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New Book: Higher Education and Hope Institutional, Pedagogical and Personal Possibilities Editors: Gibbs, Paul, Peterson, Andrew (Eds.)

Around the world, the landscape of Higher Education is increasingly shaped by discourses of employability, rankings, and student satisfaction. Under these conditions, the role of universities in preparing students for all facets of life, and to contribute to the public good, is reshaped in significant ways: ways which are often negative and pessimistic. This book raises important and pressing questions about the nature and role of universities as formative educational institutions, drawing together contributors from both Western and non-Western perspectives. While the editors and contributors critique the current situation, the chapters evince a more humane and compassionate framing of the work of and in universities, based on positive and valued relationships and notions of the good. Drawing together a wide range of theoretical and conceptual frameworks to illuminate the issues discussed, this volume changes the debate to one of hopefulness and inspiration about the role of higher education for the public good: ultimately looking towards a potentially exciting and rewarding future through which humanity and the planet can flourish.

Event: Becoming a ‘mutated modest witness’ in early childhood research – a C & S seminar with Professor Jayne Osgood

DATE & TIME: 16th January, 12.30-1.30

LOCATION: W156, Middlesex University, London, NW4 4BT

Jayne Osgood (Middlesex University)

Keywords: feminist new materialism, Haraway, childhood research, affect, materiality, bodies

Abstract: This paper aims to reconfigure some entrenched ideas about early childhood by considering the possibilities that are generated when attention is turned to everyday habits, ordinary routines and mundane materials in early childhood contexts – that are integral to the ways in which we think. As a feminist researcher, moving from a decade-long preoccupation to critique, problematise and deconstruct to a place of embracing and enacting new materialist philosophy in my more recent work, I am confronted by a cacophony of ambivalences. There is little doubt that working with feminist new materialism presents certain ontological and epistemological shifts in the approaches that can be taken to think more expansively about our relational entanglements in early childhood contexts; it involves embracing uncertainty and not knowing. Yet, the traces of post-structuralism reawaken concerns that de-centring the human might somehow risk obscuring humanist concerns such as social class inequalities, racism, male privilege, the persistence of patriarchal systems. All issues that have a very real bearing on experiences of childhood, and therefore concerns that I want to keep central to my work. The more speculative and experimental approach to researching early childhood taken in my current research involves putting feminist new materialist philosophy into practice. In this paper I offer an account of the affordances that are made available by taking up Haraway’s figure of the ‘mutated modest witness’ and keeping in play one of the most significant concepts in feminist epistemology, that of situated knowledge (Haraway, 1997). I argue that rather than diminishing humanist concerns this framework offers the means to exercise heightened ethical responsibility; a worldly responsibility (Haraway, 2008), where the researcher must be attuned to so much more than only the human actors in any given scenario. This approach celebrates the conceptual elasticity that feminist new materialism offers in a quest to not find nor seek solutions, but rather generate new ways to think about, and be in the world. Taking a small number of seemingly insignificant embodied and material events and haptic moments from one London nursery, and starting from materiality, I offer a generative account that seeks to work with Barad’s (2007:384) conceptualisation of ethics as onto-epistemological, as she states: ‘ethics is about mattering, about taking account of the entangled materialisations of which we are part, including new configurations, new subjectivities, new possibilities – even the smallest cuts matter.

New Book: Feminists Researching Gendered Childhoods

Feminists Researching Gendered Childhoods charts the evolving nature of feminist theory and research methods in childhood studies and the generative potential this holds for researchers, academics and educators to continue to push ideas and practices. The book traces the threads of affect and effect that feminist theories and methodologies have made over time to thinking more, and differently, about gender in childhood. In the wake of the ‘new materialist turn’ in feminist research, the book sought to address two pressing questions: what is especially new about feminist new materialism, and what is especially feminist about feminist new materialism. These questions are generative, troubling, unsettling and invited the contributors on an adventure that involved re-turning and reconfiguring ideas and practices about gender and childhood.

Along with the editors, Jayne Osgood (UK), and Kerry H. Robinson (Australia), five key international feminist scholars, Mindy Blaise (Australia), Bronwyn Davies (Australia), Debbie Epstein (UK), Jen Lyttleton-Smith (UK), and Veronica Pacini-Ketchabaw (Canada) collaborated on this book project. Their reflective accounts capture the contribution of their own work and that of their peers, to advancing research practices and theorisations of gender in childhood. Having all approached the study of gendered childhoods in creative and critical ways, these important feminist researchers re-engage and critically reflect on their earlier work alongside their more contemporary contributions to the field. The book is as much about the processes involved in its creation as it about the material/digital end product. The chapters work with both familiar and unfamiliar feminist methodological frameworks that bring affect, materiality and embodiment, as well as textual representations of gender and childhood, into play. The book engages with, and generates artwork, poetry, photographs as a means to grapple with how gender, childhood, family, curriculum and policy have been, and might be researched. The book captures a lively, collaborative, feminist experiment that sought to make space for fresh conceptualisations of gender in childhood. Issues addressed include: social justice and transformative methodologies in childhood research; advancing theoretical perspectives that contribute to fresh understandings of gender in young children’s lives; the ways that research into gender in childhood play out in educational agendas; and the specific gender issues perceived critical to address in contemporary childhoods lived in the post-Anthropocene.

New Book: ‘How to Survive in Teaching’ published by former CERS doctoral student

Dr Emma Kell EdD, who studied for and obtained her Doctorate of Education at Middlesex University, has published a book entitled ‘How to Survive in Teaching’ by Bloomsbury Education.

Launched at Duke’s Aldridge Academy on 11th January the book examines honestly the challenges facing the profession and identifies practical and positive approaches to move beyond the ‘teacher crisis’.

Emma has written a blog post on having her work published: Serendipity, audacity… and bloody hard work. Becoming a published writer.

The book can be ordered from Amazon.



‘Dark play in digital playscapes’

A special edition of the journal ‘Contemporary Issues in Early’ has been published this month, guest edited by CERS academics Jayne Osgood, Victoria de Rijke and Mona Sakr.

The special edition responds to an urgent need to engage with the darker sides of play at a time when digital environments are opening up play experiences and territories that feel unfamiliar, and potentially even menacing, to adults.

More information and the edition can be found on the journal’s website.

Erasmus Teaching Visit by Abele Longo

Erasmus Teaching Visit at the University of Palermo (23 May 2017 – 28 May 2017):

My visit provided me with the opportunity to teach in the Faculty of Architecture, which has an international reputation and is highly regarded for their inter-disciplinary teaching programme. I met colleagues who have been very supportive and interested in my teaching and research, I had the chance to attend their seminars, be involved in their teaching and teach students from different courses in a seminar, entitled ‘Sinfonia funebre di una città, la Palermo dello Zio di Brooklyn. Per una lettura ecocritica del cinema di Ciprì e Maresco’

The seminar was highly appreciated by students and colleagues and involved a contribution by the film director I discussed in my seminar, who sent a 30-minute video where he replied to questions put forward by the students in advance. The seminar encompassed perspectives ranging from ecocriticism to social and urban studies and translation studies. One part focused on how the use of audio-visual translation, specifically the subtitling of films from Sicilian dialect into Italian, had been used in films set in Palermo, discussing their relevance in the understanding of cultural identity.