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Rethinking the Pedagogy of Critical Theory

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Organizer: Samir Haddad

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Critical theory sees itself to be at the cutting edge of theoretical innovation in the humanities and the social sciences. With a commitment to questioning what are taken to be fundamental truths, the many movements placed under the critical theory banner – from the early Frankfurt School, feminist theory, structuralism, and poststructuralism, to more recent developments in queer theory, postcolonial and decolonial theory, critical race theory, disability studies, and new materialisms – have consistently engaged new regions of inquiry, and they have been, and continue to be, embraced by young scholars seeking to generate new theoretical insights in their own respective fields.

In addition, in recent years there has begun an important shift in understandings of critical theory’s location. Increasingly, multiple lines of relation between the Global South and North, and between different regions in the South, is fostering a growth in critical theory production and dialogue. Further, the proliferation of social movements informed by, and applying, key critical theory concepts and methodologies, means that the borders of where critical theory happens, and who counts as a critical theorist, are being blurred. In short, critical theory is now becoming more transnational in nature, and can be found equally within and outside the academy.

This seminar seeks to engage these phenomena as they play out in relation to pedagogy. We choose to focus on pedagogy for while the continuing growth of critical theory production and application is in part due to the ways in which critical theorists and others are developing pedagogical techniques, both in formal educational settings and in social movements, the pedagogical dimension of critical theory remains for the most part underthought. All too often, questions of pedagogy are left to one side in critical theory’s relentless pursuit of new insights – pedagogical relations are simply assumed, without being scrutinized, reimagined, or transformed.

How might we rethink and revitalize the pedagogy of critical theory in university classrooms and elsewhere? Does the turn toward inclusive pedagogy in higher education permeate the critical theory classroom? What has been the relation between critical theory and pedagogical innovation in the past? Learning from this history, how might we teach critical theory in new ways?  Can we do so in a manner that is inspired by recent work in the critical theory tradition, particularly in the Global South, incorporating this work not only into the content of what we teach – the readings we assign, the topics we set for our students – but in the very form of our teaching? And in what ways can turning our attention to pedagogy lead to the development of new ideas and methodologies in the critical theory canon, perhaps even transforming the meaning of critical theory itself? These are some of the questions this seminar seeks to answer.

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