Widespread social movements for greater equity have precipitated many social, political and legal changes in modern society in areas such as civil rights, women’s rights and LGBTQ rights. Often it is only in retrospect that particular approaches or campaigns can be seen to have been instrumental in achieving specific changes. In real time, social movements for change are messier affairs, usually characterised by combinations of ardent advocacy, debates about goals and approaches, varying degrees of engagement with state, for-profit and other actors, shifting coalitions and conflict. Many of these tensions are evident in current debates about open education and higher education, as well as in wider debates about how to address increasing global inequality, surveillance capitalism, rising authoritarianism and climate change. In this session, we explore the histories of some previous social movements for change, through the lenses of our own positionality and experiences (within and outwith those movements). We reflect on the importance of understanding social and political histories –beyond headlines and hero narratives– for helping us to understand current challenges, as well as where and when it may be appropriate to let go of ideals of community and consensus in favour of the more difficult reality of “careful and caring struggle in a well-lit space” (Cockburn, 1998). We draw also on Belenky et al (1986), whose contribution to epistemology challenged the standard worldview of the way of knowing as singular. Belenky’s concept of silence, from those who feel disconnected from knowledge, is significant; the range of knowing can be expanded to include ‘connected knowers’ who try to understand others’ ideas through acknowledging context and experience.
The spark for this session began with our reflection on a quote from Zadie Smith’s White Teeth: “Every moment happens twice: inside and outside, and they are two different histories.” At first reading, Smith’s quote suggests a binary of the view of each moment that we experience (inside), and the view of the same moment that others have (outside). Moments and others are multiple, however –as are meanings– thus dissolving the binary of inside/outside. Our exploration combines reading and re-reading selected historical accounts of social movements, particularly narrative histories, with reflections on our experiences of change and our personal experiences as women, students, educators, activists and feminists. Before the OER20 Conference we will share our readings and reflections in our respective blogs as well as in a post in the #FemEdTech Open Space. Our intention is twofold: to share selected historical examples and reflections, and to create a “well-lit space” for participants (in the room and virtual) to draw connections from past struggles for social change and possibly to articulate new possibilities, both for their own contexts and for our collective future.
Belenky, M. F. et al. (1986) Women’s Ways of Knowing: The Development of Self, Voice and Mind. New York: Basic Books Inc.
Cockburn, C. (1998) The Space Between Us: Negotiating Gender and National Identities in Conflict. London: Zed Books.
Smith, Z. (2000). White Teeth. London: Hamish Hamilton.
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