Be(coming) the Change You Want to See in the World: Social Justice Teacher Education as Affective Craft
Airton, Lee James Elizabeth
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This dissertation begins from the difficulty faced by the field of social justice teacher education (SJTE) in setting itself apart from other aspects of teacher education. SJTE’s history of internal and external evidence pressures has distracted the field from reckoning with ‘social justice’ as a moving horizon and not a static outcome against which it can be found effective. If ‘social justice’ cannot be the outcome holding SJTE together and apart from other kinds of teacher education, how does SJTE work? To answer this question, I use Deleuzo-Guattarian and affect theories to position SJTE as an assemblage: an ever-becoming whole composed of the relations among its non-sovereign yet affecting/affected components. In the first analytical chapter, I assemble what SJTE is, does and wants by analyzing 58 field-defining texts. Regardless of what SJTE may say about itself, the field is characterized by an affective capacity to inhabit irresolvable tensions; this capacity expresses assemblage becoming and, therefore, an incremental conception of social change. The second and third analytical chapters analyze the SJTE-assemblage at the level of everyday life. Through multi-sensory fieldwork at education conferences and experimental conversations with practitioners, I tracked moments of intensity bordering on rupture. These were frequently events unthinkable among ‘equity experts’ yet recalling familiar forms of student resistance. In the second chapter, I investigate what happens at these thresholds where SJTE threatens to come apart. In the third chapter, I assemble an emergent theory of resistance that challenges prevailing conceptions of SJTE practice ‘gone wrong.’ My findings reveal the implicit ways in which SJTE reckons with ‘social justice’ as a moving horizon. Although SJTE tends toward political and conceptual rigidity, I identified its enacted and unspoken flexibility in how e.g., race or sexuality can emerge otherwise in everyday life. This capacity of openness to the surprises of social difference or difference-to-come is a pivotal yet unnamed contribution of the field that is expressed in its craft. I conclude by envisioning how SJTE might explicitly attend to depth – the sovereign political will of teachers as agents of social change – and surface: what is affective, implicit and pre-personal.