Sentimentality vs witnessing


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Presentation at the 2013 International Conference on Digital Storytelling

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Sentimentality vs witnessing

  1. 1. Exploring tensions betweensentimentality and witnessing throughdigital storytelling: a case of SouthAfrican pre-service teacher educationBy Daniela Gachago, Vivienne Bozalek, Eunice Ivala, JanetCondy and Agnes ChigonaCape Peninsula University of Technology
  2. 2. Cape Town
  3. 3. ContextLegacy of apartheidPost-conflict / post-traumasocietiesPedagogies needed tofacilitate engagement acrossdeeply divided, woundedsocieties
  4. 4. Class set upBringing students together into integratedenvironments of learning is not enough to breakdown deeply rooted beliefs and assumptions thatimpact on students’ conscious or unconsciouschoice of social engagements (Jansen 2010;Soudien 2012).
  5. 5. Critical digital storytelling Alexandra, D., 2008. Digital storytelling as transformative practice: Criticalanalysis and creative expression in the representation of migration inIreland. Journal of Media Practice, 9(2), pp.101–112. Benmayor R. 2008. Dıgıtal storytellıng as a sıgnature pedagogy for thenew humanıtıes, Arts and Humanıtıes ın Hıgher Educatıon, 7, 188-204. Rolon-Dow, R., 2011. Race(ing) stories: digital storytelling as a tool forcritical race scholarship. Race Ethnicity and Education, 14(2), pp.159–173. Rose Brushwood, C., 2009. The (Im) possibilities of Self Representation:Exploring the Limits of Storytelling in the Digital Stories of Women andGirls. Changing English, 16(2), pp.211–220. Scott Nixon, A., 2009. Mediating Social Thought through DigitalStorytelling. Pedagogies: an international Journal, 4(1), pp.63–76.
  6. 6. for real transformation within students to happen, issues ofdifference cannot be addressed on a cognitive or intellectuallevel alone but require emotional engagement (Bozalek 2011b,Hemson, Moletsane, and Muthukrishna 2001; Jansen 2009 andSoudien 2012)Disrupture can only happen through personal engagement andencounters with the ‘other’, in a series of critical incidents,leading to pedagogic dissonance, that can ‘begin to erode sureknowledge’. (Jansen 2009)
  7. 7. Emotions in teacher educationMegan Boler Michalinos ZembylasA professor at the University ofToronto, Megan Boler teachesphilosophy, cultural studies, feministtheory, media studies, social equitycourses in the Teacher Educationprogram, and media studies at theKnowledge Media Design Institute.Dr. Michalinos Zembylas is AssistantProfessor of Education at the OpenUniversity of Cyprus. He is particularlyinterested in how affective politicsintersect with issues of social justicepedagogies, intercultural and peaceeducation, and citizenship education.
  8. 8. Role of emotionsBy experiencing deepdiscomforting emotions, andcritically reflecting on theirorigins, dominant beliefs,social habits and normativepractices that sustain socialinequities may be challengedand possibilities for individualand social transformation becreated (Zembylas & McGlynn 2010)
  9. 9. Rıver of Lıfe
  10. 10. ‘If I coulduse one wordit would beemotional.’Emotions?
  11. 11. ‘social pedagogy’ Benmayor 2008You’ve got to delve into the lives of people who you’vebeen with for four years, who you’ve greeted, whoyou’ve asked how are you but just on that level. But afterWednesday [day of screening] you still find peopleembracing each other whom they’ve never ever spokenreally or hugged each other. (CF)
  12. 12. Reverting assumptionsSometimes you will take people for granted and youthink that this person has everything and this persondoes not have a problem you know and sometimes wealways tend to use that race thing and say I knowthese white people, they’ve got everything and theylived life perfectly but when you compare - withsome of my stories when I compare to some of theother people, the white people I feel like my problemis really small to what this person has experiencedand how this person got here. (BM)
  13. 13. Pity / guiltIt suddenly made me realise like - how hard some of thepeople work here and how strong some people actually are.You’d often say like - ah you know - look at this person theynever come to class and things - or they don’t do theirassignments but you don’t know that they’re not doing itbecause they were up working all night until five in themorning like trying to earn money - it’s very emotional… I washowling yesterday and then I - I felt bad when I got home I feltso guilty I thought but all I had to do was ask that person all Ihad to do was take an interest in them and I havent for fouryears. (WF)
  14. 14. AngerSitting there with them, looking at the story for me the aim wasnot for them to feel pity for me, because that’s always been anissue for me. You don’t feel sympathy for me. I don’t want youto feel sorry for me. This is my story and I’m proud of it. I’mnot 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)
  15. 15. More critical voicesNow in fourth year you know they expect us to be allintegrated and be a happy family and it’s such a false. Ifeel like you know lecturers are crying we all crying but itsfalse because weve been with these people for four yearsand weve never bothered to ask them you know and nowwe crying about their stories. (WF)
  16. 16. SentimentalityIn trauma education: risk of over-engagement with trauma storiessentimental reaction by studentsidentifying with the privilege feeling guilt/ defensiveness in privileged party andanger in the victim, leading todesensitization & disengagement (2011:20)
  17. 17. Active empathy /witnessing vs passive empathyTestimonial reading can lead to activeempathy, in which the reader recognizes his or herposition of power provided through the distance tothe event recounted in the text‘Passive empathy absolves the reader through thedenial of power relations. The confessionalrelationship relies on a suffering that is not referredbeyond the individual to the social’Boler 1999:162
  18. 18. Sentimentality in digital storiesoriginate directly from participants livedexperiences, and often deal with significant episodesin somebody’s livestendency to be very emotionaldanger of ‘sentimentality of digital stories’, arguingthat it promotes ‘individualistic, and naivelyunselfconscious accounts of personal stories’ (Hartleyand McWilliam 2009: 14)
  19. 19. ‘Somewhat paradoxically from a criticalperspective, it is the very qualities that mark digitalstories as uncool, conservative, and ideologicallysuspect – ‘stock’ tropes, nostalgia, evensentimentality – that give them the power of socialconnectivity, while the sense of authentic self-expression that they convey lowers the barriers toempathy.‘(Burgess 2006:10)
  20. 20. ConclusionsDigital storytelling opened up important space foremotional engagement with own identity and the‘Other’‘social pedagogy’ : Part of the process of generatingthe digital story involves sharing and disclosure(Benmayor 2008)
  21. 21. evidence of sentimentality and ‘passive empathy’,leading to pity from the part of the privilegedobserver and resentment from the subjugatedstoryteller (Boler 1999)risk of re-affirming existing beliefs and assumptionsabout the ‘Other’?
  22. 22. students essentialised race, identified strongly alongracial background and actively constructed entities inopposition to each other, confirming findings ofprevious research (Pattman 2010; Rohleder et al.2008; Swartz et al. 2009; Bozalek 2011).
  23. 23. RecommendationsEngagement with critical textsImportance of reflective essayMultimodal discourse analysis? How do variousmodes work together to create/constructemotions/sentimentality? Critical media literacy?Reflection on emotions that the stories evoke withindifferent student groups?
  24. 24. Critical emotional reflexivity….a process of using emotions as catalysts, to allowthe questioning of beliefs and assumptions, exposingprivilege and comfort zones, with the aim for learnersto find new ways of being with the ‘Other’, andultimately leading to transformed ‘relationships,practices, and enactments that benefit teaching andlearning for peace, mutual understanding, andreconciliation’(Zembylas 2011: 2).
  25. 25. Questions and discussions? More information found on our blog:YouTubeEmail:
  26. 26. AcknowledgementCPUT Research into Innovations in Teaching andLearning Fund (RIFTAL 2011, 2012)CPUT University Research Fund 2012National research foundation 2012-2015Facilitators and students of 2011 ISP DigitalStorytelling project