A Plateau of Desire : nomadic ethnographers performing difference in a pedagogy of 'uncommon' sense

Publication Type:
Thesis
Issue Date:
2010
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NO FULL TEXT AVAILABLE. This thesis contains 3rd party copyright material. ----- This thesis, “A Plateau of Desire”, is situated in a period of globalization where knowledge, information, ideas, economies and technology flow across people and their diverse cultural practices. Caught in the flow are two classes of undergraduate Business students from an Australian university who, in the social contexts of their learning, are often stereotyped and given fixed labels based on their belonging to a particular cultural group. Such labeling occurs within asymmetrical power relations where there tends to be a focus on sameness rather than difference. A Plateau of Desire is an ethnographic study where I am the teacher of the classes involved and the students are “nomadic ethnographers”. We are co-researchers, each with our respective ethnographic projects. In order to investigate their situated understandings of diversity, the students undertake a critical social project using a range of playful visual images as “political probes of difference”. For my critical ethnography, I use video clips to show the unexpected, ambiguous and disruptive connections the students make with difference in critical moments of classroom interaction. The critical moments highlight the students' historical, social and cultural understandings that are enacted in the present along with their future plans, thus opening up opportunities for change. I draw on the theories of Foucault, Deleuze & Guattari and Judith Butler to explore what happens when the students encounter their own and others' understandings of diversity in a space of possibility, where change might or might not occur. Poststructuralist perspectives are also drawn upon to present the effects of power in the students' discursive production of difference. The concept of Deleuzian desire attends to the unexpected, affective overflow that occurs when bodies make connection through interaction. The theory of performativity allows me to explore an understanding of difference as being an iterative and ongoing process that is bodily performed in the 'doing', rather than something that is static and pre-determined. My research reveals that when students interact with their playful visual resources, creative spaces are opened up, hybrid cultural practices can emerge and difference is re-shaped. A Plateau of Desire attempts to show how the students' explorations of diversity have affected their literacy development and it also re-considers the place of affect in teaching and learning.
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