Exploring tensions between sentimentality and witnessing through digital storytelling


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Paper presented at HECU6, Rhodes, July 2012.

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  • What are digital stories?
  • Exploring tensions between sentimentality and witnessing through digital storytelling

    2. 2. Authors Daniela Gachago Vivienne Bozalek Eunice Ivala Janet Condy Agnes Chigona
    3. 3. What does this mean for us asHigher Educators? South African classrooms are ticking time bombs Explosive emotions and silences Desire / necessity to talk / engage with these issues „In a country that is oversensitive to race talk, few young people or adults feel comfortable talking about race, especially when they have to speak about personal experience „ (Jansen 2010, 10)
    4. 4. Post-conflict pedagogy For real transformation with students to happen, these issues cannot be addressed on a cognitive or intellectual level alone, but require emotional engagement with the subject (Bozalek 2011, Hemson et al 2001, Jansen 2008)
    5. 5. Politics of emotions Emotions are seen as relational, happening in a shared political space, „in which students and teachers interact with implications in larger political and cultural struggles‟ (Albrecht-Crane & Slack, cited in Zembylas 2007, xiii). „The social control of emotions, and emotions as a site of resistance to oppression, are underexplored scholarly disciplines as well as within pedagogical practices‟ (Boler 1999, xii)
    6. 6. Story circle “Stories move in circles. They don‟t move in straight lines. So it helps if you listen in circles. There are stories inside stories and stories between stories, and finding your way through them is as easy and as hard as finding your way home. And part of the finding is getting lost. And when you‟re lost, you start to look around and listen.” (Lambert 2010, v).
    7. 7. Pedagogy of discomfort Stipulates that for both educators and students to develop a deeper understanding for their own and their shared past, it is necessary to move outside their comfort zone, to start to unpack their understanding of norms and differences (Boler 1999, Boler and Zembylas 2003).
    8. 8. River of Life
    9. 9. Background of the study Transformation in Higher Education has led to racially integrated classrooms Social and cultural integration are lagging behind (Jansen 2010, Soudien 2012)
    10. 10. Study 55 final year ISP pre-service teacher students Final year project, professional course Digital story as a reflection on their journey to becoming teachers 8 weeks project Weekly workshops Focus on collaboration / sharing
    11. 11. Can digital stories be used to open up aspace for engagement with issues arounddiversity across social, cultural, racialdifference?
    12. 12. Methodology Qualitative study Four focus group discussions with 20 students right after completion of project (screening) Mixed groups (Pattman 2010) 1-2 hours long Interviews were transcribed, searched and organised around emergent themes Ethics approval through School of Education and Social Sciences
    13. 13. Brief for students In your digital story reflect on:  Your personal and educational journey in becoming a teacher  Your learning and teaching philosophy,  Trace any change/transformations in your learning and teaching beliefs, values, attitudes, and assumptions and how these changes have come about during the course of your studies  Your identity as a teacher and what makes a good teacher in your view  The most important / most challenging roles of a teacher  How you experienced diversity in your journey of becoming a teacher (in your own classroom, and in your teaching)
    14. 14. Denise video
    15. 15. Findings
    16. 16. Opening wounds This story it freaked me out completely because it sort of scratched open wounds and not just surface wise. But I was digging deeper into getting an understanding of me and even just consolidating the things that I came up with, how I felt and how it impacted and unpacking that and sort of putting it back where it belongs again or rearranging your whole mode of thinking. … it‟s unnerving and it left us sort of scattered, you know. (CF)
    17. 17. Vulnerability Student 1: And then I think what - what the most challenging to me was having to read it out aloud - the story. Student 2: Sharing your story. Student 1: And then there was that dot - dot - dot moment where you just went Im - Im naked. Im just exposed… And not knowing the responses that you are going to get ….
    18. 18. Reflection So my reflection actually started at home sitting on my own thinking and as I started typing I - I thought it would be difficult for me to start typing out my essay because I thought theres not much that happened in my life but once you started typing you started realizing this took place, that took place… everything just started coming back, I was reliving going through, going through the River of Life I was reliving all the - all those phases of my life and so for me my - my true reflection, my true going into everything in deep [Indistinct] started at home. (CM)
    19. 19. Interplay of emotions andreason I don‟t think we would have been able to reflect the way we did now with our digital story and to critically think about it if we didn‟t do the River of life - like those steps helped us to think critically in the end.
    20. 20. Social cohesion You‟ve got to delve into the lives of people who you‟ve been with for four years, who you‟ve greeted, who you‟ve asked how are you but just on that level. But after Wednesday [day of screening] you still find people embracing each other whom they‟ve never ever spoken really or hugged each other. (CF)
    21. 21. Learning from each other I think earlier yesterday I spoke to [a student‟s] story about apartheid. I told her this morning because she wasn‟t there yesterday. I told her that it was an eye-opener to me because - I mean like - we didn‟t go to school up to here … I mean she was in first year she was in our class and I was thinking what is this old lady doing in our class? And only as the time went by you heard her real story and I told this morning it was a big eye-opener for me because you know because you always hear about - stories about Apartheid but not as real as hers was - it was totally an eye- opener….(CM)
    22. 22. Looking behind the surface You see I spoke to one student after this viewing of the digital story - a white student and like we were talking about the silence and those things. Like this student said to me I would never had said that I failed a Grade but I also did. So I said but that is why I‟m here - that is why I‟m - this is what made me want to become a teacher, because somebody showed an interest in me. And I said that is why I put it in my digital story and she said I would have never said in front of everyone that I failed at school. (CF)
    23. 23. Reverting assumptions Sometimes you will take people for granted and you think that this person has everything and this person does not have a problem you know and sometimes we always tend to use that race thing and say I know these white people, they‟ve got everything and they lived life perfectly but when you compare - with some of my stories when I compare to some of the other people, the white people I feel like my problem is really small to what this person has experienced and how this person got here. (BM)
    24. 24. More critical voices It changed the way we can look each other and then we can then now see that this is the person and then I am a person that can change - because the way we still see each other. But the way we engage I don‟t think that [Talking together]. (CF)
    25. 25. Sentimentality Critical voices warn against the danger of „sentimentality of digital stories‟, arguing that it promotes „individualistic, and naively unselfconscious accounts of personal stories‟ (Hartley and McWilliam 2009, 14) Zembylas: sentimental reaction by students identifying with the privilege feeling guilt / defensiveness in privileged party and anger in the victim, leading to desensitization & disengagement (2011, 20)
    26. 26. Guilt It suddenly made me realise like - how hard some of the people work here and how strong some people actually are. You‟d often say like - ah you know - look at this person they never come to class and things - or they don‟t do their assignments but you don‟t know that they‟re not doing it because they were up working all night until five in the morning like trying to earn money - it‟s very emotional… I was howling yesterday and then I - I felt bad when I got home I felt so guilty I thought but all I had to do was ask that person all I had to do was take an interest in them and I havent for four years. (WF)
    27. 27. Anger Sitting there with them, looking at the story for me the aim was not for them to feel pity for me, because that‟s always been an issue for me. You don‟t feel sympathy for me. I don‟t want you to feel sorry for me. This is my story and I‟m proud of it. I‟m not ashamed of it. So for you to feel pity it‟s not going to help. It‟s not going to help me - I don‟t know if you will understand. (BM)
    28. 28.  Now in fourth year you know they expect us to be all integrated and be a happy family and it‟s such a false. I feel like you know lecturers are crying we all crying but its false because weve been with these people for four years and weve never bothered to ask them you know and now we crying about their stories. (WF)
    29. 29. Conclusion Digital storytelling opened up important space for emotional engagement with own identity and the „Other‟ Reject the notion of disparity between criticality and emotions (Zembylas 2005, 182) Students can seemingly easily talk about their own experience, but have difficulties in placing themselves in the bigger historical picture (Aveling 2006) Some stories can be labelled “sentimental” and the way they were received as “passive empathy”, leading to pity from the part of the privileged observer and resentment from the subjugated storyteller (Boler 1999)
    30. 30. Recommendations Prepare students better for both the emotional and cognitive labour that we are expecting from them How do you teach critical thinking in a way that transforms consciousness (Boler 1999)? Critical consciousness requires „knowing thyself‟ as part of the historical process‟ (Fishman and McCarthy 2005) Move students beyond listening and sharing to each other stories, but to start analysing them in order for students to begin to deconstruct the positions premised on the existence of clearly differentiated identities based on race, ethnicity, or culture (Zembylas 2011, 18).
    31. 31. References Boler, M., & Zembylas, M. (2003). Discomforting Truths: The Emotional Terrain of Understanding Difference. In P. Trifonas (Ed.), Pedagogies of difference: Rethinking education for social change (pp. 110-136). New York: RoutledgeFalmer. Bozalek, V. (2011). Acknowledging privilege through encounters with difference: Participatory Learning and Action techniques for decolonising methodologies in Southern contexts. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 14(6), 469-484. Hemson, C., Moletsane, R., & Muthukrishna, N. (2001). Transforming Racist Conditioning. Perspectives in Education, 19(2), 85-97. Jansen, J. (2008). When Politics and Emotion meet. Phi Delta Kappan, 90(5), 327-332. Retrieved from http://www.pdkmembers.org/members_online/publications/Archive/pdf/k090 1jan.pdf Jansen, J. (2010). Over the rainbow - race and reconciliation on university campuses in South Africa. Discourse, 38(1). Lambert, J. (2010). Digital storytelling cookbook. Elements. Berkeley, CA: Center for Digital Storytelling.
    32. 32.  Pattman, R. (2010). Investigating “race” and social cohesion at the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal. South African Journal of Higher Education, 24(6), 953-971. Rolon-Dow, R. (2011). Race(ing) stories: digital storytelling as a tool for critical race scholarship. Race Ethnicity and Education, 14(2), 159-173. Soudien, C. (2012). Realising the dream. Cape Town: HSRC Press. Retrieved from http://www.hsrcpress.ac.za/product.php?productid=2291&freedownl oad=1 Zembylas, M. (2012). Teaching in Higher Education Pedagogies of strategic empathy: navigating through the emotional complexities of anti-racism in higher education. Teaching in Higher Education, (April), 37-41. Zembylas, M. (2011). The politics of trauma in education. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Zembylas, M. (2007). Five pedagogies, a thousand possibilities. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.
    33. 33. Acknowledgement CPUT Research into Innovations in Teaching and Learning Fund (RIFTAL 2011, 2012) CPUT University Research Fund 2012 National research foundation 2012-2015 Facilitators and students of 2011 ISP Digital Storytelling project