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Accepted paper:

Transformation in the context of transnational inequality: what's happening in this Amsterdam classroom?


Noortje Luning (African Studies Centre (Leiden University))

Paper long abstract:

This paper explores complex relational processes which reach well beyond the classroom on to a transcontinental level. The findings are based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Amsterdam at a volunteer-based 'academy' for West-African women who had suffered abuse or human trafficking in their travels to Europe. This globalized intercultural classroom, made up of mainly Western volunteers from various countries and their African students, will shed light on relational learning processes that are constituted by unequal relations on a personal as well as on a structural level. Students are selected based on the criterion of human trafficking and/or abuse, among others such as motivation. The students (all women and most of them undocumented), choose to participate in the program voluntarily as it provides them with skills or resources that fit their goals and ambitions. The program is thus constituted by a specific worldview including concepts of (gendered) victimhood, inequality and aid/development, which itself can be understood against the backdrop of international relations as well as intercontinental differences in wealth and security. The academy's organization and volunteers are motivated to help their students "grow and flourish". It becomes clear that this type of education is not only about transference of knowledge, but also encourages a specific type of transformation. How does this play out in the reciprocal (instrumental) relations between students and volunteers? In order to scrutinize the power relations that surface in the co-creation of the learning program and the possibilities and limitations that are available to the students, the concept of governmentality will be used (Swinkels 2017, Foucault 1979/1991). It will be critically examined how the students' agency and subjectivity relate to the rationality of the program, with a special interest for gendered and racialized aspects. The analysis of this learning setting will provide us with a valuable perspective on learning beyond Africa in the context of (transnational) unequal relations and the intercultural meeting in the classroom. Literature: Foucault, M. 1991. Governmentality. In: G. Burchell, C. Gordon & P. Miller (eds). 1991. The Foucault Effect: studies in governmentality. pp. 87-104. Chicago, USA: University of Chicago Press. Foucault, M. 1979. Lecture One: 10 January 1979. In: G. Burchell (ed). 2008. The Birth of Biopolitics: Lectures at the Coll├Ęge de France 1978-1979. pp. 1-25. New York, USA: Picador. Swinkels, C.E. 2017. 'Best of both worlds' or in between both worlds? Unpublished MA thesis at Wageningen University.

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Multiplicity of learning events: the relationality of learning in Africa and beyond