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[Xmca-l] Identity through "experiential texts": Pedagogy of Identity Transformation

My thanks to all who responded to my request for suggestions of "experiential texts" that could help perturb notions of identity. I also received some off-line responses, which I promised to summarize. But I'm now in the slightly awkward position of not knowing for sure if off-line responders would like to maintain their privacy. So, if you replied off-line and would not like me to share your post, please let me know by Tuesday morning.

My idea of using experiential texts with teacher candidates is to perturb their sense of identity with the goal that "self-awareness of positioning facilitates engagement with [their future] students of diverse cultural locations." This agenda seems to have a struck a nerve for some. 

But what should I actually do with these experiential texts? How can we conceptualize a pedagogy oriented toward this set of goals and methods? What kind of "learning" am I trying to promote in my course? 

In case people would like to engage with these questions, I'm offering some initial thoughts; this new thread seems to fit well with the ongoing discussion of Liquid Modernity. 

Toward a Pedagogy of Identity Transformation:

For me, identity is indexed to cultural location(s). Thus the goal of identity transformation becomes a goal of cultural transportation. In particular, having students with an essentialized, modernist experience of their identity come to apprehend their identity in a fragmented, postmodern trope is to move them to a postmodern community in which this fragmentary self-apprehension is a normative practice. So, the experiential texts, though certainly having impact on individuals, are conceived by me as instruments of community. 

There are two approaches to drawing students to cultural practices that representing cultural location to which they do not already aspire to relocate. The "acculturationist" approach is to conflate the classroom authority of teacher with the teacher's bona fide membership in the target culture so that students come to aspire to membership in the latter. For instance, this is the method of critical pedagogy in which one enlist students as "'transformative intellectuals' (Giroux, 1988), 'cultural workers' (Freire, 1998) capable of identifying and redressing the injustices, inequalities, and myths of an often oppressive world" (Gruenewald, 2003, p. 4) by getting them to identify with a culture of resistance. 

The "enculturationist" approach is to nurture the desired practices within the classroom microculture, which serves as a surrogate for the target culture. This nurturance takes the form of subliminal encouragement of ever closer approximations to the intended practices. In adapting to the classroom microculture, students come to embody (to greater or lesser extents) the intended practices. Though subliminally encouraged, the intended practices are not coerced. Students should not be aware of the cultural agenda, and their degree/rate of adaption is mediated by the complex of their existing identity structure. The enculturation approach is illustrated in Dewey (1900):

"When the school introduces and trains each child of society into membership with such a little community, saturating him with the spirit of service, and providing him with the instruments of effective self-direction, we shall have the deepest and best guarantee of a larger society which is worthy, lovely, and harmonious" (p. 44).

My intention is to use the enculturationist approach. Thus through my subliminal influence the experiential texts will form a basis for classroom discussion and classroom community in which postmodern sensibilities of self (may) become normative. I will try to avoid explicit mention of postmodernism, lest the implicit agenda of postmodern identity becomes experienced as a mandate (i.e., the pedagogy shifts to acculturation). For this reason, I may downplay the use of postmodern scholarly texts that are not also experiential texts, as having students identify as postmodern academics, is not the goal. 

At least, that's my plan, now.


Dewey, J. (1900). School and society. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Gruenewald, D. A. (2003). The best of both worlds: A critical pedagogy of place. Educational Researcher, 32(4), 3-12.

-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of David H Kirshner
Sent: Thursday, July 28, 2016 12:05 PM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity (xmca-l@mailman.ucsd.edu)
Subject: [Xmca-l] Identity through "experiential texts"

I'm preparing to teach a capstone graduate course for teachers-to-be that includes a focus on identity.
The major assignment is a Personal Literacy Portfolio in which students compile, organize, and discuss artifacts of their past in exploration of their identity. The rationale is that this self-awareness of positioning facilitates engagement with students of diverse cultural locations.

I'm asking for suggestions of course resources.
Rather than a single course reader, I'm looking for "experiential texts"-that is creative products in any medium that can help perturb essentialist ideas of core identity in favor of a more complex, poststructural view of identity as multiple and fragmented. Media can include academic writing in psychology, sociology, philosophy; short stories; poetry; film; works of art, etc.

If you'd like to email me off-line (dkirsh@lsu.edu<mailto:dkirsh@lsu.edu>), I'll send a compilation of all suggestions to XMCA.

Below is a list of some experiential texts I'm already considering.


Walkerdine, V. (1990). Chapter 1: Sex, power and pedagogy. In V. Walkerdine (Ed.), Schoolgirl fictions(pp. 3-15). London: Verso. Reprinted from Screen Education, 38, 14-24, 1981.

PBS Video: http://www.pbs.org/program/nine-months-that-made-you/
9 Months That Made You   -  How a person's individuality is developed, including their sexuality

Documentary on the life of a child kept without language for 13 years.

Movie: Enemy  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enemy_(2013_film)
The film stars Jake Gyllenhaal as two men who are physically identical, but different in terms of personality.

Gee, J. P. (2001). Identity as an analytic lens for research in education. In W. G. Secada (Ed.), Review of Research in Education, 25 (pp. 3-56). Washington, DC: American Educational Research Association. [identity = kind of person one is recognized as being]

Stremmel, A., Burns, J., Nganga, C., & Bertolini, K. (2015). Countering the essentialized discourse of teacher education. Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education, 36(2), 156-174. [discussed in http://www.tcrecord.org/Content.asp?ContentID=20275]