Diversity Literacy: Teaching for Social Justice in South Africa


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  • Prepare students to function effectively and sensitively in contexts characterised by diversity Provide students with the conceptual tools needed to think critically about complex social issues
  • Poststructural and postmodern traditions of the Frankfurt School Acknowledges historical context of colonialism and ideologies of white/Western superiority and African,Asian inferiority Critical approach to Diversity                                               Critical look at constructions of difference that underpin institutional cultures and interpersonal interactions - moves beyond mere "tolerance" of difference or attempts to assimilate difference into dominant practices
  • Martin-Baro (1996) added to this that conscientisation “joins the psychological dimension of personal consciousness with it’s social and political dimension and makes manifest the historical dialectic between knowing and doing, between individual growth and community organisation, between personal liberation and social transformation”     a process where people become “literate in dialectic with their world” and defines literacy as “learning to read the surrounding reality” .   “ reading” is not simply a cognitive task . It requires the mobilization of emotion (Montero, 2009, p. 74) and “supposes that persons change in the process of changing their relations with the surroundings, and above all, with other people” (pg. 41)
  • The important thing about having a clear outcome is for your practice is that you can align everything you do with that outcome. Just to give you a sense of how the critical Diversity Literacy informed our practice the course design re content and structure are very closely informed by the imperitives laid out by social justice pedagogy and the critical diversity literacy criteria   the course consist of a number of modalitities   the most important being groupwork.
  • our groupwork is not just group work, it's co-operative learning groups and it's fundamental to a achieving a Critical Diversity Literacy
  • I now want to speak to the outcomes quite specifically
  • course does not guarantee that all students will be deeply committed to transforming unequal power relationships,
  • Individualised and competive nature of academia, these characteristics are challenged in implementing this course, and we think speaks to broader challenges to social justice pedagody. In the class room (Micro) : Co-operative learning : struggled to work in groups Interdisciplinarity vs. interfaculty: university thought this would be the problem wrt to student preparedness, but the problems we encountered wrt students experiencing difficulty was to do with structural things like timetabling, marking convention, programme structures… something about the institutionalised rigidity of the disciplinary boundaries, “protecting of turf” – dumbing down of sociology students, not at all the case. Macro
  • So that's the plan... The conceptualisation   vs  lived reality   greatest insights not in conceptualisation , but in the teaching   previous sections logic and plan, following section shares two (very different kinds of) experiences in the teaching of the course.   FIRST  is a challenge related to emerging identities in post-apartheid South Africa, a challenge which speaks to some of the complexities of identity social justice educators in South African face.   In this exploration we illustrate how the discomfort and emotion emerging from these identity struggles provide the space for potential intellectual and affective shift.   SECOND   challenge is related to the structural requirements of an academic institutionwe face as social justice educators.  Amongst these are for example the timeworn challenge of facilitating affective and relational process in a highly intellectual and individualist academic culture. So the first challenge emerged out of two particular incidents that occurred with my discussion group. I will share one with you today. And it started with this comment: "Black South Africans can't call themselves African" Obvious over simplifications aside (white South Africans are xenophobic too, and many black South Africans are not; excluding African’s who kill other Africans from the category of African, would leave us with very few Africans, same goes for Europeans) the theoretical and emotional tensions that emerged suggest an interesting and difficult evolution of the debate. I say difficult because the point generated emotive responses with everyone in the class. The Nigerian, who made the point, student was clearly angry, the two black South African women noticeably shut down, the white South African guy was buoyed. The rest all just kept quiet. The conversation steered to a point where the white South African guy’s “Africannes” was (very subtlety) deemed more authentic than the two black South African women and the racialisation of Africanness became moot. I, the facilitator, felt unprepared for the conversation, both in terms of the intellectual and emotional work required. It was, however, an important moment in that it illustrated precisely the contestations over Africannes, the way in which ‘race’ is implicated, and our investments in these. More importantly, it provided the space to explore these contestations and how we are invested in them.    
  • Having travelled the path so centrally informed by emotion and relationship, the end point Critical Diversity Literacy itself seems affected. On reflection, the eight outcomes are almost excusivey intellectual ones . Admittedly, they are intellectual outcomes which we get to through an effective and relational process, but they are intellectual outcomes that given this affective and relational process seem incomplete.  If conscientisation is an affective and relational proces s, this surely means there should be a relational and affective outcome i.e. that critical diversity literacy requires an affective and relational dimension .  If in fact, Critical Diversity Literacy is a reading practice , way of reading the world and how one lives in it (the epistemic outcome ), that new reading requires an explicit shift in “perspective” , or way in which one relates to, fits into the world (the ontological outcome ).  What is missing from the current criteria for a Critical Diversity Literacy to be present is an e xplicit sense of oneself in relation to “all of the above” .  It is one thing to be able to read hegemonic practice, for example, but it is quite another to see oneself as implicated in this practice. It is one thing to understand social processes as learned, it is quite another to see one’s own socialisation and one’s complicity in oppressive systems.   A useful concept to think through this affective/realtional outcome is Wendy Hollway's (1984) notion of investment. She defines investment as “the emotional commitment involved in taking up positions in discourses which confer power and are supportive of our sense of continuity, confirming ourselves as masculine or feminine [or whatever the relevant identification][1]” (p. 205).
  • Diversity Literacy: Teaching for Social Justice in South Africa

    1. 1. Diversity Literacy Teaching Social Justice in South Africa Haley McEwen & Claire Kelly    Intercultural & Diversity Studies of Southern Africa, University of Cape Town, South Africa
    2. 2. Outline of Presentation <ul><li>I. Why Diversity Literacy in South Africa? </li></ul><ul><li>2. Situating Diversity Literacy </li></ul><ul><li>4. Diversity Literacy as Social Justice Pedagogy </li></ul><ul><li>3. Defining Diversity Literacy </li></ul><ul><li>5. Our practice: Operationalising Diversity Literacy </li></ul><ul><li>7.Our Learnings : Content & Structure </li></ul><ul><li>8. A 9th Criteria? </li></ul><ul><li>9. Discussion </li></ul><ul><li>    </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul>
    3. 3. Why teach Diversity Literacy in post- apartheid South Africa? <ul><li>UCT: Historical context </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Historical whiteness </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>&quot;one of the most diverse campuses in South Africa” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>&quot;Internationalisation of UCT&quot; </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Undergraduate Curricula </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><ul><li>No courses available that require students to meaningfully engage with concepts of diversity and difference   </li></ul></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><ul><li>No preparation for working with diverse groups in the &quot;Real World&quot; </li></ul></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Lack of interdisciplinary & inter- faculty collaboration </li></ul></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Students outside Humanities faculty have little exposure to conventions of academic writing, few to no opportunities to engage with academic theory </li></ul></ul>
    4. 4. Situating Diversity Literacy <ul><li>Melissa Steyn (2007,2010,2011) </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><li>Intellectual origins </li></ul><ul><li>Critical Diversity Theory </li></ul><ul><li>Frankfurt School </li></ul><ul><li>Critical management/Organisational Studies </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><li>Key concepts: </li></ul><ul><li>Intersectionality </li></ul><ul><li>Power relations </li></ul><ul><li>centers and margins </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul>
    5. 5. Diversity Literacy as outcome of social justice pedagogy <ul><li>Social Justice Pedagogy (Paulo Freire 1973, Pedagogy of the Oppressed ) </li></ul><ul><li>concerned with conscientization of learners to systems of privilege & oppression </li></ul><ul><li>  Diversity Literacy as intended outcome of conscientisation process </li></ul><ul><li>Conscientization </li></ul><ul><li>Recognition of the relationship btw the individual and their social, political, historical, cultural and economic contexts </li></ul><ul><li>Understanding of, and ability to position oneself within power relations & structural oppression </li></ul><ul><li>Will to change structures of power, privilege, oppression </li></ul><ul><li>Requires the mobilization of emotion , acknowledges relational dimension of  conscientisation </li></ul>
    6. 6. Defining Diversity Literacy <ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><li>A “reading practice” – a way of perceiving and responding to the social climate and prevalent structures of oppression. Eight analytical criteria employed to evaluate the presence of diversity literacy:  </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><li>1) a recognition of the symbolic and material value of hegemonic identities (i.e. whiteness, heterosexuality, masculinity, ablebodiedness, middle-classness) </li></ul><ul><li>2) analytic skill at unpacking how these systems of oppression intersect , interlock, co-construct and constitute each other;  </li></ul><ul><li>3) the definition of oppressive systems such as racism as current social problems rather than a historical legacy;  </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><li>4) an understanding that social identities are learned and an outcome of social practices; </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><li>5) the possession of a diversity grammar and a vocabulary that facilitates a discussion of race, racism, and antiracism, and the parallel concepts employed in the analysis of other forms of oppression;  </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><li>6) the ability to translate (interpret) coded hegemonic practices ;  </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><li>7) an analysis of the ways that diversity hierarchies and institutionalised oppressions are mediated by class inequality and inflected in specific social contexts; and  </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><li>8) an engagement with issues of transformation of these oppressive systems towards deepening democracy/social justice in all levels of social organisation . (Steyn 2007) </li></ul>
    7. 7. Our Practice: Operationalising Critical Diversity Literacy <ul><li>1. Varied Complimentary Modalities </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><ul><li>lectures which present the basic theory and provide opportunity for clarification;  </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>discussion sessions on current “Hot Topics” which provide students the opportunity to apply and grapple with theory in discussion with colleagues;  </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>weekly films which form the basis of weekly group assignments ;  </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>individual assignments which require students to apply theory to media texts;  </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>a group presentation on a particular focus area;  </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>and an end of semester exam.  </li></ul></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul>
    8. 8. Our Practice: Operationalising Critical Diversity Literacy <ul><li>2. Co-operative Learning Groups </li></ul><ul><li>(Roger T. and David Johnson, 1994)  </li></ul><ul><ul><li>conscientization is a relational process requiring that learners experience, first hand, their own positionalities within the context of difference </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>group work requires cooperation rather than competition   </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>small heterogenous groups of students   </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>aim to shift existing power relationships by providing students with opportunities to showcase their individual strengths and give a sense of power to those who feel that they do not have a voice within mainstream, competitive, teaching and learning activities  </li></ul></ul>
    9. 9. Our Practice: Operationalising Critical Diversity Literacy <ul><li>3. Theoretical Integration </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><li>Crit 1: recognise symbolic and material value of hegemonic identities </li></ul><ul><ul><li>exposure to various axes of difference and related hegemonies e.g. masculinity, whiteness, heteronormativity </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>&quot; diversity octopus&quot;  - integrated of understanding difference, privilege and oppression e.g. Young (2000), Johnson (2001), Payne (2000) and Wildman and Davis (1997) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Crit 2: recognise how systems of oppression intersect, interlock,co-construct </li></ul><ul><ul><li>core concept > intersectionality e.g. Crenshaw ( 1995), Lerner (1997). </li></ul></ul>
    10. 10. Our Practice: Operationalising Critical Diversity Literacy <ul><li>Crit 3: recognise current social problems  </li></ul><ul><ul><li>&quot;hot topics&quot; on topical social issues in South African and international media   </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>e.g. affirmative action re UCT admissions policy  </li></ul></ul><ul><li>  Crit 4: understand social identities learned and outcome of social practices ; </li></ul><ul><ul><li>core concepts > essentialism and constructivism </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>e.g.  Lorber (1994) and Toni Morrison’s (1983) powerful piece Recitatif which deliberately messes with racial signifiers </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Crit 5: develop diversity grammar & vocabulary that facilitates discussion </li></ul><ul><ul><li>&quot;glossaries&quot; </li></ul></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul>
    11. 11. Our Practice: Operationalising Critical Diversity Literacy <ul><li>Crit 6: translate or interpret coded hegemonic practices </li></ul><ul><ul><li>opportunities to develop abilities to interpret texts (popular and mass media, images, films) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>weekly film analyses throughout the semester & two individual essay assignments and in the final exam. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Crit 7 : recognise hierarchies and oppressions mediated by class </li></ul><ul><ul><li>core concepts > materiality of difference and division (Payne 2000) and intersectionality of class throughout </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Crit 8: engage with issues of transformation </li></ul><ul><ul><li>at least have reached a level of conscientisation which will prevent them from reproducing oppressive structures! </li></ul></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul>
    12. 12. Our Learnings 1: Structure Universities and the privatization of knowledge <ul><li>Sharing and openness as ethos of course content and outcomes </li></ul><ul><ul><li>&quot;Micro-level” (In the classroom) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Co-operative learning </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Interdisciplinarity of course vs. Interfaculty teaching  </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><ul><li>&quot;Macro-level” (Looking outwards) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Openness of content - OER course </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Outcome of conscientising students to their social worlds - Diversity Literacy in &quot;Real World&quot;, not only academic knowledge </li></ul></ul></ul>
    13. 13. Our Learnings 2: Content Grappling with emerging identities <ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><li>  &quot;Black South Africans can’t call themselves African” </li></ul><ul><li>(Nigerian Student) </li></ul><ul><li>   </li></ul><ul><li>  &quot;I am an African&quot; (Thabo Mbeki)       and   </li></ul>
    14. 14. Where do I stand and why? <ul><ul><li>Who is African? (What is African?) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>someone who is born on the continent </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>someone who is born on the continent and black </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>someone who shows solidarity with other Africans </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>what’s at stake in each of these constructions? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>what is the “agenda” in each of these constructions? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>how do you construct who is African? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>what’s at stake for you ?  </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>why do you get upset when someone has a different construction? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>what’s your “agenda”? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>And to what extent does any agenda serve the interests of social equality and social justice? </li></ul></ul>
    15. 15. Our Learnings 2: Content Grappling with emerging identities <ul><ul><li>socially constructed nature of social categories like black, white, African (Criteria 4)  </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>co-constructed and intersection of categories Africanness, race and HIV (Criteria 2)  </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>  symbolic and material value of these constructions, extent of the emotion that was generated in the contestation (Criteria 1) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>being currently contested and not an apartheid or colonial relic (Criteria 3) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>reading coded hegemonic practice (Criteria 6) Discussion texts and end of semester assignment, analysis of White people &quot;doing African&quot; images. </li></ul></ul>
    16. 16. A 9th Criteria? <ul><li>Investment : “the emotional commitment involved in taking up positions in discourses which confer power and are supportive of our sense of continuity, confirming ourselves as masculine or feminine [or whatever the relevant identification]” (Hollway, 1984, p. 205). </li></ul><ul><li>9th Criteria? The ability to recognise and problematise one's emotional commitments and investments in all of the above. </li></ul>
    17. 17. <ul><li>thank you! </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul>