Holyrood or bust!

With 15 minutes to pack in ethnic minority educational solutions to all society’s ills, it felt like an audition.

An intense two days in Edinburgh for the BRAIS conference saw a heady mix of ethnographers, anthropologists, RE teachers, social scientists, philosophers and every phD under the sun presenting a wide range of research within the framework of “Islamic studies.”

Holyrood 3

This included two separate sessions on education, Practice and Theory & Method in the Holyrood Room where I just managed to read out The Student-Centred Classroom or the Self-Centred Student – challenges and opportunities of Cooperative Learning for Muslim learners” under the sinister gaze of a timekeeper armed with cards in aggressive colours. I’ll see if I can get the recording up on werdelin.co.uk later.

While I do intend to honour my commitment to debrief participants of the recent Healing Fractures workshop, I want to note the overlap between this type of classroom discovery made available through managed classroom social constructivism and a recurring theme at the BRAIS conference: the way identity under post-modernism was overtly and covertly tied to epistemology across subjects and research areas. This was more than a red thread – it was the thin red line in the “battle of meaning”, to quote Anna Piela of Leeds Trinity University.

One of the most interesting, and sinister, talks in this regard was Mohammed Elshimi’s Identity, Citizenship, and Security: What is Deradicalisation? which pulled the carpet under the post 9-11 top-down attempts at imposing a dichotomy of Muslim identity (radical-liberal) which leave people feeling threatened, dis-enfranchised and alienated – in an attempt to provide security.

I would like over the coming weeks to break down my notes from this and other interesting sessions and weave them into some of the ideas surrounding the Healing Fractures workshop which map out a way to put identity formation into the curriculum and into the hands of students outside the narrow scope afforded by pre-defined notions of citizenship and/or consumerism, referred to in my presentation.

One of the most telling examples of the gap between people’s personal rationale and the “perception managed” public definitions in which they are enframed, were the quotes from Ms. Tania Saeed’s research on women in the UK wearing the full face-veil, such as: “I feel more empowered, I feel far more confident” and “It’s like a rebirth.”

None of the women in the survey perceived what they were doing as a political statement, but rather as a highly personal journey – as inconceivable and incredible as that may sound to the rest of the world.

But on the battlefield of meaning, just south of the English Channel, legally barring a woman from covering her face is constructed as setting her free.

Time to arm the peasants, Lev Vygotsky.


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