By Injairu Kulundu
It is tricky to try and talk about methods or methodologies in transgressive learning. Simply because in my experience it is not the tangible activities that give the work life. It is not the cartographies that we created or the walks that we took or the body maps we made that generated the depth of engagement that we had. There is a broader holding that precedes the act of making cartographies. At best there is a depth of articulation that we step into as a result of pushing up against or immersing ourselves into those cartographies that possibly helped us be more honest about what really matters for us. Instead of talking about methodologies it feels more appropriate to talk about sensibilities that can be catalysed through creative process.
Perhaps it makes sense for me to start at the beginning by speaking about what it was like to try and generate the kind of framing that could help us ask questions about how we can reimagine what liberatory pedagogy should look like in contemporary Africa. It took months of unlearning for myself as a practitioner to be able to live into a space where we could ask these questions together. It required something something very different of me; it required that I hold the questions that generated this research project in way that allowed others to in turn generate their own questions. This was certainly about seeing my role as practitioner in different way. I found that as part of this process I was bumping into old muscle memory that has taught me how to contain workshop space with in ways that invite less uncertainty on the part of those that I have been co- conspiring with. I had to work on opening the activities up in a way that could help co- conspirers touch down to their own intuitive questions.
In retrospect this methodology ended up being one which aspired to invite each souls to show up in their own way. A space where there is enough stillness and quietness for people to drop into the present. I have done work in the past that required us to be present but this was different. It required a different sensibility, one that understands that what we are doing is creating a space where people’s expression, realities and experiences should be able to emerge unperturbed by any resignations to be anything else than what we are. That through this process it is our us-ness that we are looking for and that is enough. This is a space where we can take what we know seriously and be given the time to colour our articulations of experiences AND further step into them with a greater audacity.
This is not method that I could just “TICK” and say that THIS is the methodology…. I don’t feel like what we achieved was what we did through methodologies. I feel that what came out of this was rather a process of scratching into what should be done going forward. Our experience together was a pedagogical opening, it was an intuitive ‘figuring out’ with others in a dialogical way.
I could speak about working creatively as a method, but to be honest what was more useful and more interesting was what a struggle it was to work creatively! I was so aware of the problematic ways in which creativity is packaged and given to us as activities that fall short of really inviting the unsaid or the uncertain to emerge. I was aware of the baggage that comes with the constructs around creativity what it means and what it serves in ourselves and in the world. It felt like a huge part of this methodology was trying to re-claim and re-lease creativity.
It was about the re- leasing our creative intuitive actions as a way of re- remembering ourselves. This feels like a significant journey into fostering our decolonial sensibilities. Painting one’s cartographic journeys or making a body map of one’s reality and desires was not the point. We could ‘perform’ these tasks in that moment but that would not serve us going forward. So the activities are not the ‘ends’ of the experiment they are a way in which we can sink deeper into our intuitive knowings so that we can later express them in ways that feel comfortable. In ways that can integrate them into our living world. It is a way of practicing the fullness of our belonging in the world so as to give credence to the interesting questions that we hold at the edge of our praxis. An important part of this is working with what is unresolved and ambiguous… and being able to meet these questions in ourselves.
I have been encouraged by reading Stefan’s blog- that spoke about exploring a pedagogy of vulnerability. For us here what is emerging is exploring a pedagogy of uncertainty. This means working with what is grey, what is ambiguous and what’s unresolved. The richest discussions that we had together were about this; the critical questions that lingering on the edge of peoples meaning making.
This is significant for regenerating and re – imagining liberatory pedagogy in Africa. Through this way of working it feels like we are genuinely responding to the pedagogical underpinnings of the history of ‘development’ work in Africa in a important way. Methodology in this perspective needs to be released from the way in which it can co – opt our energy and drive as young people through its performative requirements. It is about undoing the ‘civilising’ project that youth development often perpetuates. The only creativity that should count is the one in which we can gain deep insight into what we intuitively know and what we are truly grappling with. Be able to see into ourselves and listen to ourselves in this way is the source of our transgressive gold.
I am seeing these experiences more as space making process that draw from creative methods but most importantly encourage and inspire a creative inner intuitive process to emerge. It’s about co- conspirers feeling invited enough to share what is deepest, ambiguous and, critical and uncertain. That is the only thing worth paying attention to. And the expressions of these things should be able to transgress the limits or parameters that methodologies offer us. A focus on methods themselves might distract us from opening up spaces into this intuitive grappling.
I have many books around me about methods, but there is something I don’t get access to in these books, that is the struggle to get to those methods to live… and the understanding of what needs to be deeply honoured to make those methods a trampoline from which we can better see ourselves.
This is about seeing uncertainty as a decolonial methodology. I believe the quality of our interactions was dependent on our ability to be uncertain. This forgoes what we have been wired to perform in colonial ways, as practitioners, academics and change drivers. It makes us much more human, about what we are facing, what we are trying to do, in ways that allows us to speak more directly even in our ambiguity, I felt very moved that we could do that together.
Gatsheni- Ndlovu spoke to us about a presentation that I did with Anna James and Priya Vallabh at the South African Education Research Association (SAERA). He spoke about how we managed to speak about decoloniality without an obsession with clarity and fully formed ideas… that we could grapple with what we are uncertain about and in so doing create more space for it to arrive as an evolving idea that is consciously being put into conversation with how the world functions whilst consistently finding a way to step outside of its grip.
I am remembering the monograph that Heila, Million and Mutizwa wrote on Social Learning, and the conversation that they had there about ‘ontological collapse’ (2012). The caution that stayed with me was …let’s not talk about methodology in ways that reduce it to an object. In ways that fool us into believing that that methodology produced change. We need to find ways of seeing into the webs of sensibilities within and without that help us move through methodologies in ways that help us better reach into ourselves and amplify our intuitive understandings in meaningful ways. If the methodology doesn’t help with that then it itself can be a tyranny obscuring us away from ourselves. Conversely, we can also still be encouraged to try these ‘methodologies’ and listen what parts of ourselves get left behind and in turn find the ways to invite these necessary exiles into the space. In This way methodology can be an imperfect part of the conversation towards what we really want to get to, rather than being a panacea or conduit towards where we think we need to get to.
Methodologies ought to provide the space for us to access the wisdom that is already within us and in the absence of the methodology in itself the way of seeing or being that is offered through it should be able to live on by itself. The cartography gives me a way of continually seeing that which I choose to live into at every moment and perhaps sharpens reflexive resource in my life. This canvas becomes part of my inner resources. The body map gives me the space to really think about what I am feeling now, or desiring for the future. It is a way of sinking into my own intuitive knowings and growing them going forward.
I continually find myself coming back to the idea of nomadic way of being as a part of this. One commitment that is being made through this work is a commitment to keep moving, to find ‘new coordinates’ each time in response to the trappings of the neo- liberal world order (Braidotti, 2011: 288, 286). Uncertainty as a pedagogy helps us reflexively refine the dexterity of these nomadic movements. If we recognise that “the sustainability of the future rests on our ability to mobilize, actualize, and deploy cognitive, affective and ethical forces that [have] not been activated thus far” then our methodologies have to help us reach into these sensibilities that we have otherwise not lived into (Braidotti, 2011: 288, 286). And because we haven’t fully lived into them yet we need our uncertainty as a guide towards what enquiries in our humanity we need to expand through our learning. There is a moral imperative for us to explore an expanded understanding of this humanity as we continue to navigate terrible iterations of colonialism in our waking worlds. In this way, the only way to navigate ourselves towards a post- human world is to expand affective decolonial sensibilities of what it means to be human.
Lastly, there are some certain values and sensibilities in this work that cannot be articulated. They are invisible but palpable. If they are not there you can feel it. But if you name them, you can scare these things away. Parker Palmer (2004) reminds us that the soul is a shy thing. It needs to be gently coaxed to show up in a space. And when it does show up it slips into the space creating a reverence that is impossible to conjure out of our own volition. We need the patience and sensibilities to layer the space with elements that allow this way of being to be the place that we move from together.
A part of this layering might be about bringing a spiritual vibe into the space without calling it that. I sometimes struggle when the spiritual aspect of this work arrives because of the constructions of secular work in academia and the paucity of language around including the spiritual dimension as part of our research. My friend Dr. Makgathi Mokwena who is an expressive art therapist amongst many other wonderful things reminds me that we do not have to call these things names, otherwise people could easily freak out. If you create a space for love, people feel it, if you create a space for empathy, they will feel it, if you create the space for reverence they will respond. These are layers of ‘methodology’ that are difficult to name but their charge is felt. I am learning to not look at these elements directly or call them out. They are too are elusive, uncertain and ambiguous. It is only by looking at them with peripheral vision that they can live into the field generated in the space.
Steve Biko quotes Dr Kaunda in his seminal text ‘I Write What I Like’:
Africans being a pre scientific people do not recognise any conceptual cleavage between the natural and the supernatural. They experience a situation rather than face a problem. By this I mean they allow both the rational and non- rational elements to make an impact upon them, and any action they may take could be described more as a response of the total personality of the situation than the result of some mental exercise. (Biko:1978, 48)
It is this sense of experiencing a situation (and I would add experiencing ourselves, each other and other sentient beings) rather than ‘solving a problem’ that I think should be one of the primary functions of methodology within T- learning. It gives us a way to address all the urgency that we are feeling in these times through a slow and perceptive sensibility that offers us insight into the different dimensions playing out. There is a sense of discernment that comes with this that humanises us and emboldens our ability to insist that we belong here and we deserve to find ways to see ourselves through what we are experiencing. Kaplan and Davidhoff (2014) share that:
So many assumptions creep into our seeing, that we may begin- inadvertently, unknowingly- to inherit a world that has been given to us by others, rather than see a world that is being created through our intentional participation in each moment (p 10).
I feel that it is this capacity to see into ourselves, others and the earth is what T- learning methodologies should at best foster. And beyond this, I believe that these methodologies should foster our ability to create our own rites into the creation of a future worthy of our longing.
Written November 2017