“Embodied Learning: Transformative (De)colonial (Im)possibilities” Panel at 2018 Decolonizing Conference

Panel Title:  Embodied Learning: Transformative (De)colonial (Im)possibilities

Panel Presenters: Stephanie Glick, Sonia Medel, Lucy El Sherif, and Maria Angelica Guerrero

Panel Discussant: André Elias Mazawi

November 9, 2018

This panel of diverse women scholars explores the (de)colonial potential of learning through embodied forms of engagement with self and others, personal and public encounters. Together we attempt to answer the question, what is the transformative potential of ‘languages’ of embodied learning? Proceeding from our lived experiences, research and artivisms, we speak to the transformative power of sense-feeling, dance, and play to stir cultural encounters that prompt (de)colonial forms of sociality and living well together in pluralist societies. We depart from Freiler’s (2008) discussion of embodied learning’s practical implications to deepen the dialogue on how embodied learning “needs to be viewed within a broader movement towards holistic, integrative learning approaches wherein the body is made more visible as a source of knowledge and site from learning through objective and subjective realms of knowing” (p. 44). Notwithstanding, rather than creating a unified or singular narrative on embodied learning, the presentations on this panel offer a purposeful (de)construction of knowing, a chaos of sense and emotion (un)learning, and a ‘writing back’ to dominant colonial, Westerncentric, and patriarchal ways of interpreting. We challenge dominant or entrenched narratives of the body and being through narratives, systems, spaces, and practices; and problematize living well  in terms of its possibilities, limits, and transgressions. In this exploration, we consider environments and relations (human and non-human), and their situated historicity, as an important anchor, not just to unpack coloniality, but also in terms of in-forming new modes of solidarity, politics, and well being. Hence, we hope to enrich the theoretical-methodological possibilities of embodied languages within and outside of academia. (266 words)

Freiler, T. J. (2008). Learning through the body. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education2008. https://doi.org/10.1002/ace.304

Visit https://decolonizingconference.com/ for conference information


Individual Presenters’ Information

Stephanie Glick, University of British Columbia

Bio: Stephanie Glick is an artist, educator, and PhD candidate in Educational Studies. Her research explores society’s complicity and co-creation of systemic violences as well as the possibility of education as a means for societal healing. Stephanie has worked with refugees, cancer survivors and caregivers, women experiencing homelessness, as well as runaway and homeless youth.

Title: Bullets, Bodies and sensations: The embodied memory of gun violence

The goal of this paper is to expand upon embodied epistemologies to counter single-story national narratives about mass gun violence in the United States. Embodied learning regards “the body as a site of learning, usually in connection with other domains of knowing (for example, spiritual, affective, symbolic, cultural, rational)” (Freiler, 2008, p. 39). This presentation maintains a commitment to the body with particular attention to witness testimony. Culhane (2016) writes “‘higher senses’ of sight and sound are closely associated with the mind, and have been historically represented as most fully developed among Western European men. The ‘lower senses’ of smell, taste, and touch have been most closely associated with the body and thoughts, feelings, and actions of Indigenous and other racialized ‘others,’ along with women, children and the ill” (p. 58). This presentation explores the following questions: In what ways can we understand the “senses” beyond western constructions? How are senses gendered, raced, and classed? Whose senses and experiences are centered or denied following incidents of gun violence in the United States? What are the political implications for such actions?  And, how might understanding embodied messages contribute to developing more cohesive societies?

Sonia Medel, University of British Columbia

Bio: Sonia Medel is a Vancouver-based researcher-educator-artivist and UBC Public Scholar completing a PhD in Educational Studies. She is also an Instructor of dance and music for socio-political change within the Latin American Studies Program at Langara College; and Coordinator of Community Partnerships and Indigenous Film from BC and Beyond Programming for the Vancouver Latin American Film Festival (VLAFF). Sonia is grateful to the Coast Salish Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh peoples and lands on which she was born and is able to carry out her work.

Title: Dancing (de)coloniality: A theoretical exploration of embodied possibilities

Abstract: The material presented is grounded in a doctoral project that emerged from personal experiences living and witnessing the power of dance to prompt individual and collective embodied learning and touch on the political manifestations of citizenship; and my growing awareness of how access to particular dance forms reflects the active deployment of social and political boundaries between social groups. The project draws from the belief that dance has the potential for socio-political transformation, but also the colonization of the life-worlds of citizens, particularly of marginalized groups and broadly asks–what is the (de)colonial power of dance and its possibilities for (un)doing intersecting forms of oppression? The main aim of this paper is to explore and begin answering—how do embodied knowledges emerging from racialized women dancers’ praxis and leadership teaching traditional dance forms speak to and against dominant decolonial theory; and most importantly, how does this contribute to the articulation of a philosophy of public policy-making that considers dance engagement and relationships as part of addressing power inequities in Canadian society that perceives itself as multicultural and diverse? (178 words)

 Maria Angélica Guerrero-Quintana, University of British Columbia

Bio: Maria Angélica Guerrero is an artisan weaver, learner and facilitator from Colombia. Graduated as an Anthropologist, currently studying the MA in Educational Studies at UBC. She if part of Corporación Otra Escuela (COE), working on community building, peace education and conflict transformation through a feminist based work using arts, theatre and game-based learning with teachers, community leaders and youth in different regions of Colombia.

Title: Peace pedagogies for non-repetition: The case of Otra Escuela

Abstract: For Corporación Otra Escuela Embodied peace pedagogies that engage emotions through play, art and theatre, can activate change and can be a standing point for non-repetition in the context of post-peace agreement in Colombia. The transformations are produced in the social bonds, emotions and agency in the individual and collective dimension of the participants. This is contributing to the reconstruction of social and community relations damaged during the armed conflict, as well as to transforming the awareness about structural issues. (80 words)

Lucy El-Sherif, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), University of Toronto

Bio: Lucy El-Sherif is an Arab Muslim immigrant to the settler state of Canada. Her Ontario Graduate Scholarship (OGS) funded research examines how Muslim Canadian youth learn citizenship through culture and engage with Indigeneity in the context of a precarious belonging in Canada. Lucy is a PhD candidate at OISE, and serves on the editorial board of Curriculum Inquiry.

Title: Choreographing Palestine

 Abstract: In this paper, I deal with the social, cultural and political history of dabke as a form of cultural production.  What are the ways in which the dance serves as a site at which tensions of race, class, gender, and national identity collide?  In tracing the histories of dabke, I focus on processes that shape cultural production. I examine the ways in which those who organize, direct, choreograph and dance dabke construct a commentary of dabke in diasporic and transnational ways as a living tradition. I identify the conditions of both oppression and resistance that come together in the dance.  Evocative as much of a relationship to land as a relationship to nation, the dance offers a dialectic of belonging. As a form of resistance, dabke is a yearning for, orienting towards, stomping proclamation of Palestine, transgressing boundaries of political belonging and exile. I situate dabke within a larger diasporic and transnational context to position it as a site of embodied learning and identity construction. This paper is part of a larger study that is a critical performance ethnography of dabke on Turtle Island. (184 words)

Panel Discussant: André Elias Mazawi

Bio: André Elias Mazawi serves as professor of educational studies at UBC. His course on documentary films and dialogic education engages questions of coloniality and decolonizing in relation to modes of representation and the possibilities and limits of dialogic education in pluralist societies.