Nikita Dhawan, María do Mar Castro Varela: Breaking the Rules
Breaking the Rules
(S. 317 – 329)

Education and Post-colonialism

María do Mar Castro Varela, Nikita Dhawan

Breaking the Rules
Education and Post-colonialism

PDF, 13 Seiten

Art and education

1The issue of education grows more acute with every passing day. We already knew before PISA [Program for International Student Assessment] that education nurtures segregation, that it entrenches exclusions and stigmatizes those who are denied access to it. Sociologist Ulrich Beck accurately designates the German Hauptschulabschluss, the certificate that school children obtain after attending grades 5 through 9 of the non-academic track secondary school, as “non-education.”2 [Three types of German secondary schools exist, based on ability tracking.] And it is almost no coincidence that precisely this non-education is the lot of children and youth from immigrant or low-income families. How is art, then, set in relation to education? In other words: Can art and gallery education create different ways of accessing knowledge, open other possibilities of development?

Since the late seventies, a series of critical discourses have centered on the role of art and art education. Thus, while some insist that pupils and students need to be educated to appreciate and understand art, others stress the role of art criticism as “education” per se.3 According to the latter approach, art criticism is not criticism for its own sake, but actualizes that which art represents: a connection between human beings and life. It follows that the intention of art criticism is to open doors to an aesthetic experience that stands in direct relation to individual experiences in the social and cultural sphere—experiences related to one’s social positioning of vulnerability as well as to the power to exercise violence. Here, art pedagogy becomes a pedagogy of enablement—or to describe it in spatial terms, an experience that creates new spaces. But gallery education goes even farther. It can be understood as a new paradigm which, following Pierangelo Maset, stands in clear opposition to traditional notions of art pedagogy. Thus, gallery education as artistic practice, as Maset advances it, sets out from the question of “how to generate and convey material and immaterial configurations that may further art as differential potentiality.”4 We find this viewpoint interesting for two reasons: first, the attempt to avoid a functional orientation of art and art pedagogy; and second, the problemization of education and knowledge. We use “problemization” in the Foucauldian sense,5 that is, as an inquiry into how a problem came to be, and who has profited from which kinds of questionings. How did, for instance, a question about documenta find its way into a German citizenship test? Who needs which kind of knowledge, and for what purpose? And vice versa: which fields of ignorance are admissible, even necessary, and for whom?

The fact that art pedagogy is often described as a journey to art is by no means coincidental. We find it a far-reaching metaphor, for journeying is inextricably tied to the imperial domination of one part of the world by another. Here, colonialism and recolonization are the keywords. By contrast, critical gallery education takes up existing mappings of knowledge and attempts to advance art as a possible road toward autonomous thinking. Thus, it comes as no surprise that critical gallery education is interested in post-colonial critique and its accompanying post-structural approach. Indeed, in a world marked by globalization and migration, artists not only find themselves in an ongoing international exchange, but also in an increased struggle for visibility and recognition. This not only calls on gallery education to avoid a simplistic recourse to transcultural6 approaches, but also to seriously consider the post-colonial state of our world—that is, the historical interdependences that make it impossible to indulge in a methodological nationalism.

What really is post-colonial theory?

Post-colonial theory and post-colonial activism are not solely concerned with the square meters of occupied territory or the millions of exploited, massacred, and subjugated people in these lands; rather, they also explore how colonialism was equally an intellectual and cultural phenomenon that led to the emergence of Europe and its Other. Post-colonial theory in all its diverse manifestations has persistently referred to the fact that no region of this world can escape the impact of colonial power. Not only Great Britain and India manifest colonial ties; rather, colonialist discourses have also left deep traces in countries that were never colonized, such as Thailand. Similarly, countries that at first sight only seemed to be marginally involved in colonialism not only profited materially from the colonies, but they also provided the intellectual tools to legitimize imperialist discourses. To this day, racist and imperialist theories of the nineteenth century inform the “common sense” that determines what ought to be considered valuable, normal, good or bad and what should be feared or trusted.7

Post-colonial theory is interdisciplinary in its approach, attempting an interplay between Marxism and post-structuralist theory formation. Thus, a critique of imperial narrations and representations and the theorization of so-called cultural difference are brought into a dialogue with the material philosophy of Marxism. One of the aims of post-colonial theory is to deconstruct essentializing and Eurocentric discourses.8 Hence post-colonialism questions purportedly clear-cut oppositions like center-periphery, inclusion-exclusion, colonizer-colonized, on which the narratives and representations—for example, those of cultural difference—are based. It attempts to subvert the over-determining effects of such binaries and aims to rewrite the history of modernity:

“Indeed, one of the principal values of the term ‘post-colonial’ has been to direct our attention to the many ways in which colonization was never simply external to the societies of the imperial metropolis. It was always inscribed deeply within them—as it became indelibly inscribed in the cultures of the colonized.”9

Thus, the Other appears already inscribed within hegemonic-imperialist discourses, that is to say, it was never external to them: the divisions have never operated as absolutely isolated. On the contrary, vertical power relations were always amended by a (global-local) horizontal axis. In the post-colonial moment, these already prevailing, but suppressed, movements have simultaneously led to new configurations. The deconstructive theory formation applied here must, in agreement with the aim of post-colonial theory, keep the necessary decolonization processes going and disrupt neo-colonialist discourses. While post-structural approaches have contributed toward a critique of hegemonic epistemologies and a theorization of Eurocentric violence, the Marxist perspective provides a good basis for a critique that addresses international division of labor and current neo-colonialist and recolonization processes.10 However, there can be no talk of a consistent, well-structured theory, for such labels subsume not only diverging theoreticians under its auspices, but also their ongoing debates. If colonialism is seen not only as a process of territorial invasion, but is also seen in light of Foucault’s subjectivation11—that is, the simultaneous production and subjugation of the subject—, then it follows that the field of post-colonial theory frames not only the reconstruction of historical domination of the “south”—by virtue of economic and military violence—by the “north,” but also a critical analysis of construction and formation processes, at the end of which “Europe” and its “Other” emerge. Stuart Hall has accurately formulated this as the binary of “the West and the Rest.”12

In light of current debates on education, criticism, and the production of art, Gerardo Mosquera justifiably makes the following demands:

“We can no longer afford to disregard the fact that the audiences left out from the reception of contemporary art make up the majority of the population. Although the steps to correct such a scenario are difficult, they will undoubtedly have a bearing on current formats of art circulation, not to mention art production itself, as the aim is to further a wider and more active participation of communities, educational ties, interaction with local culture, use of mass media, etc. Now, attempting to tackle such problem might be a utopian venture. But it might be a start to identify what is at the root of the problem.”13

Post-colonial theory focuses primarily on the production of epistemic violence: the kind of violence that Spivak has provocatively and fittingly described as “mind-fucking,” and from which educational and communicative processes are not immune. Neither pedagogy nor art can situate themselves as purportedly unconventional fields, untouched by the specificity of imperial violence. Accordingly, art cannot claim to be a critical or subversive space per se; rather Spivak calls on “radical art” to address issues of globality as well as the less-than-commendable role art has played and continues to play within processes of globalization.14 The construction of radicalism is not only insufficient, but also a risky maneuver that can be complicit in colonial ways of seeing and thinking, for it does not contest hegemonic structures, but, on the contrary, limits itself to being provocative.

Post-colonial theory, as a critical intervention that is interdisciplinary in its approach, addresses an immense spectrum of themes, and reflects on the genealogies and entanglements of structural as well as specific events. In our view, postcolonial critique is of particular relevance to current discussions on educational and cultural policies. Academic debates in this context mirror political events which, combined with an emerging worldwide anti-globalization movement, have awakened renewed interest in questions of imperial power, neo-colonialism, and migration flows. We are dealing here with a stimulating and enriching movement that, on the one hand, politicizes theory, on the other hand, taps into new forms of politicization by virtue of theoretical-artistic debates.15

Cultural productions and post-colonialism

The entanglements of art with power and violence, and the attempts to transform these, are central to a post-colonially inspired gallery education. According to Edward Said, cultural productions are always inextricably tied to the political tenor of the society in which they emerge.16 And it is precisely the invisibility of such a relation which, following Said, allows the underlying ideology to become effective. Thus, one of Said’s most important political aims may well be identified as the “de-universalization” of imperial culture by exposing its “roots.” To meet this particular aim, contextualizations must be as concrete as possible in order to undermine the unquestionable universal character of cultural production. What has been produced, by whom, under what circumstances, with what consequences, and for whom? As Bruce W. Ferguson writes:

“Who speaks TO and FOR WHOM and UNDER WHAT conditions as well as WHERE and WHEN the particular utterance occurs are significant questions that can be asked of any communication performance … What are the social spaces in which it is heard or in which it remains silent? Whose codes are being recorded, decoded or overcoded and whose subcodes or metacodes are at what level of significance? What kind of delivery is it, in relation to what kind of set of receptions?”17

Exposing the connection between culture and political practices debunks the prevalent notion of a “neutral” culture. In fact, cultural practices are never “innocent,” but are always already marked by hegemonic structures that engender them in the first place. However, these sets of relations prove to be complex and dynamic. In contrast to the traditional view of imperialism as one nation’s rule over another, Said decisively introduces the role of the “culture of viewing.” Thus, imperialism does not end with the return of militarily occupied lands, but continues to exist in the spheres of the cultural and the political. In particular, cultural productions were instrumental in enabling imperialism to become a power that reaches beyond the geographical Empire.

Imperial discourses have maintained that the colonized must be subjected, simultaneously propagating a metaphysical right to their violent oppression. This implies a close connection between imperial goals and a national culture that is legitimated by a widely disseminated rhetoric of the universality of culture. Gauri Viswanathan shows, for instance, that the invention of English Studies was an integral component of the “civilizing processes” within British India.18 The canonization of European literature tacitly went hand in hand with the disqualification of art and knowledge production by the Other. This approach is fittingly illustrated by the infamous 1835 statement of Lord Macaulay, who served the Supreme Council of India at that time, suggesting that “a single shelf of a good European Library … [is] worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia.”19 As Said argues, there would have been no European novel without the Empire. The novel becomes a cultural instrument of bourgeois society and imperialism. And it was particularly the dominance of the British novel during the nineteenth century that helped consolidate the power of British imperialism, especially since novels were involved in advancing British perceptions and viewpoints that strengthened its position as an imperial center of power. Another example are the so-called “company paintings” [kampani kalam], which emerged toward the end of the eighteenth century and which embody, to a certain extent, an Indo-European hybridity. The artists had to consider hegemonic specifications—such as British ideas and taste, Western notions of painting—and assimilate them. In a way, company paintings remain intractable by virtue of their individual interpretations of European visual standards, although national historiography has not accorded them the status of “Indian painting.”20

Given that the appreciation of Western artistic production was closely connected with a devaluation of the Other’s productions—which, even up to this day, are all too often “celebrated” as “primitive art” and serve as a source of inspiration for “true” art—gallery education cannot examine the former without considering the later. It must be emphasized that individual Western artists cannot simply evade the determinations of the dominant ideology, for they remain bound to a neo-colonial context. The point is not to encourage the “rhetorics of blame,”21 but rather there is an urgent need for a careful and contextualized analysis of the relations of production and reception.

The role accorded to culture as a pillar of imperialism, as Spivak and Said argue in unison, cannot be overemphasized, for imperialism becomes inscribed as “civilizing mission” particularly through culture. Culture effectively appears as a moral power that produces a kind of “ideological pacification.”22 As a result, the subjected do not rebel, but are at times “grateful” to the imperialist. Said impressively outlines how cultural practices created “structures of feeling” geared to consolidate imperial rule.23

In fact, most art historians and literary theorists have failed, as Said suggests, to acknowledge the crucial role played by geographical notation, theoretical cartography, and territorial administration within Western narratives, which in turn were instrumental in reinforcing cultural dominance. Thus, understanding geographical struggle beyond the historical, imperial geography of the West becomes an important component of art as a means to examine and change the world. The authoritative superstructure of a self-aggrandizing culture reaching back to nineteenth-century Europe proved to possess such overwhelming stability that its involvement in the civilizing mission was never really questioned. Only occasionally was the superiority of the West the subject of scrutiny. Both Said and Spivak draw on Antonio Gramsci, who framed cultural hegemony as the production of consenting ideas.24 In this sense, hegemony is not generated by recourse to coercion and oppression, but through persuasion and ideology. It is the manufactured common sense which conveys hegemony in civil society. The apparatuses of hegemony are not only schools and churches, but also the media and art. In other words: educational apparatuses teach “know-how,” as Louis Althusser writes, “but in forms which ensure subjection to the ruling ideology or the mastery of its ‘practice.’” He further suggests that all “agents of production, exploitation and repression” and the tasks they perform will be “impregnated” by this ideology in one way or another.25 It becomes apparent that not only is the reproduction of “qualification” the sine qua non of the reproduction of labor power, but also the reproduction of its subjection to the ruling ideology or the “practice” of this ideology. To be more precise: it is insufficient to say “not only but also,” because it becomes clear that the reproduction of qualification of the workforce ensues “in the forms and under the forms of ideological subjection.” Thus, from the outset, art and gallery education remain bound to and inscribed in power structures. It is imperative that such entanglements be exposed, made visible.

Third spaces—Post-colonialism and art criticism

Post-colonialism has inspired new perspectives in the interlocked fields of art criticism and gallery education. It has been argued that post-colonial gallery education provides opportunities to overcome the discourse of Orientalism, as described by Said, or even facilitate the opening of “Third Spaces” à la Homi Bhabha, where newness enters the world.26 Indeed, gallery education often makes reference to Bhabha’s Third Spaces as a metaphor for the possibility of de-colonization through art and critical gallery education.

In his introduction to The Location of Culture, Bhabha discusses the “borderline work of culture,” which “demands an encounter with ‘newness’ that is not part of the continuum of past and present,” but rather describes a confrontation that “creates a sense of the new as an insurgent act of cultural translation.” According to Bhabha, such art “renews the past, refiguring it as a contingent ‘in-between’ space, that innovates and interrupts the performance of the present.”27 Third Spaces correspond with the attempt to hazard other forms of communication that disrupt “othering” processes. Thus, following Bhabha, Third Spaces emerge when there is an attempt to challenge petrified cultural differences. The process of their emergence is closely connected to that which he has designated as “hybridity.” It is in such Third Spaces, as Bhabha suggests, that a new era of negotiations about representation begin. However, this calls for a way of thinking that goes beyond “narratives of originary and initial subjectivities.” What is more, it is crucial to create new signs for identity as well as new spaces.28 The struggles for new forms of coexistence that challenge the notion of society and normality take place in Third Spaces. They sharpen the issue of identity, as well as the transformation of society through migration and diaspora, and test the dictates of dominant representations. This sets them apart as liminal, ambivalent spaces in which cultural meanings and representations are not bound to any primordial unity or fixation. If we assume that Third Spaces are possible, then the question remains how these may be established and for whom they could be accessible.

Post-colonial pedagogy

At this point, we would like to introduce some of Spivak’s ideas on education, learning, and teaching.29 It is interesting to note that Spivak problematizes several aspects of Bhabha’s theory, including his lack of self-criticism and the aesthetization of post-colonial critique, which at times can have depoliticizing effects. And indeed, the “aestheticization” of post-colonial theory as a form of anti-hegemonic theory formation—even in a superficial discussion of current neoliberalist violence—appears all the more cynical.

According to Spivak, education first and foremost entails an “uncoercive arrangement of desires”30—that is, a reordering of desires that takes place without any force or compulsion. Here, a reflection on pedagogical methods involves examining that which needs to be reordered within those who learn. Central to this concern is the question whether desires can be rearranged without recourse to “unremitting pressure.” This difficult venture may only be carried out when those who take up the role of “communicators” see themselves as part of the entire problem and also accept themselves as learners. How, Spivak asks concretely, can intellectuals fight against a hegemony of which they are equally a part? How can they learn from the subaltern? The “subalterns” Spivak refers to, however, are not elite migrant artists who participate in and profit from the “theatre of Western art,” but those who are excluded from lines of mobility. These, as Spivak suggests, have nothing to complain about established forms of education. On the contrary, they consider it “normal,” this is what they expect “education” to be.31

Post-colonial pedagogy problematizes the “learned ignorance” and complicity with imperialist and nationalist projects implicit in most educational programs. This, according to Cherokee activist and artist Jimmie Durham, necessarily calls for a “positive destruction.”32 Thus, looking forward will only be possible by virtue of a simultaneous orientation toward the here-and-now and the past. Those who want to learn how to build a future need to address the violence at the root of how they came to be who they are. How did we become those who we now believe ourselves to be? Which position do we occupy in the world? And at whose expense?

Cultural studies deal with the here-and-now more than any other social science, because it is precisely in the here-and-now that concrete intervention is possible. It is only in the “here-and-now” that theory and practice, which are linked together in productive mutual crisis, can bring about social change. Post-colonial theorist Rey Chow has remarked that globalization has thrown cultural studies into a crisis:33 if cultural studies has constructed itself in the past as a subversive force that helped cross disciplinary borders of Western scientific categories within the academic context, it is precisely globalization that questions such counter-hegemonic self-construction, given that the set of instruments deployed by cultural studies, now functions as an “information retrieval system,”34 and is crucial to the purpose of imperial globalization. In fact, universities provide an ever-improved language and cultural training that are of vital importance to the operation of transnational capital markets.

According to Spivak, post-colonialism always implies self-criticism, or in her own words, “critiquing a structure that you cannot not wish to inhabit.”35 She therefore contradicts the romantic notion of a radical outside that is situated beyond the violent structures in order to attack and change them from without.

Knowledge and ignorance

In this context, it proves instructive to examine the other side of knowledge: ignorance. While Spivak talks about “sanctioned,” not to say rewarded ignorance—an ignorance that does not discredit, but rather stabilizes one’s position of power, the Canadian philosopher Lorraine Code talks about the power of ignorance36—an ignorance that is presented with the label of objectivity within scientific discourses. Code discusses the case of James Mill to demonstrate the connections between hegemony, ignorance, and so-called objectivity. In 1817, Mill wrote History of India, acknowledging that only his complete ignorance of the local tradition and custom of the Indian subcontinent had enabled him to produce such an important book. The same holds true for indologist Max Müller, who in 1883 published his lectures for candidates to the Indian Civil Service (ICS)—the elite of colonial functionaries—under the title “India: What Can It Teach Us?”37 This work is one of the best examples for that which Said terms as “Orientalization of the Orient.” In 1847, Müller was commissioned as German Orient expert by the East India Company to translate and edit the Rigveda from Sanskrit to English (this sacred script is considered the most ancient of orally transmitted Indian texts, dating back to 1000 B.C.E.). Müller admittedly never set foot on Indian ground, yet regardless of this fact—or maybe precisely because of it—he is still considered one of the world’s most influential indologists. Code finds these examples to be emblematic of a politics of ignorance of the colonized, who stood for and stand in opposition to the universal, humanistic statements of the Enlightenment. The risk that colonial “experts” formulate here is that of too strong an empathy with the indigenous populations—possibly the total identification, the emotional fusion with the Others, which would ultimately compromise the idea of absolute difference and higher value.

The strategy of unlearning

Against the background of the discussion on sanctioned ignorance, learning can only be understood as the dialectics of learning and unlearning, a painstaking, never-ending process that remains contingent upon the disposition of the learner to “give-and-take.” Post-colonial pedagogy swims thereby against the current of the times. While classical pedagogy attempts to fight against the unacceptable ignorance, post-colonial pedagogy addresses the “sanctioned ignorance,”38 the non-knowledge that is socially rewarded, even amongst elite thinkers. Spivak describes her work as that of a tailor who creates one-of-a-kind garments for individual use. Each person is different, each context so divergent, that it always requires new approaches. Thus, for Spivak, communication is no mass-production procedure, but a careful and slow process that depends on the specifications made by the person for whom the communication is being tailored. This metaphor reminds us also of critical gallery education, which takes the space it needs in order to render art discernible for those who are not normally listened to.

Here, teaching becomes more a question of strategy than theory. And its meaning is twofold: we must decide what we teach and how we do it. Instead of delivering theory to students, the issue at stake, following Spivak, is to convey the fact that knowledge—just as any strategy—can never be considered universal nor applied without consequences. Each situation is unique and requires a distinctive strategy, for which knowledge must be provided. Spivak’s ideas on education are clearly influenced by Gramsci, who saw pedagogy first and foremost as a pedagogy of questioning.

Naturally, the limits as well as the risks such an approach involves—including the inevitable aporia that emerge in the teaching process—must be carefully examined. Spivak proposes that teaching is an intersubjective exercise, during which we must permanently ask ourselves: What must we convey? What ought to be learnt? Although we always assume that the group learns, the uncertainty remains as to what actually happens when we are passing on knowledge.

Spivak pinpoints this issue by elucidating that which takes place when the margins enter the center of pedagogic institutions, when the oppressed cease to be silent, and deconstructive and feminist readings disrupt the academic canon. The institutions she designates as “teaching machine”39 are stirred up as their margins are broken down. The aim is to be sensitive to this movement, letting it swing to and fro, while avoiding any disciplinary action that would bring it to a standstill.

On the other hand, she describes learning as a training of the intellect and insists that this training of the mind involves hard work. She has expounded in countless interviews that it is absurd and dangerous to think that it is enough to “come up with” or “achieve” something. Following Spivak, the point is to decolonize the imagination and, to this end, it is a matter of constant exercise. The intellect can only be productive when it has previously learned to make use of itself. In addition, pedagogues should not indulge in the romantic notion that the grass is greener on their side. Teachers are always an intrinsic element of the problem, and the question is how can they manage to practice the kind of learning that Spivak calls “learning to learn from below?” Spivak sees this aspect—and we agree with her in this point—as the biggest challenge for a critically minded education venture. How should we speak to those who are cut off from any mobility, so that they do not regard what we say as “bullshit”? What do we need to change in ourselves in order for what they have to say to become discernible, or audible to us?

The point is not merely to advocate an improvement or change of conditions—quite the contrary, Spivak considers this to be a gesture of superiority—but rather to learn to let the logic of what constitutes the “here-and-now” emerge and render that aspect accessible. Here, gallery education may be able to contribute to this venture if we understand it as a critical work of translation. Sarat Maharaj, for instance, has proposed to term the international realm as “scene of cultural translation”—not in the sense of “closed” translations of one another, but in terms of “sounding difference.” How to listen without imposing one’s own way of thinking? Here he questions the ideal of the transparency of relationships, as well as an overly textualized view of translation.40

Transformation must flow from those marked as target groups, instead of being enforced as external measures. Following Spivak, education must function as an “invisible mending” analogous to weaving invisible threads into an already existing fabric. The resulting pattern is not predetermined, the weaving process never finishes and remains twofold as well: the weaver is simultaneously the worker and the fabric to be worked. This demands a great deal of patience from those who teach, because the processes are slow, if not to say subtle—just like the pervasive, historical violence embedded in the social weave. Those advocating change must—this is urgent for critical education—be willing to change themselves.

While the educational system in most post-colonial contexts amounts to a corrupt ruin of the colonial model, in Europe we face a trivial, tacky replica of social imperialism. Accordingly, Spivak demands its persistent deconstruction or/and destruction. It is impossible to reflect on decolonizing education without an understanding of the violent structures that permeate education; otherwise, transformation will fail. As a first step in this direction, the communicator questions her/his own social position: Who am I? And how have I become the person I am now? And at whose expense have I become like this? Questioning our own privileges remains crucial to achieving that which Spivak terms “transnational literacy.” There is more to this than being well-read and accumulating information (the “banker” method coined by Brazilian pedagogue Paulo Freire); in fact, it involves confronting the often painful process of self-questioning—an unlearning that is dialectically related to learning.

Rendering sanctioned/rewarded ignorance visible and breaking the rules remain crucial to Spivak’s project. She not only refers to academic rules, but also to rules ingrained in expectation, common sense, normality. For her, the practice of “breaking the rules” is an ethical imperative. However, she emphasizes strongly that it is important to earn the right to break the rules by—what we consider an insightful observation—first doing one’s homework, without ever assuming that such homework will ever come to an end. A Critique of Postcolonial Reason advocates this kind of rule-breaking, which involves talking across the borders as well as thinking through and beyond the disciplines. Most pedagogical strategies, including strategies of communication/mediation within educational and cultural institutions, as well as students’ expectations—what they assume learning to be—often stand in the way of this rule-breaking practice, and therefore hinder important radical inquiries. Those who want to break the rules cannot expect others to find rule-breaking as attractive as they do. Not an insignificant number of people are satisfied with the status quo and reject the will to resist. Spanish queer theorist Beatriz Suárez41 argues that it is important to show a disloyalty toward civilization—to refuse an acculturation both into one’s own and foreign “culture.” Many still find the historically formed structure of “we” and the “others” attractive, indeed, they profit from such a notion. Initiating the process of unlearning within oneself and others requires an openness to experimentation and the room to awaken such openness. Thus, what may ensue are sparks of “non-violent education” in which dissent is perceived as constructive and consent is not automatically expected.

Non-violent education?

Post-colonial theory holds the promise of a critical intervention that should neither be disregarded as irrelevant, nor overestimated in its possibilities. It requires constructive criticism from within and wide participation in the debates, which will lead to a necessary pluralization of perspectives. Otherwise post-colonial theory will lead to disappointment, just like previous critical theories. And yet, we still consider it possible to envision non-dominant futures by recourse to post-colonial theory. However, for this to emerge we must question the “epistemological privilege” that stems, in particular, from the place of theoretical production, and bring back to the foreground the frequently overlooked issue of international labor division, as well as the existential struggles of the majority of the population of the world today.

There is a certain utopian moment that reverberates through Spivak’s idea of post-colonial pedagogy. This is the case when the system is questioned without propagating an alternative, “better” one. It reminds us of Ernst Bloch’s proclamation that hope must be disappointed, otherwise it would become totalitarian.42 And this is why Spivak adamantly warns that any political aim—however noble—runs the risk of being perverted. Education should not be about preaching to the converted, but about encouraging people to think independently, capable of disagreement. In this way, post-colonial pedagogy opposes fixed goals, because no counter-movement is free from the risk of cooption.

In his book The Post-Colonial Exotic,43 Graham Huggan argues that utopian pedagogy is the locus of post-colonial studies, which identifies the institutional boundaries that hinder their political effectiveness—and simultaneously embodies the attractiveness of this field. In order to find a way out of this double bind,44 those who teach will have to develop what Mark Sanders calls “an itinerary of agency in complicity.”45

This makes it necessary to apply deconstructive strategies à la Spivak against “axes of imperialism” so as to interrogate the key texts of modernity. According to Spivak, art and education can create spaces for subaltern groups by articulating the suppressed histories of subaltern resistance. But first, the complicity between education and art in the reproduction of hegemonic relations must be acknowledged. Therefore, it is the (im)possibility of non-violent education that must be examined. Because post-colonial pedagogy questions that which remains uncontested in educational and cultural machinery, its practice can certainly be an unsettling experience for those participating in it. We must, as Spivak suggests, realize how we have become subjects-in-history and learn to identify how texts have been culturally constructed; how they emerge out of specific social settings and cultural conditions; how they produce and reproduce themselves and others in difference. Only then does a non-violent education/communication become possible. Only then does unlearning become a means to imagine non-dominant futures.

1 Lecture held at documenta 12 in Kassel on July 7, 2007, as part of the gallery education project Deutsch Wissen (Know German”)DVD/TextImage/338Volume 1, p. 117. We wish to thank Inka Gressel for reviewing and commenting on the manuscript of the lecture.

2 Ulrich Beck, Risikogesellschaft: Auf dem Weg in eine andere Moderne (Frankfurt am Main, 1986).

3 See Pierangelo Maset, Praxis Kunst Pädagogik: Ästhetische Operationen in der Kunstvermittlung (Books on Demand GmbH, 2001–02); Sabine and Leonie Baumann, eds. Wo laufen S(s)ie denn hin?!—Neue Formen der Kunstvermittlung fördern (Wolfenbüttel, 2006).

4 Pierangelo Maset, “Fortsetzung Kunstvermittlung,” in Corporate Difference: Formate der Kunstvermittlung, eds. Pierangelo Maset et al. (Books on Demand GmbH, 2006), pp. 11–24, here: p. 13. [Our trans.]

5 Michel Foucault, “Polemics, Politics, and Problemizations: An Interview with Michel Foucault,” in The Foucault Reader, ed. Paul Rabinow (New York, 1984) pp. 381–90.

6 Wolfgang Welsch, “Transkulturalität: Lebensformen nach der Auflösung der Kulturen,” in Dialog der Kulturen: Die multikulturelle Gesellschaft und die Medien, eds. Kurt Luger and Rudi Renger (Vienna, 1994), pp. 147–69.

7 See María do Mar Castro Varela and Nikita Dhawan, eds. Postkoloniale Theorie: Eine kritische Einführung (Bielefeld, 2005).

8 Iain Chambers, Lidia Curti, eds., The Post-Colonial Question: Common Skies, Divided Horizons (London, New York, 1996), pp. 242–60.

9 Stuart Hall, “When Was ‘The Post-Colonial’? Thinking at the Limit,” in Chambers & Curti, The Post-Colonial Question, pp. 242–60; here: p. 246.

10 Gayatri C. Spivak, The Post-colonial Critic: Interviews, Strategies, Dialogues (New York, 1990), pp. 50–58.

11 Michel Foucault, “The Subject and Power,” in Art after Modernism: Rethinking Representation, ed. Brian Wallis (New York, 1984), pp. 417–32.

12 Hall, “When Was ‘The Post-Colonial’?,” op. cit., p. 249.

13 Gerardo Mosquera, “El mundo de la diferencia. Notas sobre arte, globalización y periferia,” under (accessed on November 19, 2008). [here, our trans. from Spanish]

14 Gayatri C. Spivak, Outside in the Teaching Machine (London, New York, 1993); A Critique of Postcolonial Reason: Toward a History of the Vanishing Present (Cambridge, Mass., 1999).

15 See Trinh-T. Minh-ha, When the Moon Waxes Red: Representation, Gender and Cultural Politics (New York, London, 1991); Coco Fusco, The Bodies That Were Not Ours, and Other Writings (New York, London, 2002).

16 Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism (London, 1993); “Kultur und Identität. Europas Selbstfindung aus der Einverleibung der Welt,” Lettre international, no. 34 (1996), pp. 21–25.

17 Bruce W. Ferguson, “Exhibition Rhetorics: Material Speech and Utter Sense” in Thinking about Exhibitions, eds. Reesa Greenberg et al. (London, New York, 1996), pp. 126–38.

18 Gauri Viswanathan, Masks of Conquest: Literary Study and British Rule in India (New York, 1989).

19 Quoted in Leela Gandhi, Postcolonial Theory: A Critical Introduction (Edinburgh, 1998), p. 144.

20 See Mildred Archer, Graham Parlett, Company Paintings: Indian Paintings of the British Period (London, 1992).

21 Edward Said, Representations of the Intellectual: The 1993 Reith Lectures (London, 1994), p. xi.

22 Edward Said, The Pen and the Sword: Conversations with David Barsamian (Monroe, Maine, 1994), p. 67.

23 Ibid.

24 See Peter Mayo, Politische Bildung bei Antonio Gramsci und Paulo Freire: Perspektiven einer verändernden Praxis (Hamburg, 2006).

25 Louis Althusser, Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses under (accessed on November 19, 2008).

26 Homi Bhabha, The Location of Culture (London, 1994); “Beyond the Pale: Art in the Age of Multicultural Translation” in Cultural Diversity in the Arts. Art, Art Policies and the Facelift of Europe, ed. Ria Lavrijsen (Amsterdam, 1993); W. J. T. Mitchell, “Translator Translated. Interview with Cultural Theorist Homi Bhabha,” Artforum 33, no. 7 (March 1995), pp. 80–84.

27 Bhabha, The Location of Culture, op. cit., p. 10.

28 See María do Mar Castro, Nikita Dhawan, and Shalini Randeria, “Postkoloniale Theorie,” in Raumwissenschaften, ed. Stephan Günzel (Frankfurt am Main, 2008), pp. 308–23.

29 See Gayatri C. Spivak, “Righting Wrongs,” The South Atlantic Quarterly 103, no. 2/3 (2004), pp. 523–81.

30 Spivak, “Righting Wrongs,” op. cit., p. 526.

31 Gayatri C. Spivak, “Can the Subaltern Speak?”, Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture, eds. Cary Nelson and Lawrence Grossberg (Champaign, Ill., 1988), pp. 271–316.

32 Jimmie Durham, “Cowboys and … Notes on Art, Literature, and American Indians in the Modern American Mind,” The State of Native America: Genocide, Colonization, and Resistance, ed. M. Annette Jaimes (Boston, 1992), pp. 423–38.

33 Rey Chow, Ethics after Idealism: Theory—Culture—Ethnicity—Reading (Bloomington, Ind., 1998).

34 Spivak, A Critique of Postcolonial Reason, op. cit., p. 114.

35 Spivak, Outside in the Teaching Machine, op. cit., p. 284.

36 Lorraine Code, What Can She Know? Feminist Theory and the Construction of Knowledge (Ithaca, NY, 1995).

37 Friedrich Max Müller, India: What Can It Teach Us? A Course of Lectures Delivered before the University of Cambridge (New Delhi, 2000).

38 Spivak, A Critique of Postcolonial Reason, op. cit., p. 30.

39 See Spivak, Outside in the Teaching Machine, op. cit.

40 Jean Fisher, ed., Global Visions: Towards a New Internationalism in the Visual Arts (London, 1994); Sarat Maharaj (interview with Annie Fletcher; in German) “Sounding Difference,” springerin. Hefte für Gegenwartskunst VI, no. 1, April–June 2000, pp. 18–21. [For an English version, see (accessed on November 19, 2008).]

41 See Beatriz Suárez Briones, “Desleal a la civilización: la teoría (literaria) feminista lesbiana,” Conciencia de un singular deseo: Los estudios lésbicos y gays en España, ed. Xosé María Buxán Bras (Barcelona, 1997), pp. 259–79.

42 Ernst Bloch, The Principle of Hope (Cambridge, Mass., 1995).

43 Graham Huggan, The Post-Colonial Exotic: Marketing the Margins (London, New York, 2001).

44 Gayatri C. Spivak, In Other Worlds (London, New York, 1988), p. 188.

45 Mark Sanders, “Postcolonial Reading,” Postmodern Culture 10, no. 1 (September 1999).

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Nikita Dhawan

hat Germanistik und Philosophie an der Mumbai Universität in Indien studiert und an der Ruhr-Universität Bochum in Philosophie promoviert. Sie ist Juniorprofessorin für Postkoloniale Theorie und Gender an der Goethe Universität Frankfurt. Zu ihren Arbeitsschwerpunkten zählen Transkulturelle Philosophie, Postkoloniale, Gender und Queer Theorie.

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María do Mar Castro Varela

ist Politologin, Diplom-Psychologin und Diplom-Pädagogin. Ihre Arbeits- und Interessenschwerpunkte sind Migrations- und Rassismusforschung, Postkoloniale Theorie, Gender und Queer Studies und Utopieforschung. Sie ist Professorin an der Alice-Salomon-Hochschule Berlin und u.a. Mitglied der Deutschen UNESCO-Kommission.

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Carmen Mörsch (Hg.): documenta 12 education II

Carmen Mörsch (Hg.)

documenta 12 education II
Between Critical Practice and Visitor Services Results of a Research Project

Übersetzt von Erik Smith, Karen Michelsen Castañón, Laura Schleussner und Nathaniel McBride

Broschur, 374 Seiten

PDF, 374 Seiten

»Cultural Education« is much debated. It is pivotal in sustaining a sense of community in a society that is constantly shifting. A space where differences can be explored, art exhibitions act as a superb medium for cultural and aesthetic education. They don‘t aspire to peace and harmony but to stage controversy. They enable multiple models of communication, open to dissent and rupture.

Education is situated in tension between public sphere and institution, amateur and professional, artist and audience. Its development needs felicitous examples as well as rigor in discussing problems towards identifying practical solutions.

»documenta 12 education« presents in two illustrated volumes the education formats with concomitant research, providing a basis for developing theory and praxis of gallery education.

These volumes are an ideal resource for people working in the fields of curating exhibitions, gallery education, youth work and cultural policy. People less familiar with cultural work will find in these books a valuable introduction to the field of gallery education.

Volume 2 focuses on a theory of gallery education, its methods and contexts, and reflects theoretically on examples presented in Volume 1. It is addressed to professionals from the field of gallery education, cultural education and formal education.


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