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'

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