this essay I unsettle the unproblematic representation of facilitating learning as a neutral and benign activity. My task is to 'unmap' contemporary claims about what it is that learning can deliver, with a view to better understanding how three different learning traditions recuperate the uneven practices of colonialism in their theorising. Unmapping is not the pragmatic process of action and reflection described in official adult education discourses (see, for example, Brookfield 1986, 1990; Cranton 1989, 1992, 1994; Field 1990; Kroehnert 1994), or even those suggested in more politically motivated texts (Arnold et al. 1991; Chambers & Pettman 1986). Unmapping does more than destabilise the instrumental links between learning and productivity; it questions the very 'core' of our capacity to know, as educators and learners. It reveals the extent to which racialised elements of learning theory are 'protected' and 'hidden ' by a view of history that disavows the connections between colonialism and education and conflates learners to generic (white) subjects.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWhitening Race
Subtitle of host publicationEssays in social and cultural criticism
EditorsAileen Moreton-Robinson
Place of PublicationCanberra
PublisherAboriginal Studies Press
Number of pages15
ISBN (Print)0855754656
Publication statusPublished - 2004
Externally publishedYes


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