Category Archives: Publications

Teaching history as hermeneutics

Parkes, R. J. (2007). Teaching history as hermeneutics: Critically and pedagogically engaging narrative diversity in the curriculum. Paper presented at the biennial conference of the Australian Curriculum Studies Association (ACSA), Melbourne, 8-10 July.

In recent years, a federal government dedicated to using curriculum as a vehicle of social cohesion and cultural reproduction, has questioned the apparently ‘postmodern’ and ‘relativist’ History curriculum reform efforts of the 1990s that occurred in New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland. Arguing for a “root and branch renewal” of Australian history, the federal government has asserted that the nation’s past was rewritten, during the decades prior to the Howard government, “in the service of a partisan political cause” (Bishop, 2006). In polemic fashion, contemporary conservative politicians and social commentators regularly collapse important distinctions between multiculturalism, pluralism, political correctness, and postmodernism, preferring to read all forms of contemporary social theory and practice as confusing and ideologically-loaded, while their own grand narratives are proposed as ‘common-sense’. In this paper, drawing upon important recent work in historiography, I rethink the ‘problem’ of narrative diversity in the curriculum. Arguing that relativism is not the inevitable conclusion of teaching rival historical narratives, I propose a hermeneutic approach to the teaching of history that by providing a curricular space for ‘critical pluralism’ pedagogically engages narrative diversity.

A more developed version of the argument was published in 2009.

Parkes, R. J. (2009).Teaching History as historiography: Engaging narrative diversity in the curriculum. International Journal of Historical Learning, Teaching and Research, 8(2), 118-132.

Click on the journal cover image to locate a copy of the more developed article.

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School History as post-colonial text

Parkes, R. J. (2006). School History as postcolonial text: The on-going struggle for histories in the New South Wales curriculum. Paper presented at the Second World Curriculum Studies Conference, Tampere, Finland, 21-24 May.

This paper is concerned with theorizing a curricular response to what has become known in Australia as the ‘history wars’ (Macintyre & Clark, 2003). The central debate in the history wars is over the representation of the colonization of Australia. What is at stake in these history wars is not only national identity (Halse & Harris, 2004), but also our conceivable future, because as Bennett (1995) has argued, “more than history is at stake in how the past is represented. The shape of the thinkable future depends on how the past is portrayed and on how its relations to the present are depicted” (p. 162). History curriculum, as “a disciplining technology that directs how the individual is to act, feel, talk, and ‘see’ the world and ‘self’” (Popkewitz, 2001, p. 153), serves a function in the history wars by operating as an apparatus for the social re/production of national identities, through linking “the development of the individual to the images and narratives of nationhood” (Popkewitz, Franklin, & Pereyra, 2001). Consequently, the importance of school history as a battlefield in these ‘history wars’ should not be underestimated (Clark, 2003). This study reserves as a context for its deliberations and ruminations, history curriculum in the state of New South Wales (NSW). The NSW context does more than simply anchor the discussion; it works as a case through which deliberations, in terms of the problematic, are rendered meaningful, and purposeful. Its significance is in the global trends that it reflects, and its possibility to speak to those trends it terms of a reconceptualized History curriculum. I argue that what has remained uncontested in the struggle for histories, has been the representational practices of history itself, and that addressing this null curriculum has significance for school History as postcolonial text and critical pedagogic practice.

A more developed version of the argument can be found in a paper published in the journal “Curriculum Inquiry” in 2007.

Parkes, R. J. (2007). Reading History curriculum as postcolonial text: Towards a curricular response to the history wars in Australia and beyond. Curriculum Inquiry, 37(4), 383-400.

Please click on the journal cover image to locate a copy of the published paper.

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Discipline and the dojo

Parkes, R. J. (2009). Discipline and the dojo. Paper presented in the ‘Complicating understandings of discipline’ symposium at the annual conference of the Australian Association for Research in Education (AARE), Canberra (ACT),
November 29 – December 3.

“You must be very disciplined?” is a question I’ve been asked many times, almost the instant after I’ve revealed my twenty years of involvement in the martial arts. It rehearses a popular perception of the martial arts, and is frequently the motivation of many a parent who has brought their child to a dojo in order to “become more disciplined”. This paper is concerned with the productive nature of discipline. That is, with what discipline produces. I use the martial arts as a case study to explore theoretically and empirically Foucault’s (1977; 1982/1994) claim regarding the productive nature of power and discipline, particularly because it so frequently is depicted as a site of ‘serious’ discipline. Informed by the later Foucault, I explore both the constraining and enabling effects of discipline as it manifests in and through the martial arts; and consequently I investigate the way discipline is central to the act of becoming in the dojo. This is not performed in some celebration of martial arts. Rather, I am interested in using the martial arts as a case study to understand the complex ways in which discipline, desire, and power circulate and interact to produce particular kinds of subjects. That is to say, I will argue that there is not one set of ‘disciplinary’ practices (Foucault, 1977) that is constraining, and another set that is enabling. Instead, I hope to make the case that all disciplinary constraints are precisely enabling forces that operate on and through the individual martial artist as a means of self-formation; and that participation in a disciplinary regime or process results in the ‘production’ of a particular kind of person, individual, or martial artist.

The above conference paper was an abridged version of the argument published in the edited collection below:

Parkes, R. J. (2010). Discipline and the dojo. In Z. Millei, T. G. Griffiths, and R. J. Parkes (Eds.), Re-theorizing discipline in education: Problems, politics and possibilities (pp. 76-90). New York: Peter Lang.

Click on the book cover image to locate a copy of the chapter.

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Interrupting History

Parkes, R. J. (2011). Interrupting history: Rethinking history curriculum after ‘the end of history’. New York: Peter Lang.

Interrupting History Book CoverSince the emergence of postmodern social theory, history has been haunted by predictions of its imminent end. Postmodernism has been accused of making historical research and writing untenable, encouraging the proliferation of revisionist histories, providing fertile ground for historical denial, and promoting the adoption of a mournful view of the past. This provocative book re-examines the nature of the alleged ‘threat’ to history posed by postmodernism, and explores the implications of postmodern social theory for history as curriculum. Interrupting History will be of interest to curricularists and critical pedagogues around the globe, and to history educators at all levels of education. Making an important contribution to the struggle for critical and effective histories, it is a must-read text for those studying or teaching history today.


Counterpoints: Studies in the Postmodern Theory of Education Series (No. 404)
General Editor: Shirley Steinberg

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Re-Theorizing Discipline in Education

Millei, Z., Griffiths, T. G., & Parkes, R. J. (Eds.). (2010). Re-Theorising Discipline in Education: Problems, Politics, & Possibilities. New York: Peter Lang.

Re-Theorizing Discipline in Education Book CoverFor over a century, teachers, parents, and school leaders have lamented a loss of discipline in classrooms. Caught between guidance approaches on the one hand and a call for zero tolerance on the other, current debates rarely venture beyond the terrain of implementation strategies. This book aims to reinvigorate thinking on discipline in education by challenging the notions, foundations, and paradigms that underpin its use in policy and practice. It confronts the understanding of discipline as purely repressive, and raises the possibility of enabling forms and conceptualizations of discipline that challenge tokenistic avenues for students liberation and enhance students capacity for agency. This book is an essential resource for university lecturers, pre-service and in-service teachers, policymakers, and educational administrators who want to re-think discipline in education in ways that move beyond a concern with managing disorder, to generate alternative understandings.

My individual contribution to this book, a chapter titled “Discipline and the Dojo”, explored the complex relationship between discipline, desire, and self-formation in the context of the martial arts dojo.

Complicated Conversation: A Book Series in Curriculum Studies (No. 34)
General Editor: William F. Pinar