Saturday 1 April 2023

Leadership, Otherwise

We live in complex times. Shifting and accelerated capitalism (which never breaks; only bends; Braidotti, 2014) requires new analytical tools of resistance. Finding ways to act while working within organisations that fetishise obedience, surveil and micro-manage, or uphold outdated ideologies can create exhaustion or cynicism, however. Further to this, the way in which organisations are led, and leadership is enacted, all too often continues to be rooted in the Vitruvian 'man-of-reason'. Fearful of difference, mired in bureaucracy, shaped around the humanist ideal of ‘Man’ as universal representation of the human and measure of all things, and bought into neo-liberal values of individual success and  competition.

The affective mood across workplaces does not sit outside the very real and recent pain of pandemic; the grief and loss we feel (even if unexpressed) of climate change; or the impending fear of lack of food and heating. It is very real, and very out there, if not acknowledged in the way it should be.  As Brodkey (1996) suggests “The only way to fight a hegemonic discourse is to teach ourselves and others alternative ways of seeing the world." This blog post attempts to offer alternative visions of leadership, where 'leadership' is not meant in the heroic or even transformative sense, but in the sense of every person working ethically outside the leader-follower binary. It draws on Braidotti, Deleuze and Spinoza to summarise three key moves of posthuman leadership (Mycroft and Sidebottom, 2023).

Nomadic Detachment

Braidotti (2019) urges us to undergo processes of de-familiarisation and dis-identification in order to give us critical distance from the systems that constrain us.  Oppressive practices have become so normalised that we cannot imagine other ways of doing things. Yet when we examine structures, organisations and political systems from a critical distance we begin to see the cracks and even feel a sense of the ridiculous. It can actually take very little (as we have seen with Ofsted in the past two weeks) for scales to fall from our eyes. But it requires both the individual process of working ourselves from pain to knowledge, and collective thought and action.

Recognising the ways in which we are attached to organisations and ways of working is not always easy; it can be painful because it connects to hope, dreams, and makes us account for how we spend so much of our waking time. It is a kind of Stockholm syndrome which reveals the complexity of advanced capitalism; we can often also benefit from the very systems we want to resist. As an academic, you can critique research metrics one day, and then celebrate your REF results the next. You may detest the peer review process, but celebrate when your article gets published. And in schools, the false god of Ofsted is maligned in one breath but then you understandably want to celebrate the hard work that got you and everyone around you that Outstanding result.  To admit that we are part of this complexity is difficult and requires a deep analysis of our own relationship to power. And when people feel power-less, it is not suprising that power is sought wherever it can be found. Spinoza famously asked the question: "Why do people fight for their servitude as if it were their salvation?" One reason may be that even servitude can bring a sense of belonging, that may be missing for many in such a fractured and individualising world.

To practice nomadic detachment, then, is to firstly examine our own love of power. As Foucault said:
“The strategic adversary is fascism... the fascism in us all, in our heads and in our everyday behavior, the fascism that causes us to love power, to desire the very thing that dominates and exploits us”  (1983, p.xiii).

What do we love; how does power feel; and what kinds of power do we want to associate with? It is important to remember too, that we all have power in some ways, regardless of our position, identity or status.

We may not be able to be physically nomadic, but in our minds it is possible to detach ourselves from the pull of loyalty and subservience to organisations who will never love us back. Be loyal to people, our friends and colleagues, yes; but not to structures. Think of ways to work beyond organisational silos and find the 'smooth spaces' in which we can move freely, follow flows of positive energy and be beholden to no-one except ourselves and each other.

In nomadic working, ‘teams’ are not forever, projects are time-limited and the work becomes the organisation, rather than the organisation being the work. People come together in ‘constellations of practice’, gathering around shared drive and energy for a limited period of time (and potentially working in several constellations at once) (Mycroft and Sidebottom, 2018). More energy may be required, of course; but this is generative energy '"...based on the shared capacity of humans to feel empathy for, develop affinity with, and hence enter into relation with other forces, entities, beings, waves of intensity" (Braidotti, 2011, p.317).

Potentia Energy

When thinking about power, we are constrained by language. In English, of course, there is only one word for it. French has two (pouvoir and puissance); other languages have many. Spinoza used the words potestas and potentia to form an important distinction between hierarchical, bureaucratic and political power (postestas) and natural, generative, relational power (potentia). Organisations are generally spaces of potestas; rigid, hard to change, and mired in complex processes ('politics-as-usual').  However, potentia power still emerges through the joyful connections and reimaginings made by like-minded souls, and breaks through in leaderless movements like Black Lives Matter and Occupy.  You will feel potentia energy in your body, in the moments you connect with someone interesting on social media; when you start a project with people outside your own usual working environment; or when you meet a new person and jump on the flow of energy you feel between yourselves. It is an activist power; rhizomatic in its messy, serendipitousness, and often subversive. 

We cannot work purely in spaces of potentia all the time. Rosi Braidotti recommends a life which is 80% potestas and 20% potentia. Thinking about our own balance of energy, and where we can find the joyful, potentia-full encounters that Spinoza believes are necessary for a fulfilled life, should be an important and regular reflection.

Affirmative Ethics

Spinoza warns against the joining together of people in 'sad passions'; that is, the kind of endeavours that may feel productive, but are mired in negativity.  While joyful endeavours increase our capacity to act and create change, sad passions coalesce around polarity, binary thinking and 'them versus us.' They can feel comforting for a time, but are also the places in which cynicism and fascist inclinations thrive. 

Joyful encounters strike at the heart of what it is to be human; they often involve art or creativity, connection, relationships and care. They can be acts of resistance (think dancing on a picket line) or the very small moments in which you stop rationalising and arguing about the 'right' way to do things, and decide to act differently; by tuning into bodily affects and emotion.

Affirmative ethics is therefore not about morals or values, but a shared ethical commitment to forging equitable futures centred around mutuality, relationality and shared predicament. As Braidotti (2011) states: ‘In affirmative ethics, the harm you do to others is immediately reflected on the harm you do to yourself in terms of loss of potentia, positivity, capacity to relate and hence freedom.’ It maintains a focus on joy over negativity; where joy is not happiness, but used in the Spinozan sense of a commitment to growth and development as life as part of a wider interrelated community. It is about the transformation of pain into knowledge, rather than complaint or negativity, in processes which enhance one’s capacity to affect and be affected by others. This generative approach leads to an emphasis on philosophy as praxis and thus incorporates micro-political moments of activism and wider action for social justice.

The kind of re-imaginings I am talking about in these three moves are not beyond our grasp; we see them all the time, but perhaps don't account for them enough. To close with Braidotti:

"Against the general lethargy, the rhetoric of selfish genes and possessive individualism, on the one hand, and the dominant ideology of melancholic lament, on the other, hope rests with an affirmative ethics of sustainable futures. A deep and careless generosity, the ethics of nonprofit at an ontological level. Why should one pursue this project? For no reason at all. Reason has nothing to do with this. Let's just do it for the hell of it - to be worthy of our times while resisting the times and for the love of the world." (2011, p.298).


Braidotti, R. (2019) Posthuman Knowledge. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Braidotti, R. and Vermeulen, T. (2014) Borrowed Energy. Frieze. [Online]. Available from: [Accessed 22 December 2020].
Braidotti, R.  (2011)  Nomadic Theory:  The Portable Rosi Braidotti. Columbia University Press.
Brodkey, L. (1996). Writing Permitted in Designated Areas Only. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Foucault. (1983). Preface. Retrieved from
Mycroft, L. and Sidebottom, K. (2023). Posthuman Professionalism. 10 March, 2023. The Open University.
Mycroft, L. and Sidebottom, K. (2018) Constellations of Practice. In Bennett, P. and Smith, R. (eds.). Identity and Resistance in Further Education. London: Routledge.

Tuesday 13 September 2022

'The Time is Out of Joint:' Thoughts on an era of dislocation

When I was around 11 or 12 I met (the then) Prince Charles on a visit to my school. My mum reminded me of this fact (which I had strangely forgotten) and dug out the photo below which - despite being a staunch republican - she has in a frame. Even at 12 I felt fairly ambivalent, but it struck me this week that meeting a member of the royal family has a whole range of connotations and meanings for others. I cannot relate to the desire to lay flowers at Buckingham Palace, or line the streets to watch a coffin pass by, but then again many others will not understand my reluctance to engage in mourning or public recognition of the Queen's passing. I have been surprised by the strength of the sadness displayed by people who I expected to react very differently. And people I thought knew me well have been surprised by my (lack of) reaction, too. My social media timelines are split between the righteous anger of people of colour, and mawkish photos of the Queen in a cloud. To say that this feels disconcerting is an understatement, and takes me back to the Covid days of deeply polarised masking and vaccination discourses. This tendency to fall into binary thinking (which I am as guilty of as many) eludes the complexity of the feeling of these strange, affective times. It is in the spirit and recognition of this complexity that I write this blog. 

Thinking, in an age of academic and expert distrust, is seen as the practice of the elite; yet we are in a time that calls for new ideas and approaches to complex ethical dilemmas more than ever. As Virginia Woolf said 'Think, we must.'  And so, despite calls to put a lid on my thinking or to sit on my hands to prevent myself tweeting (yes, I do this!), it feels like the absolute time for critical thought. We are seeing the convergence of an increasing authoritarian society with public mourning, via infringement on the right to protest; as I write, a number of people have been arrested for public order offences, otherwise known as simply expressing republican views. Schools, who are simultaneously restricting the questioning of rules via zero tolerance policies are unquestioningly instigating mourning rituals and events which may well be troubling at best for students of colour.  Minoritised voices are being shut down at a time when we need to question whose views matter and whose are privileged. And yet at the same time, many people are experiencing very real feelings of grief and despair. Hamlet's call, that our 'time is out of joint' speaks to this growing sense of unease and dislocation; a dis-ease, which is catching an affective mood and transmitting itself through the crowds in London and the proliferation of voices and memes on social media. This affective mood does not sit outside the very real and recent pain of pandemic; the grief and loss we feel (even if unexpressed) of climate change; or the impending fear of lack of food and heating. It is very real, and very out there.

I often speak about Gramsci's notion of interregnum; as he stated in the Prison Diaries:  “The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.” We are quite literally in interregnum at the moment - the time-lag between the death of one royal sovereign and the coronation of the next - and so it feels apt to mention it again. Gramsci, of course, widened the concept to refer to a wider and deeper social rupture; the kind which we are seeing through stark equality gaps and the rise of far right views and overtly racist commentary.  It is at times like these that I argue we need to turn towards, and not away from theory in order to make sense of these 'morbid symptoms'. As Spinoza calls us, we need to transform pain to knowledge in order to make sense of the world, and this may begin by a return to our own ethics and values. For myself, as a posthuman thinker I try to live by the call to “…mark the end of the self-reverential arrogance of a dominant Eurocentric notion of the human, and open up new perspectives” (Braidotti and Hlavajova 2018, 3). This position requires us to move beyond humanism as we augment and reposition the voices of those overlooked and oppressed by Enlightenment ideas of “humanity.” This week I have returned to the work of bell hooks, Rosi Braidotti, Priya Satia and Mona Eltahawy to remind myself of the thinkers who speak to these ethics and values while trying to make sense of the behaviours around me.

Living through a 'time out of joint' is dislocating and unsettling. It requires the extension of empathy and understanding to those taking different positions (I'm working on this!) alongside a desire to further our knowledge. For myself then, this means a return to history and decolonial theory, to plug the massive and damaging gaps in my own education. It also necessitates a need to examine the 'fascist inside us all'; which, for me, is the desire to trouble my need to feel safe and comfortable in my own opinion and world-view and be dogmatic in the way I impart it to others. I am learning that it isn't enough to rant on social media or to surround myself with those who think exactly like me. I need a more nuanced understanding in order to take on the affective mood of these times.

Whatever we do, let's not shut down critical thought just at the time we need it most. 

To close with Virginia:

“Think we must. Let us think in offices; in omnibuses; while we are standing in the crowd watching Coronations and Lord Mayor’s Shows; let us think as we pass the Cenotaph; and in Whitehall; in the gallery of the House of Commons; in the Law Courts; let us think at baptisms and marriages and funerals. Let us never cease from thinking—what is this ‘civilization’ in which we find ourselves? What are these ceremonies and why should we take part in them? What are these professions and why should we make money out of them? Where in short is it leading us, the procession of the sons of educated men?” (Woolf, 1938, p.60)

Sunday 17 April 2022

Of course there were elephants

 “I can only note that the past is beautiful because one never realises an emotion at the time. It expands later, & thus we don’t have complete emotions about the present, only about the past'' Virginia Woolf.

It's taken a week, but it finally feels time to reflect on the Posthuman Pedagogies weekend and explore what it was that made the time in Malham so special. It's true that you don't always live in emotions as you feel them; and culturally-dominant linear ideas of time reinforce the way that we are conditioned to feel everything in the present moment.  As the person organising the event I felt like my own responses were deliberately frozen in time, and not to be indulged in; being responsible in a way for everyone else (even though we avoided any sense of hierarchy). In a way I would like to go back and run it through again as someone invited to attend, rather than the facilitator; although, as we said a few times during the weekend, you never walk through the same river twice.

On the first evening I introduced some ideas of Posthuman and More-than-Human Pedagogies, and we explored what these might be.  What could we learn from teachers, but not the human kind?  What might happen if we saw moss...fungi...water...trees...the wind, even - as educators, full of things to tell us, them having been - as Robin Wall Kimmerer puts it - on this earth far longer than us?

The theory behind all of this comes from the critical posthumanism of Rosi Braidotti and differs from other strands (actor network theory, transhumanism, anti-humanism, and so on) in that it is not philosophy as such, but a “…theoretically-powered cartographical tool” (Braidotti 2013, 12), or a lens through which to read the world (the latter is a fitting analogy for a practice which draws heavily on the work of Baruch Spinoza, a Dutch philosopher and optical lens grinder). Posthumanism is essentially a final call to “…mark the end of the self-reverential arrogance of a dominant Eurocentric notion of the human, and to open up new perspectives” (Braidotti and Hlavajova 2018, 3). It requires us to make a double move; the first, going beyond, or afterhumanism as we augment and reposition the voices of those overlooked and oppressed by Enlightenment ideas of “humanity.” The second move is post-anthropocentrism; the decentering of the human and elevation of other species and ecological systems which have been relegated beneath “Man” in an exploitative and limiting hierarchy. This convergence of ideas – which are often dealt with separately – necessitates complex, non-binary responses to the questions of our times.

Our focus for the weekend was particularly on this latter move; the decentering of the human. I shared an image of mushrooms, ants, moss and - rather randomly - elephants. I joked about how I might struggle to find the latter for everyone in the Yorkshire Dales. We planned workshops on learning from fungi, poetry inspired by material objects, and outdoors art-based practices. We spent a morning walking around Malham Tarn and looking at the landscape through a critical lens, considering the problematic history of pastoral spaces and our own privilege in relation to even being there. I imagined us exploring numerous ways in which we could learn from nature and what that learning might change for our own teaching practice. 

And yet.

'One knows that Life lives on regardless of human pretentious and expectations. ‘We’ can only intervene in this as transversal ensembles, acting collectively: ‘We’-who-are-not-one-and-the-same-but-are-in-this-convergence-together' (Braidotti, 2019, p.182).

What I hadn't fully anticipated was the need for us, after two years of pandemic, to firstly reacquaint ourselves with what it is to be human. Reflecting afterwards with a friend on Sunday night, we talked about the need for a 'reset'; a reminder of what it means (and how much it means) to be in the company of unfamiliar others; to share food; to make new friends; to share the often traumatic stories of what it has meant to try and teach in the presence of a virus, within oppressive education systems, and in the hands of a corrupt and dehumanising government. To decentre ourselves is always already impossible. We needed to think about identity (the 'effect of power', Deleuze put it) but also move beyond this together as ethical subjects. As Braidotti states 'A subject is a matter of forces, of relations, of capacities, of inclinations' (2018, p.182). To acknowledge this was about becoming intimate with naturalised others, but also about being open in relations with other human subjects. Helped by the practices of a Thinking Environment, which opened the weekend with simple but vital question 'How are you?' we had the opportunity to show up as ourselves and reaffirm our values, ethics and forge assemblages that I know will be long-lasting and essential to do the work that is required. I truly hope that others will find similar spaces of reconnection and affirmation.

And the elephants? They are also well-known for their close social relationships and fostering of strong, sustaining communities. Looking out of my window on the first morning I spotted a line of them surrounding Malham Tarn. Well, they were trees of course, and you need to zoom in quite far to see them. But it's all about perspective.

Elephants on Malham Tarn

Braidotti, Rosi. (2013) The Posthuman. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Braidotti, Rosi, and Maria Hlavajova. (2018) Posthuman Glossary. London: Bloomsbury Academic.
Braidotti, R. (2019). Posthuman Knowledge. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Braidotti, R. (2018). Affirmative Ethics, Posthuman Subjectivity, and Intimate Scholarship: A Conversation with Rosi Braidotti. In: Decentering the Researcher in Intimate Scholarship. Eds. Strom, K., Mills, T., and Ovens, A. Bingley: Emerald Publishing. pp. 179-188.
Virginia Woolf quote from her journal, Wednesday 18 March, 1925.

Monday 6 April 2020

Towards an ethics of joy

''She discovered with great delight that one does not love one's children just because they are one's children but because of the friendship formed while raising them.''

Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

I recently returned to this book, wanting to read something that resonated with the strange, other-worldliness of a time of pandemic. Marquez's writing is beautiful and evocative, but the story (as I remembered, coming back to it) is a little problematic. Nevertheless the quote above stood out for me as a kind of theme tune for my experiences so far during lockdown.  I am spending a huge amount of time with my two girls (10 and 12) and it is no understatement to say that just these past three weeks have radically changed my relationship with them. I'm lucky that they are of an age where friendship is possible; we can support each other, laugh together, be silly or just hang-out (when they want me to, that is). Whilst I know they are still very young, it is true to say that they are supporting me as much as I am supporting them.

So it's a strange time to be writing about joy, and also the perfect time. 

Joy is different from happiness; it speaks of moments rather than a state of being, and of the soul, rather than the mind. It requires noticing, and attention to be paid. If the current crisis is teaching me anything, it is that it is pointless striving for long periods of being 'happy' and that instead it is better to spend time spotting and savouring those often fleeting seconds when you suddenly feel joy bubble up, endorphins hitting the bloodstream like a hit of nicotine or alcohol (yes, I take joy from those things too :)

Me, attempting to dance with Oti Mabuse
The Dutch philosopher Spinoza wrote extensively on affirmative ethics as a practice of joy, whereby you firstly pay attention to the things that promote physical and mental well-being (of yourself and others - which may include non-humans).  As Rosi Braidotti states 'A joyful ethics rests on an enlarged sense of a vital inter-connection with a multitude of others by removing the obstacle of self-centred individualism and anthropocentricism on one hand, and the barriers of negativity on the other. ' (2018, p.221).

Affirmative ethics doesn't refuse to acknowledge pain, but suggests we use knowledge to transform it into something positive. In the context of coronavirus, this could mean allowing ourselves to feel pain and grieve, while also taking time to reflect and learn from what the pandemic is telling us. It requires a cognitive step which de-personalises the crisis in order to 'transform its negative charge' (difficult, of course), noticing negative emotions of pain, anger, greed and fear.' (ibid., p.222). To be affirmative is therefore about firstly noticing, and then taking action, riding on the back of a wave of 'potensia' energy; the kind of power that comes from natural and bodily forces rather than the static power of organisations and hierarchies. It asks - what can this joy teach me, and how can I generate more from this moment? How can we use this new knowledge to work together, and construct new horizons of hope and change?

I wrote this poem a while ago about counting my daughter's freckles. It speaks of numerous moments of noticing, allowing myself to be affected, and being mindful of the often surprising nature of 'joyful encounters'. There might not be so many during the weeks to come. But I'll keep trying to notice them.

Braidotti, R. 'Ethics of Joy'. in Braidotti, R. and Hlavajova, M. (2018). Posthuman Glossary. London: Bloomsbury.

Thursday 2 April 2020

Reframing Home

Over the past couple of weeks (and most likely for the foreseeable future), home in all its imperfect glory has become a site for reflection, and so it seems timely to reflect on the language and framing of 'home' in the context of quarantine and forced isolation. The government's mantra of 'Stay home, protect the NHS save lives' is being repeated ad infinitum, but what isn't being considered within this frame is the politicised nature of domestic space and place. What is meant by 'home', and what ideal is being invoked by it?  This blog attempts to provoke some thinking and as ever I would be really interested to hear your views.

'Home' as promoted in Conservative party ideology suggests a hetero-normative calling to a world of standard families, warm sunny gardens, the scent of fresh baking and the sound of happy children crafting in spacious rooms downstairs. The reality for most, of course, is something quite different. Home, as a concept, is never neutral; it is an ideological as well as physical space, and this global crisis is calling these unspoken assumptions into question.  For many, home may be 'not-work'; a space of antithesis and refuge from a neo-liberal world of forced productivity and consumption. For others, particularly those at risk of domestic violence and coercion, home invokes a sense of threat or imprisonment. Home, for those bound to it through disability and caring responsibilities, will have long been problematised, and isolation may well be nothing new. Meanwhile, the nuclear family of two heterosexual parents and 2.4 children, routed in humanist ideals, has long since stopped being a standard, and is certainly not something to aspire to (if it ever was).   As Stacy Alaimo (2016, p.17) states '...domestic space has served as the defining container for the Western ''human'', a bounded space, wrought by delusions of safety, fed by consumerism, and fueled by nationalist fantasies.''

We are also seeing the leaky boundaries of home, as work creeps into spaces which may have previously appeared impermeable. Rooms are now being given over to makeshift work spaces and classrooms; 'surveillance creep' via management diktat to log hours and productivity is becoming commonplace.  We're reminded of Foucault's 'panopticon', where '...disciplinary power is exercised through its invisibility; at the same time it imposes on those whom it subjects a principle of compulsory visibility. In discipline, it is the subjects who have to be seen. ...It is this fact of being constantly seen, of being able always to be seen, that maintains the disciplined individual in his subjection.' (1977, p.187)  We are realising the extent of the leakiness of bodies too, as fears of the virus contaminating parcels, supermarket food and leaflets dropping through the letterbox remind us daily that our home is no longer our castle. Our houses - just like our bodies - are full of holes. 

Harriet, Inside
We are realising the unbounded nature of our local environments. From Welsh mountain goats to foxes and deer in East London; social media is full of stories of nature reclaiming spaces which were previously overrun by cars and humans rushing about their daily business. The nature/culture binary, and seeking of 'pure' spaces 'just for us' are being truly troubled; just as invisible viruses transcend our breathing space, so animals previously kept out through imagined or physical boundaries are beginning to return.  Perhaps it is time to rethink humans as species, as we move from anthropocentric frames to an understanding of a greater and much-needed relationality. After all, we marvel at the architectural skills of bees without respecting them as architects. Is it time to decentre the human and begin to see ourselves as more animal, whilst at the same time elevating our views of the 'minds' of non-human others?

These re-imaginings are not easy, and old habits of mind are hard to break. In re-thinking our relationships to the natural world, Alaimo refers to Walter de Maria's art installation, New York Earth Room; a permanent exhibition of soil filling a city apartment to waist-height. Visitors can view the earth and breath in the smell, wondering at the juxtaposition of pristine white walls and ageing humus. As ever, art can offer a route into reconfiguring our understanding of the nature/human divide, and in the months to come, may well play a key role in the emergence of a new sociological imaginary.

The zoonotic nature of the virus, and the increasing sense of blurred boundaries (both human and non-) speaks to the breakdown of dualistic beliefs which have separated humans both physically and ideologically from the natural world.  For me, this time of interregnum raises the following questions. What might it mean to embrace multi-species living, but with a new respect for difference and kinship? What does it say about entrenched global and local inequalities, and how do we challenge Western dualisms which perpetuate ideas of difference? And what might it mean for our homes, to know that we were never really separated at all?

Alaimo, S. 2016. Exposed: Environmental Politics and Pleasures in Posthuman Times. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Foucault, M. 1977. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. New York: Vintage Books.

Monday 30 December 2019


As educators, we have little time to reflect on our practice. I'm convinced that the reason for this is largely political - who knows what we might think, share, or decide to change if we have time to really explore and consider the issues affecting what we do in our day to day working lives? Means of resistance are becoming more squeezed, as we fight the bureaucracy of 'academic capitalism', where time is money, and less time is our own. Twitter exchanges are carried out in soundbites; there is anger and there is frustration, and most of all, there is pain. We are all grieving for something - our disconnection from the natural world, from each other, for a world of equality which is unlikely to come in our lifetimes, for certainty and answers when everything feels upside down.

Yet we need to continue to seek out affirmative approaches to change, that take us out of places of pain and inspire hope. These might just be temporary 'lines of flight,' but the disruptions to the status quo can produce a ripple effect that lead to lasting change, even if we can't see what these might be right now, or know where they might take us. Networks like #ClearTheAir slow down linear time as conversations loop and emerge through thinking that is deeply relational and reflexive; but most of all informal, driven through the will of individuals to learn and share together in a spirit of humility and vulnerability. These are the kind of spaces where learning happens, but they require a presence and openness that can be difficult, particularly when we are fearful. Being reflective in this context means letting go; or as Brene Brown would say, 'daring greatly.'  Perhaps this is one resolution to start with in this new year.

In 2017 the fab Benjamin Doxtdator (@doxdatorb) put together a podcast which encourages us to take a pause and reflect on the 'productive interruptions' which might create small ruptures in the systems that limit and constrain us. You can listen to it here: On the back of his brilliant idea, I suggested we take the first 30 days of January 2018 to continue pausing and reflecting in response to different questions about social justice in education, grouping them with the hash tag #30DaysReflectResist.  And now I'm suggesting we do it again in the early days of 2020.

I have started to post reflective questions on the 30 Days Google doc - please take a look and add your own question to the list.  I will then post one for each day of January on Twitter using the hash tag #30DaysReflectResist. How much or how little you join in is up to you, but if you would like to pause and reflect in the company of others, it might be a great way to start your new year.

It's in our interests to stay awake and alert to means of resistance, even when anaesthetizing (in whichever way we choose) feels like an easier way to deal with the pain. As the structures within which we work become more restrictive and stultifying, it may be that the rhizomatic connections we make through projects like this really are the best hope we have for change and transformation.

Looking forward to reading your thoughts and tweets over the coming month - many thanks for sharing.

Thursday 19 September 2019

#BeMorePhilosopher - Taking Back Space as Thinkers

One of the big frustrations of teaching on a Childhood Studies degree is the lack of esteem with which the qualification is held. Despite being an interdisciplinary grounding in philosophy, psychology, and sociology; a multi-modal space for engaging with visual, literary and artistic perspectives; and a programme populated with vocational opportunities for connecting theory to practice, students often talk of the degrading way in which it is viewed by others.

It's our responsibility as lecturers and students not to fall into this trap but to continue taking up and owning space as thinkers and philosophers of practice. Of course, we are not helped by the dominant discourse around what makes a thinker or philosopher; Google these words and you're likely to see a row of white men (often ancient, or - if French - smoking and looking pensive). The images do not speak to our many students or lecturers, be they female, people of colour, 18-year olds, non-binary or intersections across these identities and many more.

Searches for more recent theorists offer revealing trends too. Men are often pictured alongside women who are not named or acknowledged in the photo - but are theorists or thinkers in their own right. A search for photographs of Jean Piaget with Barbel Inhelder, John Dewey with Helen Parkhurst, Jean Paul Sartre with Simone de Beauvoir, and so on reveals interesting displays of power along with a lack of adequate naming and accreditation.

In her blog, Existing While Female, Jana Bacevic reminds us of the way in which women are rarely able to just sit and think; interiority for us is not seen as useful or productive. When women think, they should be in the company or others and/or otherwise occupied (embroidery; walking; or perhaps these days, engaged in well-being or self-care activities). Just sitting and thinking in space as a woman is in itself a counter-cultural act of resistance.

Men doing thinking stuff

Next Tuesday (24th September) myself and students will be instigating a photo hack which aims to take back space for us as under-represented thinkers and philosophers of practice.  Using the hash tag #BeMorePhilosopher we will create our own photographs of ourselves - perhaps emulating the men in the ones here; re-mixing them to photoshop ourselves into their spaces; or subverting the whole notion of what it means to think in public space and creating an entirely new genre.  We'll share them on this Padlet too

Why not join us?

Claire Birkenshaw and Nicole Gridley
'Thinking while female'