Privileged irresponsibility presentation for Meaningful life in just society conference
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Privileged irresponsibility presentation for Meaningful life in just society conference



This is the presentation I will be giving at the conference 'A meaningful life in a just society' at the University of Humanities, Utrecht in January 2014. The title of the presentation is ...

This is the presentation I will be giving at the conference 'A meaningful life in a just society' at the University of Humanities, Utrecht in January 2014. The title of the presentation is 'Privileged irresponsibility as a barrier to achieving a meaningful life and a just society in South African higher education'



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  • The objectives of this paper are to discuss how the notion of dualism may be relevant when thinking about issues of poverty and higher education. We contend that the characteristics of dualism as outlined by the feminist philosopher Val Plumwood (1993) may be helpful in attempting to challenge or address dualisms and issues of poverty and other issues of privilege and disadvantage in higher education. The paper describes a project which was set up across historically advantaged and historically disadvantaged higher education institutions (HEIs) in South Africa, and across differently valued professions (psychology, social work and occupational therapy) in order to address the historical and current inequities and differences between these entities. In addition, attention to differences in social class, race, gender and sexuality were foregrounded in this project. The paper shows how the dualisms can potentially be addressed by bringing students together to engage with each other about issues of privilege and disadvantage. The paper also notes how shame was a prominent response when students interacted across difference, particularly in relation to the realization that they had benefitted from material advantages and privileges in the past and the present, but also when those who had been disadvantaged were confronted with their privileged peers.
  • The concept privileged irresponsibility was first coined by Joan Tronto in 1990 in her address to the American Political Science Association entitled Chilly Racists. In this paper she commented on the inability of white women to acknowledge or imagine the hostile climate that black women experienced in the classroom US higher education, and how white women benefit from racism. In considering the power that racism confers on a majority group, she coined the phrase ‘privileged irresponsibility’ by which she meant the ways in which the majority group fail to acknowledge the exercise of power, thus maintaining their positions of privilege which are taken for granted. In the paper Chilly Racists, she associates privileged irresponsibility with institutionalized racism, which she distinguished from personal racism, where the social nature of racism is obscured. Personal racism individualizes and privatizes racist acts, seeing them as moral failings which results in guilt, which makes it difficult to recognize ignorance. She distinguishes between guilt, which she sees as psychological, and shame which she regards a social response. Guilt prevents whites from confronting the harm they inflict on others, because they are busier justifying their own behavior and dealing with their own painful emotions regarding this, than paying attention to the needs of others.In Moral Boundaries: A Political Argument for an Ethic of Care, Tronto (1993) further develops the notion of privileged irresponsibility where she associates it with the ways in which caring responsibilities are unevenly balanced in society. She describes privileged irresponsibility in the following way:  Those who are relatively privileged are granted by that privilege the opportunity simply to ignore certain forms of hardships that they do not face (Tronto, 1993:120-121).Privileged irresponsibility occurs, according to Tronto (1993) where the caring process and the phases of care are not seen holistically. Rather, responsibilities are divided into those who provide resources for care and those who do the hands-on work of giving care. In these instances, privileged groups of people such as men or whites see themselves as only responsible for providing resources to address a problem and do not see the necessity of being involved in the actual hands-on process of giving care. Tronto (1993:121) again focuses on the example of racism, which she sees as being maintained by ‘ white skin privilege’, where those with these privileges do not notice the needs of blacks nor do they recognize that they are privileged in the first place. In their ignorance of their privileges, they remain oblivious to their own prejudice. Furthermore, they feel no need to take responsibility for their privileges or those who do not have privileges, thus perpetuating institutional racism. With privileged irresponsibility, only the needs of those who are privileged are regarded as legitimate and important, whereas the subjugated’s needs remain unrecognized and ignored. This means that the caring needs of the privileged are more likely to be adequately met than those who are marginalized or subjugated. What has been identified by critics of the ethic of care as a problematic consequence of care (Tronto, 1993) – parochialism – encourages people to see their own needs or those who are close to them as more legitimate and important than those who are distant or unrelated. Thus parochialism can be seen as directly responsible for privileged irresponsibility – as Tronto puts it “a way to excuse the inattention of the privileged”(1993:146). In South Africa, historically and also currently to a large extent the needs of one group of people (whites) have been regarded as important and have been serviced by the needs of another group of people (blacks). Through othering and inferiorising Africans into homogenised categories of ‘maids and factotums’, whites were assured that an extended population, designated specifically to provide services for them and meet their everyday needs, would be available. Thus, through being categorised as maids and factotums, Africans as others were objectified and regarded only as instruments to fulfill white needs. As Tronto (1993) points out, this process is largely rendered invisible and thus becomes very difficult to challenge.In her most recent work Caring Democracy: Markets, Equality, and Justice, Tronto (2013) further extends her ideas on privileged irresponsibility. In her deliberations about care and democracy, she devotes a great deal of space in the book to the notion of privileged irresponsibility. She sees democracy as being concerned with the way in which caring responsibilities are allocated in society and the representation and participation of people in the decisions of the ways in which these responsibilities are allocated.  Privileged irresponsibility occurs when those who are privileged absent themselves from any responsibilities that are allocated to caring practices – she calls this getting a “pass” out of the responsibility (Tronto, 2013). Getting a “pass” out of the responsibility means that one does not have to justify not doing hands-on caring work and furthermore, the subjugated group feels obligated to take on these responsibilities. In other words, privileged groups of people end up getting out of responsibilities, while those who are not privileged end up with more responsibilities for the kind of caring work that the privileged justify to themselves that they should not be responsible for. In Tronto’s recent work, as she did in her previous work, she again relates privileged irresponsibility to ignorance, but this time labels it ‘epistemological ignorance’ – where the privileged do not feel the need to know anything about the lives or needs of the subjugated group. As Lorraine Code observes, “‘orthodox liberal-affluent epistemic subjects cannot bear – indeed are rarely called upon to hear – too much truth”(2006:230) This impacts greatly on the willingness to take on responsibilities for care and the view of care as a political practice which includes caring for society as a whole and incorporates public and private aspects of care rather than a dyadic caring relationship.Tronto borrows this term from Charles Wade Mills 1997. The Racial Contract. Ithaca and London Cornell University Press  
  • Ways of avoiding caring responsibilitiesIn Tronto’s (2013) work, she identifies a number of rationalizations which privileged groups use to extricate themselves from responsibility. She had already mentioned in her (1993) work that privileged irresponsibility arises out of an imbalance in the elements of care – caring about, caring for, caregiving and care-receiving. She now elaborates on this argument by looking at the various ways in which men in particular, in conforming to what is expected by hegemonic masculinities manage to remove themselves from caring responsibilities – these are protection, production, private care and personal responsibility which are elaborated on in the sub-sections below.ProtectionProtection can be seen as a form of care, and is a prominent concept in social work (Child Protection is a large field of social work). Tronto (2013) refers to more masculine forms of protection such as police work and maintains that by obfuscating the caring aspects of protection, one maintains the gendered hierarchy. People who are protecting others get “passes” (Tronto, 2013) out of caring tasks because they are doing other more important work. Young (2005) alerts readers to problematic nature of the logic of masculinity - role of the male head of the household as protector, and male leaders as protectors of the population. Rather than seeing this as benign, she shows how the male portrays himself as a protector who shields his family from risks and dangers. This results in subordination of those he protects, deference to his decision-making and uncritical obedience, thus greatly undermining the potential of democracy. In addition to this, as Young observes, ”[i]t is only fitting that she should minister to his needs and obey his dictates”(2005:18)’. Young (2005) applies this logic of masculinist protection or protection racket to the authoritarian state, which protects its citizens by expecting their patronage and subordination. ProductionProduction is where the privileged group is involved in the important work of acquiring economic resources, and thus argues that they should be released from ordinary hands-on caring responsibilities. This is a more prevalent rationalisation in neoliberal times. It is dependent on belief in the work ethic. The work ethic is both individualistic and gendered and, as Tronto points out, fits in well with neoliberal ideology. The work ethic discounts such phenomena as context, emotions and relations of power, focusing only on equality of opportunity, and assumes that we are all starting off from an equal playing field. It insists that humans are autonomous beings who must work hard to get their own needs met, and that one generally gets what one deserves – those who work hardest will get the most resources. The work ethic is dependent on the separation of public and private spheres, where citizenworkers are engaged in valued paid labour as part of the public sphere and care-giving, and non-citizens are involved in reproduction to the private sphere, which is devalued. The worker- citizens from a neoliberal standpoint, should be as unencumbered as possible with caring burdens, and they receive a ‘pass’ from caring tasks because they are too busy doing the important work of paid labour. The fact that autonomy requires a great deal of caring work to be done for an individual in this position is unacknowledged.Private carePrivate care is similar to Tronto’s (1993) observation that parochialism encourages the view that caring for one’s own exempts one from caring for more distant others. Private care is bolstered by the separation of the public and private spheres where care is devalued. Those who are doing well competitively in society are actually dependent on others to meet their needs, but this is not acknowledged. In examining privatized care, Tronto uses Kari Waerness’s distinction between necessary care and personal service. Necessary care is care that one cannot give to oneself and personal service is care one could give to oneself but chooses not to. Privileged irresponsibility happens with personalized service rather than necessary care in that the recipient of care does not have to acknowledge the care they are getting – they simply presume an entitlement to this care, and it is not acknowledged or spoken about. Inequality is perpetuated by the recipients’ ignorance of these entitlements to care and the unbalanced nature of caring responsibilities that ensue from personalized service. Breaking these inequalities will require a sense of a collective social responsibility for care.Personal responsibilityNeoliberal thinking requires one to take care of oneself and one’s own community without any regard to historical inequalities or exclusions. If one is not flourishing as a human being it is one’s own fault, as it means that one has not pulled oneself up by one’s own bootstraps. The feminist philosopher Val Plumwood (2002:85), in her writings on the ecological crisis of reason in environmental culture, notes that “[b]ecause socially privileged groups can most easily purchase alternative private sources (clean water for example) they have the least interest in maintaining in generally good condition collective goods and services”. Privileged groups remain unaware of their own vulnerability as they have the means to buy services to extricate themselves from difficult circumstances. This insulates them from the realization of their own vulnerabilities and of those who are marginalized who cannot afford to buy themselves out of harmful circumstances. Because of their alienation and remoteness from ecological and other harms, privileged groups according to Plumwood (2002) are the worst groups to be allocated decision-making powers. Tronto (2013) reiterates the point that privileged irresponsibility allows those who benefit from being in superior positions in a hierarchical system to remain oblivious about the part they themselves play in maintaining the system. In a culture that emphasizes caring for our own, husbands may continue to feel good about themselves that they are the primary breadwinners and their wives the primary caregivers, rich people will continue to feel virtuous about providing employment for domestic workers, even though it is an inadequate wage and barely enough for them to care for their own family member’s needs.
  • How is privileged irresponsibility maintained? In addition to Tronto’s (1990; 1993; 2013) work on privileged irresponsibility, I believe that Val Plumwood’s (1993) analysis of the mechanisms of dualism is useful for us to consider how it is possible to maintain privileged irresponsibility in human relationships. Her work dovetails well with Joan Tronto’s in that it provides greater depth to the discussion regarding the ways in which privileged irresponsibility can be understood through various forms of justification. By dualism Plumwood (1993; 2002) Dualism is different from a dichotomy and from a distinction'A dualism is an intense, established and developed cultural expression of such a hierarchical relationship, constructing central cultural concepts and identities so as to make equality and mutuality literally unthinkable'. (Plumwood, 1993:47)means something different from a dichotomy or a distinction in that dualism implies a hierarchical relationship where it is not possible to have equality, but where “the culture, the values and the areas of life associated with the dualised other are systematically and pervasively constructed and depicted as inferior”(Plumwood, 1993:47). In a similar vein, in order for privileged irresponsibility to occur, there must be a hierarchical relationship where one party is regarded as ‘ less than’ and where there is no possibility of continuity between the two parties. Dualism, and by implication, privileged irresponsibility, is fed by processes of inferiorisation, interiorisation and othering.
  • Inferiorisation is central to Val Plumwood’s (1993; 2002) definition of dualism, in which the marginalised groups are constructed as mentally, physically or emotionally inferior to the accepted norm, and found to be ‘wanting’ or ‘less than’ this norm in various ways. Interiorisation happens when those who are subjugated accept, uncritically embrace and collude with the way that they have been negatively construed by those in privileged positions/dominant culture. The idea is to find ways of resisting these constructions. Otheringis also central to dualism. By ‘othering’, I mean the way in which the marginalised are illegitimated by being regarded as ‘them’ (objects) rather than ‘us’ (subjects), in other words, regarded as unimportant, different, marginal, strange or alien, and having negative qualities attributed to them (de Beauvoir 1997; Hartsock 1998; Plumwood 1993).
  • Backgrounding -this is the most similar to Tronto’s (1993) idea of privileged irresponsibility as it requires using the services of the other for the masters needs at the same time as denying dependency, through trivializing and ignoring the other’s contributions. These contributions would be considered “simply not ‘worth’ noticing”(Plumwood,1993:48), - the caregiver would thus be seen merely as a background to the care receivers’ foreground. Both Tronto (1993) and Plumwood (1993) surmise that denial of dependency happens because those who masters fear , hate and deny their own dependency because, as Plumwood (1993:49) notes ‘it subtly challenges his dominance’. In a study of racism which used South African social work students accounts on how it affected their family members, one student recounts:“…whites viewed us [as] people with less skills and less education. The parents experienced humiliation and harassment at their workplaces due to the fact that they are black. They were made to be also the servant of their masters and even the children of them (Family Profile 29).In this account, the student demonstrates the misrecognition of family members in terms of the internal injuries of humiliation as well as the institutional misrecognition of being harassed at their workplace solely due to their ascribed racial markers. The sense that students and their family members were viewed only as servants, available to masters and their children to provide daily care and to meet their every need, is conveyed in this excerpt.Radical exclusion -which is also referred to by Plumwood (1993; 2002) as hyper-separation. Here the objective is to create as much distance between those who are privileged and those who are marginalized, so that there is no possibility of identifying with the other through commonalities. In addition to this, the differences between the groups are maximized and essentialised. An extreme example of this is the system of apartheid, which geographically separated whites and blacks, and where blacks were allowed into residential areas only to service the needs of whites and to perform cheap labour. Unfortunately, the legacy of apartheid remains geographically, maximizing separation between those marked as white and middle class and those marked as black and working class. This also plays itself out in the schooling system and in higher education, which continue to operate largely in two different worlds – that of the privileged and that of the marginalized. Because of the lack of contact between these groups, the stereotyping as a form of essentialism is rife with the marginalized group being seen as completely different and lacking for example, in higher order thinking skills. The justification that a marginalized group of people are only fit for manual labour follows from this type of reasoning. As Verwoed, the prime minister of South Africa and the architect of apartheid put it:“There is no place for the Bantu in the European community above the level of certain forms of labour ... What is the use of teaching the Bantu child mathematics when it cannot use it in practice? That is quite absurd. Education must train people in accordance with their opportunities in life, according to the sphere in which they live." (Clark & Worger 2004:48) This idea which changed the education system and denied black children access to mathematics and science, which continues to impact on South Africa today This policy is a clear form of radical exclusion, where ‘the slave is forced to exclude from his or her makeup the characteristics of the master, to eschew intellect and become submissive and lacking in initiative’ (Plumwood, 1993:50).South Africa came second last to Yemen in the 2012 World Economic Forum in maths and science education (Global Competitiveness Report, 2012-2013.
  • Incorporation- this is where the inferior side of the dualism is negated, being defined as what is missing or as inferior and the superior side as what is normal and desirable – the reference point. The other is defined only in relation to the self and according to the master’s needs. Hegel’s (1977) original notion of misrecognition, in which the mutuality of a subject-subject or equal relationship which he saw as being a prerequisite for recognition, is absent. In Hegelian terms, the other would be regarded as neither distinct nor equal, which Hegel describes as inevitable in a master-slave relationship. Because the other is perceived as having none of the desired qualities, there is no space for this other and no boundary for the self of the other who is then colonised and incorporated or assimilated into the self.Instrumentalism- this is where the other is only a means to an end not an end in him or herself. The privileged group does not recognise the needs of those who are marginalized and doesn’t see these others as fellow human beings who are their moral kin. This forms a further justification for using the services of the other, whose role in life is only to be useful through serving the needs of the privileged group. The privileged group in turn, have no empathy for the other and feel free to treat the other as an object. However, in order to be regarded in a positive light one needs to be a virtuous good girl or good servant, the identity ‘is constructed instrumentally’ not morally as they fall outside of moral consideration. (Plumwood, 1993:53).
  • Homogenisation– this is where the differences of the marginalized group are disregarded – they are not seen as unique human beings but are the stereotyped as all being the same. There is thus a disregard for difference in the marginalized group - they are not considered as individuals or in personal terms but just an interchangeable item or resource to be used – all women/blacks/migrants/homosexuals are alike (Plumwood, 1993). The differences between privileged and marginalized groups are essentialised and this justifies the different treatment metered out to each of them.
  • Plumwood (1993) put forward ways of addressing privileged irresponsibility through countering each one of the mechanisms which serve to maintain it in the first place. Her suggestions are the following:Backgrounding– here it would be necessary to recognise the contributions that people make in meeting our needs and acknowledge that we are all dependent vulnerable beings and that dependency and therefore care is a crucial and central part of human life.Radical exclusion– in order to reverse radical exclusion one would have to identify common concerns. This would be facilitated by providing opportunities for those who are identified as privileged and marginalized to interact on a par with each other. Incorporation – here identities in both groups would have to be interrogated and reconstituted. The master slave relationship which often still operates on an unconscious level between members of privileged and marginalized groups would have to be turned around. Instrumentalism– members of the marginalized group would have to be seen as ends in themselves rather than merely as means to ends for the privileged group. They would have to be seen as moral agents who have needs of their own and whose needs deserve to be met. Homogenisation– here it would be important to see the uniqueness and individuality of those who have been othered by spending time with them, noticing their needs and acknowledging their complexities.
  • We perceived this as having negative consequences for teaching and learning, as students and educators have limited opportunities to experience and explore difference in relation to themselves and their curricula. In the absence of such plurality of perspectives, inter-institutional and interdisciplinary stereotypes remain unchallenged. We thus decided to embark on a teaching and learning research project across two HEIs (University of the Western Cape, UWC, and Stellenbosch University, SU) and three human service disciplines in the Western Cape. The team consisted of educators in psychology, social work, occupational therapy and an educational specialist.
  • Our intention was devise a pedagogical project that would challenge dualisms between differently placed HEIs – Stellenbosch University and the University of the Western Capebetween differently placed professions – psychology/social work and later also occupational therapybetween social identities – race, class, gender, nationality and sexuality Plumwood (1993) notes that to overcome the dualistic dynamic one needs both continuity and difference. We thought about how best to provide opportunities for students to encounter each other intersubjectively illuminating their histories, current realities and their needs to promote mutual recognition between these students – where they could have the experience of seeing each other as both similar and different. To this end, we designed a curriculum that provided opportunities for students to engage with each other's narratives and professional discourses. The outcomes that we developed for the course were that students would be able to i) gain an understanding of their own and each others' ‘raced’, gendered and classed histories and the ways in which this impacted on their professional identities; ii) interrogate personal, disciplinary and higher education institutional hegemonies and assumptions; and iii) develop counter-hegemonic constructions regarding their respective disciplines and institutions.  We realised that it would not be sufficient merely to facilitate contact between students but that learning activities for critical interactions and conversations between students would have to be designed. Participatory Learning and Action (PLA) techniques as learning activities provided an experiential mode to begin conversations around notions of 'community', 'self' and 'identity' (see Bozalek and Biersteker, 2010, Bozalek, 2011, and Leibowitz et al., 2012 for further information on ways in which we got the group to engage across differences). We specifically used drawings and life stories to promote what Code refers to as “democratic, participatory inquiry”[…] to “engage critically and subversively with social arrangements that position citizens unequally in relation to sources of public knowledge, posing obstacles to democratic participation”(2006:273). Thus we chose not to engage in written exercises to begin with, as we knew that the privileged students would use their academic literacy knowledge in ways which would make students who were from subjugated groups feel ‘less than’. By focusing on their own communities and life stories, the cultural capital of those who had experienced suffering due to inequalities was foregrounded and validated. The students were asked to draw a Community Map where they indicated where they what resources were available in their neighbourhoods, and to draw a River of Life which indicated the positive and negative parts of their lives and why they came to choose the profession that they were studying for. This also meant that the privileged group could no longer claim ignorance about the life circumstances of the subjugated group
  • To this end, we designed a curriculum that provided opportunities for students to engage with each other's narratives and professional discourses. The outcomes that we developed for the course were that students would be able to i) gain an understanding of their own and each others' raced, gendered and classed histories and the ways in which this impacted on their professional identities; ii) interrogate personal, disciplinary and institutional hegemonies and assumptions and iii) develop counter-hegemonic constructions regarding their respective disciplines and institutions. We realised that it would not be sufficient merely to facilitate contact between students but that learning activities for critical interactions and conversations between students would have to be designed. Participatory Learning and Action (PLA) techniques as learning activities provided an experiential mode to begin conversations around notions of 'community', 'self' and 'identity'.
  • . Figure 3 depicts the affluent university town of Stellenbosch where facilities and resources are abundant, as are part-time work opportunities. The student’s chief concerns were for her personal safety on account of crime, and that her family support system is far away.
  • Anthias and Yuval-Davis (1992), Colombo and Senatore (2005), Dominelli (1992), Lugones (1998), Phelan (1996) and Wiesenfeld (1996).
  • As can be seen in this student’s response, the sudden awareness of her own privileges and the circumstances under which the marginalized students were living caused feelings of guilt. Tronto (1990) would regard this as a personalized response to privilege. This was also evident in the following students’ realization of their own privileges:
  • As I have noted in this chapter, privileged groups are generally ignorant of the suffering of subjugated groups, due to their remoteness from these groups. This is particularly the case in South Africa, with the continued geographical separation through apartheid. It is therefore important for privileged groups to gain access to both historical and current experiences of the subjugated by interacting with them in situations where they can share their stories (thus counteracting hyper-separation). As Code in her discussion about democratic epistemic-scientific practice opines, it requires “cultivating public sensitivity to the specificity of diverse social circumstances and positionings, in diverse habitats, and with acknowledged differences in habitus and ethos […] thus to locate inquiry in a community that bears – or shares – the burdens of epistemic authority”(2006:272). This is what we as a group of higher educators concerned with social justice and the ethics of care, were attempting to achieve in the Community, Self and Identity course, and in so doing, confront the various mechanisms maintaining privileged irresponsibility. The fact that the course was only six weeks long and that it required three face-to-face day long exchanges and other virtual communications in that period, meant that the engagement could not develop in depth.
  • However, even though the course was a short one, it was a life changing event for those who came from privileged communities. The course gave these privileged students an opportunity to reconsider their own lives historically and in the current context. With regard to Plumwood’s (1993) mechanisms of dualism, the following was achieved:

Privileged irresponsibility presentation for Meaningful life in just society conference Privileged irresponsibility presentation for Meaningful life in just society conference Presentation Transcript

  • Privileged irresponsibility as a barrier to achieving a meaningful life and a just society in South African higher education Viv Bozalek University of the Western Cape South Africa
  • Introduction • • • • Privileged irresponsibility How privileged irresponsibility is maintained Plumwood’s (1993; 2011) dualism South African project across historically black and white higher education institutions • Bringing students together across multiple boundaries of institution, profession, race and class • Overcoming privileged responsibility
  • Tronto’s definitions of Privileged Irresponsibility • 1990 – taken-for-granted privilege majority group failing to acknowledge exercise of power, institutionalised racism • 1993 - the ways in which caring responsibilities are unevenly balanced in society, ignoring hardships the privileged; uneven phases of care/caring process; parochialism - don’t notice needs of subjugated – SA situation • 2013 – getting a ‘pass' out of the allocation of responsibilities; epistemological ignorance
  • Tronto’s rationalisations for privileged irresponsibility • Protection – get passes as doing more important work shielding from risks & dangers • Production – important work of acquiring economic resources – work ethic/neoliberalism • Private care – exempts from care for distant others; necessary care vs personal service • Personal responsibility – pulling oneself up by own bootstraps
  • Definition of Dualism 'In dualistic construction, as in hierarchy, the qualities (actual or supposed), the culture, the values and the areas of life associated with the dualised other are systematically and pervasively constructed and depicted as inferior’ (Plumwood, 1993:47) Dualism is different from a dichotomy or distinction in that it is an hierarchical relationship in which equality is not possible.
  • Dualism • Central to the construction of dualism is the idea of two polar opposites, where one pole is always less than or inferior to the other and the other the desirable norm with no possibility of continuity between these two sides (Bacchi, 2007; Plumwood, 1993) • In a similar vein, in order for privileged irresponsibility to occur, there must be a hierarchical relationship where one party is regarded as ‘ less than’ and where there is no possibility of continuity between the two parties.
  • Central to dualism is • Inferiorisation • Interiorisation • Othering
  • Plumwood’s five characteristics of dualism 1. Backgrounding (denial) – making use of the other, using the other to service the masters’needs but denying the dependence on the other - most similar to privileged irresponsibility 2. Radical exclusion (hyperseparation) – here difference is maximised and shared qualities minimised to achieve the maximum separation from the other
  • Plumwood’s (1993) five characteristics of dualisms 3. Incorporation (relational definition) – the inferior side of the duality is defined as a lack or negation and the superior side as the reference point, whose qualities are the primary and important ones 4. Instrumentalism (objectification) – those on the lower side must put aside their own interests to become a means to an end for the master and is thus objectified
  • Characteristics of dualism 5. Homogenisation (stereotyping) - here differences of the inferiorised group are disregarded – they are all seen as the same (e.g. all migrants differences denied just seen as alien)
  • How to address privileged irresponsibility? If these are the mechanisms through which privileged irresponsibility is maintained, then what can be done to reverse this position so that people acknowledge their privileges and that the servicing and caring for needs is more equitably apportioned?
  • Addressing dualisms • Backgrounding – recognise contributions of meeting needs and acknowledge centrality of dependency • Radical exclusion – reclaim denied area of overlap, provide opportunities for engagement • Incorporation – review identities from both sides, affirming and reclaiming subordinate resistance and reconstituting identities • Instrumentalism – see the other as an end in him/herself, as having needs in their own right • Homogenisation – seeing the diversity and uniqueness of those who have been otherised
  • South African example As a group of higher educators, we were concerned about the history of minimal inter-professional and inter-institutional contact between students from psychology, social work and occupational therapy (human service professions), particularly across historically advantaged and disadvantaged institutions in South Africa 2014/01/07
  • How our project addressed dualisms • Plumwood (1993) notes that to overcome the dualistic dynamic one needs both continuity and difference • We thought about how best to provide opportunities for students to encounter each other intersubjectively illuminating their histories. realities and their needs to attempt mutual recognition – experiencing each other as both similar and different • We used various mechanisms to do this – participatory learning and action (PLA) techniques, online discussions, performances, critical literature, group presentations, reflective essays
  • Inferiorisation and HEIs
  • The Community, Self and Identity Course 2014/01/07
  • Community mapping as a PLA technique Step 1 Draw a picture/map of your home and neighbourhood including the resources that are there. Step 2 Identify and label three things that you would like to change in relation to your experiences (could be physical or relate to attitudes, social issues). Put these in order by choosing to give the one you feel is most important the most tokens. Step 3 Share in your group, explaining your picture/map and the reasons for wanting things to change. 17
  • Community mapping as a PLA technique 2014/01/07
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  • “I have learnt about more about another culture and community. In South Africa, as we grow to learn about ourselves and others, we are constantly reminded of the diversity that is unique to our country- the eleven languages; the turbulent histories; and the many races to name but a few. Our diversity is a fact. However, it is not often that we are literally thrown together with people from diverse backgrounds to actually have first-hand experience of diversity” („Samantha‟)
  • Presentation at Utrecht University June 2009
  • HERDSA Conference July 2008 New Zealand
  • Remix Theatre Company
  • Critical Texts Anthias & Yuval-Davis 2014/01/07 Lugones Dominelli
  • Privileged students’ responses • Firstly with Masidiso’s drawing of her neighbourhood, I was quite surprised and saddened that her neighbourhood was quite under-resourced. It wasn’t the worst that I had often seen on the news or driving past these areas, but this was different in that it was an actual experience. I listened to her tell of how far hospitals and schools were and the only way of getting there was by using the taxi service down the road. I felt lucky to be in the position that I am because every resource we need access to on a daily basis is much closer. I felt shocked at the state of affairs, but I felt guilty because my problems with my area seemed more trivial and something that one could adapt to much easier than lack of necessary resources. Upon listening to her tell the story of the life in the ‘ River of Life ’ exercise I was quite surprised as to how much life she had lived and how she seemed so optimistic about it. Here I felt almost silly for being more pessimistic about where I came from and what I had done. Listening to Masidiso made me positively re-evaluate the way I feel about my own life and where I am going with my degree. (White Stellenbosch Universtity (SU) Psychology female student)
  • Students’ responses • Very basically, after looking at my drawings again after a week, there is only one element that stood out and that is: privilege. I live in a privileged community with enough resources (private hospitals and neighbourhood watches) for the ‘class’ it caters for. Strangely enough, this is not how I always saw my life. I was guilt ridden after making my pretty coloured drawings and glancing over to the other side of the spectrum poor communities, bad infrastructure, badly resourced hospitals and police stations. (White SU Psychology female student)
  • Privileged students’ responses • I was extremely aware as I was sharing the picture of the well resourced context in which I live. Not only is my own background privileged, but so is the community in which I have chosen to live. Talking about the relative abundance of resources in my community evoked feelings of guilt. My picture was in very stark contrast to those of most of my group members who come largely from communities where ‘not-enough-ness”’ is the norm. What was so humbling was that their responses and questions were accepting, respectful and in no way indicting. (White SU Psychology female student)
  • Addressing privileged irresponsibility in the SA course • Backgrounding – In hearing about their fellow students’ lives and communities, it was possible for them to be aware of their own vulnerability and dependence in the South African context. • Radical exclusion– By getting students to use Participatory Learning and Action (PLA) techniques and drawing about their experiences and then discussing these experiences, students where able to experience participatory parity. Also the fact that students due to the apartheid geographical divides were physically separated from each other, and had the visceral experience of visiting each others’ institutions in this curriculum renewal project, radical exclusion could be addressed.
  • Addressing privileged irresponsibility in the course • Incorporation – Students were able to interrogate their own identities through hearing about the experiences of the other. This provided the opportunity to become conscious of master slave relationships which is still affecting relationships between privileged and marginalized groups of students in the South African context. • Instrumentalism– The opportunity to listen to and understand each other’s present and past experiences in their communities and their life trajectories made it possible for those occupying privileged positions to see members of the marginalized group as ends in themselves rather than merely as means to ends for the privileged group. What was most prevalent was that privileged students saw those who were marginalized as moral agents having needs of their own which deserved to be met.
  • Addressing privileged irresponsibility • Homogenisation – Through face-to-face encounters with each other and hearing about the effects of past and present inequalities and injustices on the lives of their peers, those who were in privileged positions were given the opportunity to witness the uniqueness and individuality of those who have been othered. In their responses to hearing the stories of their peers, it was apparent that those who were privileged realized, perhaps for the first time, the complexities of the South African situation with its apartheid legacy which is still affecting the lives of their fellow students. They became acutely aware of the needs of people they had hitherto been oblivious of.
  • Conclusion • Course goes a little way in addressing this • bringing students together who are usually quite separate from each other, by getting them to both identify with each other through discovering common concerns, and allowing them to understand the historical impact of apartheid on themselves and their peers, and by allowing them to get to know each other in their complexity and their uniqueness. • However it is short and would take much more than this • See Joan Tronto’s latest work for a more indepth account of what would need to be done (as well as Iris Marion Young’s social responsibility)
  • Community, self and identity Educating South African university students for citizenship Leibowitz, Swartz, Bozalek, Carolis sen, Nicholls, Rohleder
  • References • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • Bacchi, C. (2009) Analysing Policy: What’s the Problem Represented to Be? New South Wales: Pearson. Bartky, S.L. (1996). The Pedagogy of Shame. In C. Luke (ed.) Feminisms and pedagogies of everyday life. State University of New York Press: Albany, 225-241. Boler, M. (1999). Feeling power: Emotions and Education. New York: Routledge. Calhoun, C. (2004). An Apology for Moral Shame. The Journal of Political Philosophy: 12 (2): 127– 146. De Beauvoir, S. (1997). The Second Sex. Trans. H.M. Parshley. Harmondsworth: Penguin. Hartsock, N. (1998). The Feminist Standpoint Revisited and Other Essays. Oxford: Westview Press. Hegel, G. W. F. (1977). Phenomenology of Spirit. Trans. A.V. Miller. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Locke, J. (2007). Shame and the Future of Feminism. Hypatia, 22(4):146-162. McConaghy, C. (2000). Rethinking Indigenous Education. Flaxton: Post Pressed Munt, S.R. (2007). Queer Attachments: The Cultural Politics of Shame. Aldershot: Ashgate. Plumwood, V. (1993). Feminism and the Mastery of Nature. London and New York: Routledge. Tronto, J. (1993). Moral Boundaries: A Political Argument for an Ethic of Care. New York & London: Routledge. Young, I. M (2011) Responsibility for Justice. New York: Oxford University Press. Zembylas,M. (2005). Teaching with Emotion: A Postmodern Enactment. USA: Information Age Publishing. Zembylas, M. (2007). Five pedagogies, a thousand possibilities. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers. Zembylas, M. (2008). The politics of shame in intercultural education, Education, Citizenship and Social Justice, 3(3): 263–280. Zembylas, M. (2011). The Politics of Trauma in Education. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Any questions? • For further communication contact • Viv Bozalek