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The Cassiopeia score and other matters; power, pedagogy, and the imparting of knowledge
revelations, reflections, confessions; post-symposium update
Months Bleed into New Months
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Hot Stones Notwithstanding
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Potential for Relationship, Subversion and Emergence
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Teaching Form[less]?
Questioning it all?
After a few months of ephemerality…
Failing Successfully!
Her sweet boredom…
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The Cassiopeia score and other matters; power, pedagogy, and the imparting of knowledge

Dear Member of the IDOCDE Community,

When I first moved to Sweden, Sweden faced a general election. The left-leaning populus (latin for folk) was shocked then by the far-right party’s (the Sweden Democrats) success in scoring 13% of the vote. My friends, whose faces were–for months following the election–drained of colour, informed me it’s been years since the far right was payed any serious attention to. This September, as we’re facing another general election–the results of which will be out by the time this Editorial is published–the Sweden Democrats is, according to some polls, looking at being the second largest single party represented in the newly formed parliament. The good news is that the other two parties that are looking to create a bloc majority (the Social Democrats and the Moderates) have ruled out working with the party in question (the Sweden Democrats), as the party has its roots in the neo-Nazi movement.

One of the reasons the Sweden Democrats’ success is alarming though hardly surprising is due to their strict anti-immigration policy, which has been at the forefront of their campaign. The anti-immigration policies have been getting more and more support across the western world in the last couple of years. And to a discouraging effect. Just this July, my mother and I were taken off the highway after we’ve crossed the border from Serbia–where we were visiting my sister–into Croatia. After inspecting our vehicle and documents, the police officer was kind enough to answer our questions. Why are you inspecting all passengers entering the country? Their answer was short. Illegal immigration. Croatia’s borders are, after all, not only her own. Croatia’s east and south borders are of the European Union.

What I find incomprehensible is the degree of certainty with which those who support far right causes tend to speak. Their confidence and single mindedness boggles my imagination. How often do you see a far right supporter polemicising, engaging the public in their thinking process, critically reflecting and patiently debating? How often do you see a far right supporter engaging in dialogue, joining a cause other than their own, thinking of others–in that respect? Such practices are perhaps currently reserved for the feminists and the queers and the artists and the educators. I don’t think such practices should be reserved for those segments of society that are already looked down upon, that are already power-less. I think such practices should be present in the public space and insisted upon every hour of every day. Mercilessly.


The following reflective discussion on power, pedagogy, and the imparting of knowledge is brought to you by Defne Erdur, Nicolas Hubert, and pavleheidler.

To bring this discussion about, we used The Cassiopeia score, which was developed during the MTD Residency by Defne Erdur, Patrick Faurot, Viktorija Ilioska, Deirdre Morris, and Melina Seldes. The score was originally proposed by Viktorija Illioska as an answer/response/reflection to her teammates’ propositions. The score follows the interview format: an answer follows a question, a question follows an answer; whilst placing always the next person in place of the following action. And so pavle asks the initiating question, Nicolas follows with his answers, then Defne follows with a question, based on Nicolas’s answer, that pavle answers etc.

We hope you enjoy the read!

 

***

pavle’s question to Nicolas:

In one of the meetings following the Symposium, you said something about this being the first time you felt shy (was it shy that you said?) when you were supposed to be mentoring; please correct me if I’m wrongly remembering what it is that you said. (“This” being the workshop leading up to the Symposium, where members of the Mind the Dance Research Group worked with Symposium participants on what became the content of the Symposium.) My first question to you is the following: What of how you’ve experienced the people in the room during the residency week made you feel (shy) or maybe, and in other words, made you second-guess your competence? (I’m clearly speculating here.) I ask this question in the attempt to have us engage in a discussion about the emotional labour that is a part of the work of the educator, the mentor, or simply a fellow professional collaborator. I would like to talk about how being in charge does not only depend on one being confident enough to accept the responsibility that comes with the job description, but how being in charge can exactly challenge one's sense of confidence and competence. (Why does that happen? How do we make sense of these things? What does making sense of these things make possible in our line of work?)


Nicolas’ answer to pavle:

I’m not sure about the word I used, but I think it was « uncomfortable », rather than shy. Actually this uncomfortable feeling I mentioned was about the imaginary that goes with the word « mentor », that maybe refers in my mind to academism, and that sounds like a one-way teaching process. For the same reason I expressed the past year my uncomfort with the word masterclass, because of the word master contained in it (maybe I feel more “comfortable” with the concept of ignorant master from the french philosopher Jacques Rancière).
As I like the idea of teaching what I search rather than what I know, I probably avoid situations of being considered or so-called mentor or master.

But (to try to respond to your question), as soon as I was in the room with my collaborators, I did not feel any more « uncomfortable », because I started collaborating with others, in a creative process, with questions, doubts, intuitions… from both sides. And then, mentoring or not was not any more a question for me.

Your words about « being confident enough / challenge one’s sense of confidence » make sense to me, cause it recalls the difference between a posture and a position in progress, in process, in motion, on a path, in movement…


Defne’s Question to pavle based on Nicolas’ answer:

Is there anything that you think, feel, sense “you mastered”? If so, would you be willing to “teach” that thing to others?


pavle’s response:

What is not entirely clear to me, in life in general, is how I am to measure success; which I think I’d need to be able to do in order to answer the question I am being asked. To give an example: I found myself in several situations during the weekend of the Symposium having to execute intricate socio-political maneuvers at small scale (less than three people involved) and large scale (a room full of people involved). On one such occasion, I used my position to abruptly change the direction of a very hefty conversation (at the time, it felt as if I were responsible for turning the TITANIC away from the iceberg––a highly dangerous and debateable endeavour in every respect). The circumstances in which I found myself at the time asked me to think and act fast, which means I had almost no time to prepare for what I thought ought to be an elegantly, conscientiously, and articulately executed intervention––the stakes were as high as they can get these days.

Now, whenever I get involved with having to execute a maneuver of such proportions, my own impression––following the execution––of what and how I did what I did is only valuable insofar as it can be compared to the impressions of other people who’ve witnessed the maneuver from a vantage point other than mine; i.e. is only valuable insofar as it can be compared to the impressions of people who were at the receiving end of the maneuver I executed. It is this comparison that is the most interesting part of the process for me. This comparison is also where I think my work begins, instead of ends. If I’ve mastered anything this summer, that is to be able to recognise the principle I am describing here––that my work begins after the execution of a maneuver––in real time.

What this means practically is that following the execution of the maneuver is not where one relaxes, because something was solved. On the contrary, following the execution of the maneuver is when one is at their most alert, ready to study the consequences of their action. This work asks one to have energy to focus, to listen, to engage in conversations, to care, at the time one is usually ready to transition from work mode into celebratory, rest mode.

 

To Defne, from Nico:

Do you assume (and if yes, how ?) to « take the power » in your teaching process, and (in resonance with Pavle’s experience and reflection), can you measure in time (or, to think less linear, in the path of the process) the consequences of this « empowerment » ?


Defne’s response:

I live this as an ongoing process : taking and letting go of power. Never ending evaluation, never arriving to a state, being always at work. I find “teaching” a bit tricky in this sense. Knowledge is power. However I personally feel more powerful when I am able to say “I do not really know, and I am here to discover, learn about, go deeper in the inquiry” together with the participants of the learning environment. Honestly. I feel somehow empowered to fail, and also observe this is resonating with the participants. And for me it is so important that each and every one of us feels empowered. And this is a many layered subject. Maybe for an another editorial…

However this approach still does not free me of the “position” I am given - the teacher. I’d like to use the term facilitator, however it is still a position. And in years, I have come to make peace with this position. I am given the authority to at least choose the theme, the tools to play with... And yes, I do share “knowledge”. However I am at work of disempowering (if I may say) myself in these moments as well. I am obsessed with referencing. Paying homage to the resource of the information, exercise or idea that I am sharing at any given moment. Showing that “I” am not the owner of that specific info but a temporary holder. And even in referencing to others, I like to emphasize the collective aspect of knowledge production. Difficult. Complicated. Distracting at times. But yes, it is work and I am happy to be at work -- hoping that I am not diverting too much attention from the inquiry of the class by being at work at this meta level.

Going back to the initial “position” of the “teacher/facilitator” of the learning environment. I think it is fine. As the facilitator I bring an outline, I bring in tools and ideas, and even quite structured exercises at times… This allows the participants to have a frame, to have boundaries that they can be in but also be confronted with, be able to bounce from; learn about their capacity, interest, boundaries etc. As long as I am aware of the power that I am given/I am taking and I am not using it to the harm of others (I have witnessed dance teachers doing this and really hurting physically and emotionally their students), and as long as I am willing to let go of it at any moment in the learning environment, I feel light-hearted about it.

Measuring the consequences of all this? I think that really requires long term study. I would love to dive into such work.

 

***

In conclusion, a poem.

Your thoughts matter. Your actions matter. Every bit as much as the next person’s
For each weaves
the fabric of the world.


Team IDOCDE wishes you everything you need to manage your seasonal transition into the new academic year!


Until next month,
pavleheidler for Team IDOCDE
September 7, 2018