Space for a Change? An Exploration of Power, Privilege and Transformative Pedagogy in a Gap Year Education Programme in South America

Dalby, Tom. P. (2017) Space for a Change? An Exploration of Power, Privilege and Transformative Pedagogy in a Gap Year Education Programme in South America. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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This thesis is situated in the context of a gap-year education programme operated in Bolivia and Peru by a US-based organisation. Inspired by Paolo Freire’s social-emancipatory educational ethos, the organisation transposes his Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1970) from literacy programmes for Brazilian peasants to a very different context: into attempts to transform privileged 18 to 21-year-olds from the “developed” world into critical global citizens, ready to challenge social injustices after three months in “developing” countries. This Freirean sentiment is unusual in the gap year industry, as well as in the academic literature on transformative learning which has emphasised personal transformation, overlooking social change and power relations. My thesis addresses this oversight, engaging with the concept of power as an ‘invisible’, symbolic network of social boundaries that defines ‘fields of possibility’ (Hayward, 1998), shaping what happens during the programme.

Much research into transformative educational experiences focuses on the learning outcomes of self-identified transformed learners, based on self-reported data collected retrospectively. By contrast, this thesis is based on a critical ethnographic case study focusing on pedagogic process. Analysing data from participant observation, discussions, interviews, and students’ learning journals, I hone in on the micro-level functions of power, space, and place in shaping not only what is taught and learned during the BB programme, but also how, where and why this happens. Suspended in the tension between Bourdieu’s theory of social and cultural reproduction (1990) and Curry-Stevens’ post-Freirean ‘Pedagogy for the Privileged’ (2007), I principally use Bernstein’s notion of ‘pedagogic device’ (2000) to analyse how programme Instructors counter-intentionally facilitated socially reproductive, rather than transformative, learning.

I argue that the programme reproduces social inequalities by enabling privileged people to accumulate a specific form of ‘cultural capital’ (Bourdieu, 1977) – cross-cultural transformation capital (CCTC). This is gathered by gaining supposedly “authentic” knowledge through “real” experiences with “the Other” in culturally “pure” spaces, accessible only to “travellers” and uncontaminated by “tourists”. I show how this creates patterns of pedagogic segregation whereby specific types of pedagogic space produce specific types of knowledge. However, paradoxically, I also describe sporadic, unpredictable pockets of transformative learning in which students engage critically with their privileged positioning in asymmetric power structures. I thus contend that (socially) transformative pedagogic space is constituted in complex, contradictory ways, but also by pedagogy that must connect personal and social change. I conclude that greater attention to power and space is critical to transformative pedagogic theory and practice which can be framed and conceptualised in spatial terms, as the crossing and reconfiguring of boundaries.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Social Sciences > School of International Development
Depositing User: Bruce Beckett
Date Deposited: 23 Jul 2018 15:21
Last Modified: 23 Jul 2018 15:21

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