Category Archives: Essays and Articles

From the barrel of the gun: Policy incursions, land, and Aboriginal peoples in Australia

Gulson, K. N., & Parkes, R. J. (2010). From the barrel of the gun: Policy incursions, land, and Aboriginal peoples in Australia. Environment and Planning A, 42, 300-313.

This paper focuses on the enduring traces of colonialism within the Australian nation-state and the ongoing challenges to Aboriginal peoples’ rights, especially land rights.We try to make sense of contemporary federal government and New South Wales state, or provincial, government policy changes which connect land use, access and ownership to social welfare, and which target Aboriginal peoples in remote, or outback, areas and the inner city. We connect these two policy initiatives by pointing to the tension between social and planning policies, conceptions of landownership, and the notion of Aboriginal self-determination. We try to understand the rationale and enactment of these policies through the idea of policy incursions. We argue that policy incursions represent a constellation of settler nationalism, the enactment of a white national imaginary, and the exploitation of crisis that reinscribe Aboriginal people in 21st-century Australia as objects of state policy, while marginalising them as subjects of the state.

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In the shadows of the mission: Educational policy, space, and the ‘colonial present’

Gulson, K. N., & Parkes, R. J. (2009). In the shadows of the mission: Educational policy, space, and the ‘colonial present’. Race, Ethnicity and Education, 12(3), 267-280.

This paper is concerned with enduring histories and micro-geographies of the (post)colonial Australian nation, played out through contemporary connections between Aboriginality, inner Sydney and educational policy change. This paper traces the ‘racialization’ of space and place in the Sydney inner city suburb of Redfern, including the Aboriginal-‘owned’ residential area commonly known as the Block; it then outlines aspects of an educational policy change in inner Sydney, specifically the relationship of policy proposals to the positioning of Aboriginal people; and, last, focuses on connecting the notions of Aboriginality and space to educational policy change through Derek Gregory’s idea of the ‘colonial present’. It explores how the idea of the ‘colonial present’ as ‘performance of space’ might help to understand the racialisation of the inner city and education policy discourses. It concludes that the ‘colonial present’ is a way of understanding how the ‘racialisation’ of the inner city and education policy discourses can, on the one hand, ‘reaffirm’ deficit views of Aboriginal people as irredeemably ‘Other’ and as ‘failure’, yet, on the other hand, can however precariously mobilize ‘impure resources’ to undo colonial enclosures.

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Conceptions of social science knowledge: Assessing the impact on pedagogical reform

Griffiths, T. G., Parkes, R. J., Downey, J., Gore, J. M., Ladwig, J. G., & Amosa, W. A. (2008). Conceptions of social science knowledge: Assessing the impact on pedagogical reform. Paper presented at the annual conference of the Australian Association for Research in Education (AARE), Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, 30 November – 4 December.

This analysis is set in the context of Immanuel Wallerstein’s work on the structures of knowledge, in particular the place of the social sciences past and present, and the potential contribution of a more integrated approach (historical social science) to the broader political project of building a more democratic, equal and just world-system. Our analysis finds that knowledge in the social science subjects tended to be treated in only a mildly problematic way, with moderate outcomes in terms of its connection to students’ lives and cultural backgrounds, and its authentic application, despite substantial attention to such characteristics of curriculum content, evident in the evolution of the History curriculum. Further we find that outcomes on these measures are substantially stronger in primary rather than secondary classrooms. We conclude by arguing that social science teachers’ meaningful engagement with the Quality Teaching framework, as part of a significant, system-wide pedagogical reform initiative, is contingent on their re-thinking the nature of their subject knowledge and its treatment in their teaching. Further, we argue that seen through the lens of Wallerstein’s world-systems theorising, this strengthens the case for the type of pedagogical work reported here to support curricular reforms in the social sciences and contribute to students’ complex understandings of their world.

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On the subject of pedagogies

Parkes, R. J. (2000). On the subject of pedagogies. Refereed paper presented at the annual conference of the Australian Association of Research in Education (AARE), University of Sydney, 4-7 November.

This paper represents an on-going attempt to establish a dialogue between educational theories of mind and society. It is part of a continuing project to formulate a critical pedagogy that is comfortable under postmodern conditions. I begin by briefly exploring the ways in which various “radical pedagogues” have attempted to respond to the crisis of postmodernity – the death of certainty about the truth-claims of the curriculum, the nature of students, and authority within the pedagogical relation – arguing that they do not go far enough to satisfy postmodern concerns. I then turn to pedagogies inspired by Vygotsky’s (1934/1987) notion of the Zone of Proximal Development, (including those that cluster around the metaphors of scaffolding/construction, apprenticeship, and performance) and argue that in their reformulation of the pedagogical relation, and their resultant problematisation of knowledge, subjectivity and agency, lies possibilities for a radical postmodern pedagogy. I conclude by addressing Gee, Hull & Lankshear’s (1996) important critique that these pedagogies are aligned with the interests of fast capitalism, and argue that all radical pedagogies are in Foucauldian terms, “dangerous practices”.

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The crisis in pedagogy

Parkes, R. J. (2000). The crisis in pedagogy. In M. O’Loughlin (Ed.). Philosophy of education in the new millennium: Conference Proceedings of the International Network of Philosophers of Education, 7th Biennial Conference, Volume 2: Authors M-Z (pp. 73-87). Sydney, NSW: International Network of Philosophers of Education (INPE) and University of Sydney.

Underlying important critical-theoretical work of the late Russian psychologist, educator and semiotician, Lev Semonovich Vygotsky – including his concept of the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) – was an attempt to address what he perceived to be a crisis in psychology (Kozulin, 1990; Veresov, 1999). In Vygotsky’s (1997) posthumously published paper, “The historical meaning of the crisis in psychology”, he argues that the crisis had arisen as radically different psychologies competed for legitimization as the way forward. In this paper I suggest that as we enter the new millennium there exists another crisis to which a textually resurrected Vygotsky might respond, a crisis in pedagogy. Although I argue it is possible to assert the broad nature of this crisis (see for example Symes, 1997), I do not attempt to do so in this paper, rather I localize it as a crisis in my own pedagogy. It is a crisis of both meaning and practice initiated by an encounter with the leitmotifs of the postmodern, each of which I suggest, reflects some notion of the death of certainty. If indeed the postmodern turn can be said to have brought an uncertainty about the status of our knowledges and disciplines, then mainstream pedagogies that focus on the efficient delivery of pre-packaged content are, in societies (or for pedagogues) experiencing postmodern instabilities, an anachronism. Consequently, in place of definitions of pedagogy as efficient instruction, an encounter with the postmodern encourages us to adopt a description somewhat like McWilliam’s (1997:217), in which pedagogy is depicted “as a troublesome field of bodies, utterances, spaces, and texts”. Having first problematized pedagogy by exploring the leitmotifs of the postmodern that are implicated in my construction of the current crisis in pedagogy, this paper attempts to address this crisis by retheorizing the pedagogical relation itself, drawing on a new reading of Vygotsky’s ZPD, derived from a unique synthesis of poststructural and cultural-historical accounts of the sociogenesis of human development.

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