Affirming the negative

Posted in: Comment, New Publications

Michalinos Zembylas, from the Open University of Cyprus, has a chapter in a new book: Affect and the Rise of Rightwing Populism.  This is the summary:

"This chapter seeks to explore how, why and under which conditions a move away from critique as a negative practice towards an—educationally more valuable—affirmative notion of critique is important in formulating pedagogies that might respond more productively to the challenges of the post-truth era. What is at stake here in reframing critique as affirmative practice in addressing post-truths in schools, is the aspiration to create pedagogical spaces that enable teachers and students to turn their attention to care for the world in ways that go beyond the post-truth/negative critique/us-them impasse. The chapter engages with Foucault’s and Butler’s analysis of critique to show how a combined Foucauldian-Butlerian framework reconceptualizes criticality as an affirmative practice. It is suggested that cultivating an affirmative attitude and ethos of critique in the school context constitutes a virtuous practice of self-transformation and a passionate pedagogical goal that educators cannot afford to ignore."

The publishers, meanwhile, say:

"This book uses affect theory to analyze the rise of right-wing populism in recent years and discusses the pedagogical implications for democratic education. It provides examples of how affect and emotion play a crucial role in the rise and reproduction of current right-wing populism. The author suggests ideas about affective pedagogies for educators to use (along with recognizing the risks involved) to renew democratic education. The chapters lay out the importance of harnessing the power of affective experiences and adopting strategic pedagogical approaches to provide affirmative practices that move beyond simply criticizing right-wing populism. The book consequently undermines the power of fascist and right-wing tendencies in public life and educational settings without stooping to methods of indoctrination. This volume is a valuable resource for researchers and policy-makers in education, political science and other related fields, who can utilize the affective complexities involved in combatting right-wing populism to their advantage."

You'll see why it's hasn't shot to the head of my must-get-from-the-local-library list.  Anyway, I wonder what's so wrong with negative critique when it is warranted.  Journal editors would have a much harder role for one thing.  And where would TripAdvisor be?  Or Check-a-trade?  Only affirming the affirmative sounds similar to self-censorship, and isn't there quite enough of that to be going on with?




Posted in: Comment, New Publications


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  • Honestly, I'd like to see more work on this topic. Not sure this is the lens thats going to get us there, but there's really very little out there on this stuff right now. I just submitted a paper on this for peer review and am happy to send you a draft if you're interested.