As I mentioned in class last week, my research project will be focusing on asserting the importance of considering classrooms, schools, and universities themselves as commodified spaces and places (ambiences as Rickert might call them) when discussing postpedagogical theories (which Paul Lynch will discuss in our reading next week). In thinking along these lines, I was particularly struck by Elizabeth Ellsworth’s introduction to her aim in Places of Learning. As she claims in setting up her argument, “Bodies have affective somatic responses as they inhabit a pedagogy’s time and space… Because this experience arises out of an assemblage of mind/brain/body with the time and space of pedagogy, we must approach an investigation into the experience of learning self through that assemblage” (4-5). I agree emphatically with this claim. The assemblage in which the institutionalized experience of learning occurs, as a paid for privilege or commodity (whether via taxes or tuition), is a space that indeed is in need of deeper inquiry. However, she finds that “The pedagogical anomalies that form the impetus for this book are difficult to see as pedagogy only when we view them from the ‘center’ of dominant educational discourses and practices—a position that takes knowledge to be a thing already made and learning to be an experience already known” (5). I find, though, perhaps it is difficult to see her approach to learning as “pedagogy” in an institutional sense, but not in a philosophical one. As we have discussed in class, the institutionalized learning environment cannot hope to insight “enlightenment” or an awakened citizenry, due to its complexly hypocritical emplacement within the existing networks of power. Instead, as Rickert asserts in his Acts of Enjoyment, we can only hope to inspire an Act, or a gesture that seeks to change the very foundation for the existing discourses. Instead, I find it is easier to see Ellsworth’s notion of Learning as inspired by an autodidactic approach to learning. It strives to inspire the student who sees all places as a space for learning, regardless of the context or the presence of a grading eye. An awareness of this position re-acknowledges the cynicism-inducing impact of the ambiences of institutionalized-learning while also acknowledging the theoretical power that a place-oriented theory to learning, such as Ellsworth’s, can provide.
As a concluding question: can we, rather than seeking to enlighten in our pedagogies, strive to inspire autodidacticism from within our problematic position as educators?