Critical Literacy: Theories and Practices, Vol 9, No 2 (2015)

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Relationality and emotionality: Toward a reflexive ethic in critical teaching

Sunny Man Chu Lau


Adopting the poststructuralist and feminist perspectives, this paper attempts to examine some much-debated pertinent issues about teaching from a critical lens. Challenging the generally positivist and rationalist approach toward critical teaching, poststructuralist and feminist writers urge for careful attention to the pluralities of identities, the partial and interested nature of knowledge, and in particular the relevance of emotionality and relationality in critical praxis. Elaborating on two class interactions with new immigrant elementary students on critical analyses and reproduction of advertisements, this paper’s aim is to show how the teacher and the researcher’s concern for “correct” readings may overshadow the students and their own shifting desires and identities, contributing to a foreclosure of more fruitful embodied learning opportunities and a re-inscription of the authority/ignorance binaries. The study points to the need for teachers to let go of their fear of students’ authentic responses and to shift their focus from imposing certainties to creating possibilities (B. Morgan, 2009) for emergent understanding and becoming. Problematizing critical practice in general, the paper reiterates the importance that teachers and researchers develop a reflexive ethic (Andreotti, 2011) not only in students but also in their own theorizing, practicing and reporting of critical teaching in the classroom. 

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Critical Literacy: Theories and Practices is a non-commercial initiative committed to the ethical dissemination of academic research and educational thinking. CLTP acknowledges the thoughtful dedication of authors, editors and reviewers to develop and promote this open journal initiative. The journal receives copy-editing sponsorship from the Faculty of Education at the University of Oulu, Finland. CLTP has previously received  copy editing support from the Centre for the Study of Social and Global Justice at the University of Nottingham, UK.