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[xmca] Lave in mca

These seem like important messages from the future of the changing culture of the higher ed industry.

At this point, 75% of employees in higher education are contingents — meaning, no job security.

Helena Worthen

You're not alone Jenna (in all of the ways that companionship can be
assumed in what you wrote).  About violence, even if pegged to consequences
before it is judged good or bad, I find it increasingly difficult to find
my bearings in the territory of "deep social change", much less to judge
the consequences of violence (symbolic and otherwise) I might engage in.

You'll have to take my word for it that the mode of research that I'm
currently engaged in here in San Diego has to do much more with long dureé
relationship building than furiously taking notes.  I am calm about the
very high probability that the friends I'm making, and relationships
cultivating, in impoverished southeastern San Diego will not adequately
make it to published material, and even calmer about the even higher
probability that if they did make it to published material, that the latter
wouldn't loop back around to southeastern San Diego in any actionable form.

Funding structures for grants and departments (to completely ignore the
insane tally of requirements for young scholars to be able to aspire and
compete for post-docs, etc.) are not setup for the long duree --yet if
"deep" anything (from a cultural-historical perspective) is to be found
anywhere, it will be found in intra-actively constituted "actionable"
history.  And yet, with all that, my-friends-and-I do only marginally
better today at imagining mutually enriching projects (and perhaps
possibilities for strategically targeted violence) than when I first
arrived in southeastern San Diego, five years ago!  Alas, the more history
and culture "acquires me" in this work, the more I realize that there are
as many constraints on the non-academic side of the pond as there are back
at UCSD.  Perhaps this is not news to anyone, but it is a sobering
realization (in practice, not by reading Gramsci) that "being in the same
shitty situation" does not lead automagically to shared consciousness, much
less about where action/violence should be applied.

My CV is not long enough, not by a mile.  But the possibility (forget for
now actionability) of deep change takes deep time to run into --that is,
for some unpredictable, and drawn out, combination of social and material
processes to get a hold of, and scaffold, shared consciousness.  So, fill
the CV with BS, cuz (in my opinion) it ain't gonna get long enough fast
enough if "deep" is what it's got to be about.

Anyway, we might share a beer at the over-30-aspiring-intellectual club at


On Tue, Jul 10, 2012 at 1:28 PM, Jenna McWilliams <jennamcjenna@gmail.com<mailto:jennamcjenna@gmail.com>>wrote:

Lave argues that we must resist, among other temptations, the tendency to
treat learning “as if it were…something that can only be studied from a
third-person perspective, thus producing accounts of learning only as
something done to others.” That this is the 4th out of 5 points is, in my
view, a disappointing burial of the lead.

Zeus Leonardo and Ronald Porter make a compelling argument for the
righteous return of violence to liberatory education in their 2010 article
“pedagogy of fear.” Appropriating Fanon, Martin Luther King, Jr., Angela
Davis, and others, they appropriate what they term a “neutral” definition
of violence, “which is not inherently negative or positive but judged for
its consequences.” Martin Luther King, despite his embrace of anti-violent
protest against U.S. apartheid, was nonetheless perceived by many whites
and by the U.S. government as violent, because he was actional.

Recently a white supremacist came to Bloomington, IN, my city of
residence, and announced his intention to hold a Ku Klux Klan revival. The
official story, reported in local news outlets, was that anti-racists
flooded the rally site and that the only white supremacist in attendance at
the rally was the organizer himself. What actually happened, according to
my anarchist pals, was that a small minority of anti-racists showed up in
ski masks, dark clothes, and a confrontational demeanor. They were so
menacing, so visibly ready to engage in physical violence, that the white
supremacists who were in the crowd (many had, after all, turned out for the
rally) slowly stepped back and walked quietly away. We have violence, or at
least the threat thereof, to thank for that day’s quorum-busting of the KKK.

“Colonialism,” wrote Fanon, “is not a machine capable of thinking, a body
endowed with reason. It is naked violence and only gives in when confronted
with greater violence.”  We want our research to be actionable. We want to
help change things for the better. Those of us committed to anti-oppressive
pedagogy, to equity and deep social change, need to make serious decisions
about how actional to be, and when, and to which audiences.

Please forgive me for my stridency. These days, as the deadline for AERA
proposals approaches, I’m feeling particularly complicit in an educative
system that not only treats learning only as something done to others but
that treats action only as something that others—the people ‘we’
study—engage in, while ‘we’ stand off to the side, furiously scribbling
notes so we can write up our articles later.

And this comes from an academic over 30 years of age who has not yet even
had the chance to enjoy the privileged lifeworld that Mike warns us is in
danger of disappearing. Alas, I’m just another aspiring intellectual born
at least a dozen years too late….


Jenna McWilliams
Learning Sciences Program, Indiana University


On Jul 8, 2012, at 11:43 AM, mike cole wrote:

> I am attaching a pdf of an article by Ole Dreier which provides a kind of
> precis of his book that Jean refers to.  The links to
> the references to Gibson in her article in part draw upon Ingold, but
Ole D
> has book out on objects with Allan Costall that
> make those links even clearer.
> I am seeking help on finding English language work by Gomes that Jean
> with approval; its from a book in Portuguese which makes it a little
> inaccessible to most of us.
> And for those of us who wonder what all of this has to do with CHAT,
> consider the non-coincidence that Alexander Zaporozhets,
> mentor to VP Zinchenko and part of the circle that included LSV, Luria,
> Leontiev, interacted considerably with the Gibsons.
> 6 degrees of separation?
> mike
> On Sun, Jul 8, 2012 at 7:40 AM, Forman, Ellice A <ellice@pitt.edu<mailto:ellice@pitt.edu>>
>> I agree with Mike. After reading Lave's article in MCA, I realized that
>> needed to read her new book to understand her position better. Lave, J.
>> (2011). Apprenticeship in critical ethnographic practice. Chicago:
>> University of Chicago Press. I'm just getting started reading it but I'm
>> glad her article led me to it. She makes it clear that critical
>> ethnographic practice does not pit writing against activism, as Mike
>> here. Here's one early salient quote:
>> "Critical ethnography certainly is engaged in social criticsm and an
>> integral concern for social justice . . . But critical ethnography has
>> other entailments and layers of meaning as well. It involves a
>> historical worldview and metaphysics that question a number of
>> understandings. It envisions ethnographic research as a long struggle to
>> illuminate social life, challenge commonplace theories and their
>> implications, and change theoretical practice in the process. This book
>> pursues a more ample consideration of what we mean by critical
>> practice." (p. 10)
>> Right now I'm in the midst of exploring how Lave's early research on
>> tailoring in Liberia led her to pursue these broader and deeper
>> investigations of her own apprenticeship in critical ethnographic
>> ________________________________________
>> From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu<mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu> [xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu<mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu>] On
>> Of mike cole [lchcmike@gmail.com<mailto:lchcmike@gmail.com>]
>> Sent: Saturday, July 07, 2012 12:54 PM
>> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
>> Cc: Jean Lave
>> Subject: Re: [xmca] lave in mca
>> Lave: Changing Practices
>> I think it would be a pity if xmca-ites settled for Peter’s
>> characterization of Jean Lave’s article as a call to activism, and as
>> pitting writing against activism. I did not interpret Jean’s comments
as a
>> call to march in anti-war-de-jour activities, or join an occupy protest
>> slow down corporate greed.
>> Peter commented, in part:
>> *Scribner took it to the streets, marching in the marches and such, and
>> bully for her. I've got to weigh things differently, I suspect. If I go
>> protest la guerre-du-jour, holding my sign at the campus gates, is this
>> cost-effective action? Or is getting my writing done more important,
>> especially the public pieces that are read widely, if not terribly
>> influentially, at least in terms of current policies? (but then,
>> at the campus gates with a sign protesting wars or monied interests
>> probably has limited payoff as well.) And in my very conservative area,
>> no doubt pay an additional cost, such as the outcry against my activism
>> causes that go against the grain of popular opinion.*
>> Firstly, the general silence she identified (correctly or not, people
>> were there should comment, but it rings true enough to me) was the
>> of  “historical specificity and political analysis.”  She then linked
>> ideas to those of Gramsci in the following way:
>> *Gramsci’s political account of learning and education (and everything
>> else) grew out of*
>> *his analysis of the “absolute historicism” of philosophy of praxis. He
>> pointed to the central engagement of state and private institutions of
>> education in inculcating and defending dominant hegemonic relations of
>> consent. That is not all that is going on in our complex contradictory
>> world, of course. But because virtually all ISCAR participants do the
>> of these institutions, we also need to carry out the political analysis
>> that our positions call for.*
>> * *
>> None of Jean’s examples of the kind of changes in practice that she
>> advocates focused on marching in the streets or challenging the guerre
>> du jour. They did, however, focus on a number of examples (Drier,
>> Gomes, Holland, and her own) all of which involve the scholar, as
>> engaging in critical analyses of current research practices within the
>> professions of which they are a part.
>> Overall, the message that I took from the talk/essay was that those who
>> adopt what locally we refer to as a CHAT perspective have commitments to
>> grounding theory in practices that are supposed to put our theories to
>> test. Her recommendation that we worry about educating the educators,
>> practice is education, seems to me completely uncontroversial. Her
>> cases seem uncontroversial as recognizable lines of scholarly research
>> of which has been discussed in this forum (we should “take  seriously
>> understanding of research as craft, and of both learning and changing
>> identity as aspects of craftsmanship" for example).
>> I do not know nearly enough about most of the examples that Jean holds
>> as potential models to follow. It seems that remedying my ignorance
>> those examples would be a productive place to start. For sure, the
>> problems facing all forms of education, but in the case of most of us,
>> institutionally, the problems facing higher education, are acute and
>> getting worse very rapidly. Jean’s summary of that situation seems to
>> up with my own knowledge of events, but perhaps that is because we are
>> present for the dismantling of what was once a great public university.
>> Much less clear are lines of theory/practice research that would/could
>> a difference.
>> Anyway, there is a serious call here for a fundamental, critical,
>> theory/practice orientation to our work. Answering this call IS a
>> as well as an academic act. It may also be a warning that the privileged
>> lifeworlds of academics that those of us over 30 years of age have
>> experienced may be in danger of disappearing faster than the ozone
>> mike
>> (Ps- sorry for the funny font gyrations. Cut and pasted from a word
>> On Wed, Jul 4, 2012 at 6:00 AM, Peter Smagorinsky <smago@uga.edu<mailto:smago@uga.edu>>
>>> I'm going to assume my unappointed role as discussion-launcher for the
>>> Lave article in MCA that was voted as the feature discussion article on
>>> xmca. I may not be able to stick around for long, as we're going on
>>> vacation Saturday in hopes that somewhere on this earth we can find a
>> place
>>> that's not as hot as Georgia, USA.
>>> Lave's paper is based on her plenary closing talk at ISCAR in Rome, an
>>> even I did not attend. As an aside, as long as it's held in
>> mid-September,
>>> shortly after our fall academic semester begins, I and others like me
>>> probably won't attend. It's just too ill-timed to miss 1-2 weeks of
>>> classes, depending on location, right after getting the semester off
>>> ground.
>>> Lave references several ISCAR talks she found compelling, so it's nice
>> for
>>> us non-attenders to get a sense of what she found valuable in Rome.
>>> If there's an overriding theme to her paper, it might be that
>>> cultural-historical researchers ought to be more involved in social
>>> activism. I was struck while reading the paper by how she could easily
>> have
>>> used Silvia Scribner as her role model for the talk, even though SS
>>> unmentioned. A month or so when I wrote to the list about my reading of
>> her
>>> collected papers, I noted that her activism on the labor front probably
>> cut
>>> into her writing time, although perhaps her career was conducted before
>>> electronic media made expectations for writing much greater-there were
>>> fewer journals and fewer book publishers, and writing itself was much
>> more
>>> laborious (a point related to the recent discussion of writing) in that
>> it
>>> was often undertaken by pen, then retyped, and ultimately less amenable
>> to
>>> revision than it is these days.
>>> She urges social activism, although the paper is general enough to
>>> for individuals to take that appeal up in their own ways. Academics
>> to
>>> some, "above" ideology, and so should avoid the fray; yet most of us
>>> would agree with her point that all thinking is ideological, and so
>>> an activist on important social issues is a natural extension of our
>> work.
>>> If we are all ideological in our thinking, research, and writing, and
>>> social issues are shaped by ideology, should we not then contribute to
>> the
>>> shape of  social issues through what we know via scholarship? (and
>>> that for a Western logical syllogism.)
>>> Scribner took it to the streets, marching in the marches and such, and
>>> bully for her. I've got to weigh things differently, I suspect. If I go
>>> protest la guerre-du-jour, holding my sign at the campus gates, is
this a
>>> cost-effective action? Or is getting my writing done more important,
>>> especially the public pieces that are read widely, if not terribly
>>> influentially, at least in terms of current policies? (but then,
>>> at the campus gates with a sign protesting wars or monied interests
>>> probably has limited payoff as well.) And in my very conservative area,
>> I'd
>>> no doubt pay an additional cost, such as the outcry against my activism
>> for
>>> causes that go against the grain of popular opinion.
>>> I hope these concerns are not too concrete for Lave's fairly abstract
>>> call-to-peaceful-arms about social activism. For those of us in fairly
>>> conventional academic positions (Lave's seems to allow for much more
>> travel
>>> than mine), activism has to be balanced against other considerations
>>> demands on our time and local reputations. At this point, I'm more
>>> persuaded by the general thrust of her views than of possibilities for
>>> real-world activism whose consequences are greater than I can produce
>>> through my writing.
>>> OK, there you go, your turn.
>>> __________________________________________
>>> _____
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