Vulnerability and belonging in the history classroom: a teacher’s positioning in “volatile conversations” on racism and xenophobia

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Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 10
  • SDG 4
  • Abstract:

    This article is explorative in its attempt to define vulnerability within transformative pedagogy by analysing excerpts from two “volatile conversations” on racism and xenophobia between a teacher and her grade nine class in a well-resourced Jewish school. The two conversations differed in regard to the teacher’s use of vulnerability, even though the underlying rationale remained the same, namely to question and deconstruct prejudiced thinking. During the first interaction, the teacher struggled to invite learners to join in the conversation when she attempted to situate racism solely in their heads. During the second interaction, in contrast, instead of focusing on the learners’ thinking, the teacher placed her own xenophobic thinking in the centre and talked reflectively about what fear might say about one’s society and one’s position in that society. While this second interaction was difficult, the learners felt safe enough to take up the teacher’s attempt to render racism and xenophobia strange. The article argues that more discussion is needed in regard to the potential role of vulnerability in pedagogical interactions, particularly taking into account teachers’ and learners’ complex, ever-changing narratives and positions in a fast changing, and still very much divided, yet hopeful country.