EASA2016: Anthropological legacies and human futures

(P119)
Pedagogy: ethnographic and cognitive engagements
Location U7-15
Date and Start Time 22 July, 2016 at 09:00
Sessions 2

Convenors

  • Vlad Naumescu (Central European University) email
  • Charles Stafford (London School of Economics) email

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Short Abstract

This panel explores the role of pedagogy in processes of cultural transmission. Papers should combine ethnographic insights with psychological theory and methods to study teaching and learning in diverse social contexts including but not limited to early socialization, religious and moral education.

Long Abstract

This panel brings ethnographic studies of (formal and/or informal) teaching and learning across cultural-historical contexts into dialogue with recent psychological work on pedagogy and ostensive communication. A focus on pedagogy engages several key issues in the anthropology of cultural transmission, including the implicit assumptions people make to ascribe and reason about knowledge; the various forms that teaching and learning take in specific localities; and the selective biases in children's apprehension of cultural categories. Culturally-specific pedagogies draw on local 'theories of mind' (Luhrmann 2011; Astuti 2015) like the 'opacity of mind' doctrine in the Pacific that may interact with evolved cognitive mechanisms. Learning from others and being taught meet in pedagogical practice, as children's gradual participation in and understanding of the surrounding environment is guided by social institutions. This is where studies on ostensive communication (Csibra and Gergely 2011) and epistemic vigilance (Sperber et all 2010) bear on ethnographic observations concerning the role of linguistic and embodied practice, ritual, testimony in the transmission of values, beliefs and the like.

By extending pedagogy beyond formal education we aim to explore its role in processes of cultural transmission as well as the absence of active teaching in some cultures. We invite ethnographic papers that examine knowledge transmission in diverse social contexts - including but not limited to early socialization, religious learning and moral education. We would especially welcome papers that critically engage with evolutionary or developmental theory and experimental methods, but this is not a requirement for selection.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Giving and receiving pedagogy in China

Author: Anni Kajanus (London School of Economics and Political Sciences)  email

Short Abstract

This paper critically engages with evolutionary theories of social learning through a detailed investigation of the patterns of peer-group learning and pedagogical relationships between adults and children in China.

Long Abstract

Evolutionary theories distinguish between passive involuntary forms of social learning, as in the case of being dominated or coerced; and active voluntary forms, as in the case of emulating a prestigious role model (e.g. Henrich 2015). In this perception, social learning takes place when a learner, voluntarily or involuntarily, receives the pedagogy of someone who is willing to impart with it. Learning is unidirectional, involving clearly definable roles that correspond with distinct psychological processes. The pedagogical process in the context of dominance elicits fear in the learner, while the process based on prestige elicits respect. This paper critically engages with this conceptual distinction by exploring the processes of giving and receiving pedagogy in the learning environments of Chinese children. In particular, I investigate the way patterns of social status determine the often multiple directions of pedagogy and its modes of transmission. These dynamics are particularly pertinent to children's peer group learning. The pedagogical relationships between adults and children are characterised by various forms of avoidance and strategic receiving, which are not encompassed by the conceptualisation of social learning into voluntary and involuntary forms. I argue that the evolutionary approaches to social learning are useful in directing our attention to the psychological processes involved. Through a detailed ethnographic investigation, I critically engage with the conceptual model and argue for the need to study culturally-historically specific nature of social status dynamics; and furthermore, to investigate the psychological processes involved in pedagogical relationships without resorting to pre-defined roles and motivations.

Learning experiences in a Fulbe Guinean society

Author: Ester Botta Somparé (Université Kofi Annan de Guinée)  email

Short Abstract

Based on research on the learning experiences of three generations of Guinean Fulbe, this paper presents elements about transmission of knowledge in family, religious and pastoral education and primary school and explores local perceptions of learning processes and leaner’s mind.

Long Abstract

During a research on education in a pastoral Fulbe society of Guinea, I collected information on learning and teaching in situations such as domestic life, Koranic schools, primary schools and young shepherds' professional socialization. Conversations with the elderly about their learning experiences and field observations, describe long-lasting processes of acquisition of knowledge through the guidance and example of an adult, sharing with the learner daily activities, like domestic work for girls, or cattle-breeding for boys. Besides, interlocutors recall learning situations of extreme emotional intensity,suggesting that an important role is given to feelings and senses in the process of learning, often conceived and remembered as a total experience involving sensations, emotions and intellectual processes. I also collected information on factors motivating young people to learn and on the relationship between teacher and learner, dominated by the quest of teacher's blessings (Baraka). Finally, I will present some adults' representations on children's minds, like the conviction of their extreme permeability, or the idea that external influences of relatives and namesakes may be absorbed and coexist within the child, influencing his personality, inclinations, aptitudes for learning in specific fields. Theoretical references are the works on the notion of person in Africa (Bastide, Dieterlein, 1971), anthropological theories of mind (Luhrmann 2011)and sociology of school experience (Dubet, Martucelli 1996)

Knowledge lost? Indigenous pedagogies, new mobility regimes, and agricultural futures in rural Mexico

Author: Fina Carpena-Mendez (Oregon State University)  email

Short Abstract

This paper examines how Mexican indigenous pedagogies enable the transmission and recreation of agro-ecological knowledge in the context of the spatial and temporal displacements of contemporary youth’s mobile livelihood strategies.

Long Abstract

A constellation of neoliberal policies have worked in synergy to uproot Mexican peasant, indigenous youth from local subsistence economies and to incorporate them into transnational migratory circuits in search of a future in the US. The transnational migration of indigenous farming communities has become a youth process. A common assumption is that rural youth do not have an interest in agriculture and that schooling and transnational migration disrupt the process of intergenerational transmission of agro-ecological knowledge. However, young migrant returnees initiated transnational sustainability projects based on the production of native blue corn for the global neoliberal market of healthy foods, transforming so-called traditional agricultural knowledge into an ethnocommodity (Comaroff and Comaroff 2009). By revisiting Chamoux' work on the existence of a Mesoamerican indigenous pedagogical system (Chamoux 1986) in light of recent theoretical developments on the shared production of knowledge-making between minds, bodies and environments (Ingold 2000, 2011; Marchand 2010), this paper examines processes of knowledge transmission in the context of the spatial and temporal displacements of indigenous youth's mobile livelihood strategies. Youth's experiences of circular migration and work in the opposite extremes of the global food system (as subsistence farmers in their childhood and later in restaurants in the US) have facilitated the re-appropriation of knowledge and re-creation of agricultural practices, processes that in turn hinge on the cognitive introjection cultivated by indigenous pedagogies.

Using ancient legends as a dialogic tool: a pedagogical strategy

Author: Brenda Beck (University of Toronto)  email

Short Abstract

A set of pedagogical experiments will be described and the results related to modern Communication Theory. The paper will stress the importance of Dialogic Process Theory as applied to understanding the potential positive impact of classroom-generated multi-cultural ancient-epic story telling.

Long Abstract

A set of pedagogical experiments will be described and the results related to modern Communication Theory. The paper will stress the importance of Dialogical Processes Theory as applied to understanding the potential positive impact of classroom-generated multi-cultural ancient-epic story telling. Using a very old oral legend from South India a variety of teachers located in India and in Canada have experimented with varied retelling techniques. The story being told encourages listeners to enter into a world where they can imaginatively experiment with living out others' culturally unique or unusual experiences. A playful imagination, in turn, allows space for the plaing with and re-negotiating of personal identities vis-a-vis others. These can be other students listening to the story in the same classroom, or persons located at home or beyond. Such a story can encourage students to absorb and endorse another's perspective if only briefly, during sporadic but powerful dialogic moments. The author will discuss at least four real life examples of how very different teachers have encouraged dialogic learning by using this same epic legend in very different ways and with different age groups. One teacher has been retelling the story in India itself, but at least three more have used it in Canadian classrooms. Using culturally "foreign" stories and a distant time frame seems to help rather than hinder the development of this dialogic process. The entry portals or "story frames" to be discussed will include Migration, Social Justice, Moral Decision Making, Family Evolution and Cultural Empathy.

Pedagogies of prayer: teaching orthodoxy in South India

Author: Vlad Naumescu (Central European University)  email

Short Abstract

How does one grasp the 'mysteries of faith'?

Long Abstract

This paper explores pedagogies of prayer among St. Thomas Christians in South India describing shifts in their epistemic stance and their effect on social learning. More than other religious traditions Orthodoxy is centered on 'mysteries' and the claim that meaning is beyond human grasp. Compared to ritual performance where deference and causal opacity dominate, Sunday school teaching is centered on explanation and text-based learning. Looking at the contexts and types of explanation it provides, I suggest that rather than inviting a form of Socratic learning this exegetical explanation is meant to reproduce the 'mystery' at the core of religious knowledge.

Ritualistic gestures within a native pedagogy: the symbolic learning of Candomblé's initiate

Author: Francesca Bassi (Universidade Federal do Reconcavo da Bahia)  email

Short Abstract

In the ritual context of Candomblé, the transmission of religion is based on gradual awareness of the implicit local theory by stimulating a special inferential model of communication.The neophyte is encouraged to interpret the clues of superhuman agencies and to configure specific ontologies.

Long Abstract

In the ritual context of Candomblé initiation (Salvador de Bahia, Brazil), the transmission of religion is based upon gradual awareness of the implicit local theory (Astuti 2008) by stimulating a special inferential model of communication. Neophytes are instructed to engage in or to avoid actions (prescriptions or prohibitions), however this active teaching is limited. Neophytes, led by seniors initiates, are mostly stimulated to actively interpret the clues of superhuman agencies (Orishas and Odus) and to configure specific ontologies. Therefore, they are encouraged to focus their attention on the efficacy of different elements (for example, food or substances that could cause body reactions) and on relevant events, conceivable as revelations of invisible intentionalities. Inferential reasoning marks their daily lives, which thereby gain a remarkable degree of symbolic resonance. In this paper, I consider ritualistic gestures within a native pedagogy and I aim to determine how embodied practices and ritual behaviour of Candomblé are successful in the transmission of religious symbolic sensitivity (Smith 1979). While ritual often mobilises a cognitive capture and efficacy promotes a behavioural surveillance against dangers (Boyer & Liénard 2006) as a pedagogical device, this kind of symbolic learning would become incommunicable outside and pragmatic conditions of ritual initiation (Severi 2004).

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This panel is closed to new paper proposals.