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Places, spaces and boundaries: A critical look at the relational in geography classrooms

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A Preceedings prepared for e 20th Charney Primary Geography Conference 2017
Reections on Primary
Geography
Conference participants’ perspectives on
aspects of primary geography
Edited by Simon Catling
THE REGISTER OF RESEARCH IN PRIMARY GEOGRAPHY
© e Authors, 2017
Reproduction, storage, adaptation or translation, in any form or by any
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sion, providing full acknowledgement is given.
Reections on Primary Geography was published for the 20th Charney
Primary Geography Conference, held at the Charney Manor Conference
Centre, Charney Bassett, Oxfordshire, UK, from February 24th to 26th,
2017.
ISBN 978-0-9538154-5-6
First published 2017 by the Register of Research in Primary Geography
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of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988.
Published by the Register of Research in Primary Geography
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Edited by Simon Catling
Book Design by Nick Clarke
Front Cover Photograph by Richard Greenwood.
Back Cover Wordle by Sandra Austin.
Printed by CMP Bbookprinting .
Contents
Acknowledgements ix
Dedication xi
Reections: An Introduction and an Auto(geo)biography
simon catling xiii
e Charney Eect
Making sense of Charney Part 1: A letter to Charney
jeremy krause 3
Putting the meanders back into learning: Reections on contexts, inuences and provocations
from Charney Manor Conferences 1999-2016
paula owens 7
e Charney factor – e Charney Conferences and primary geography in the Republic of Ireland
susan pike 14
e Charney Manor Conferences in Japanese geography education research
takashi shimura 17
Personal Geographical Perspectives
‘You can take the boy out of Yorkshire . . . ’ – Memories of a northern primary education
and suggestions for using technology to explore the local area
alan parkinson 23
A journey through time
tina horler 26
From Charney to President
steve rawlinson 28
So near and yet so far
jon cannell 37
reflections on primary geography
vi
Reections on a career in primary initial teacher education
greg cracknell 39
Geography in Primary Schooling
en and now . . . or connecting with Gertrude
paul gwilliam 47
Where are we now, and how did we get here?
margaret mackintosh 52
Representations of primary geography in Teaching Geography from 1975 to 1989
melanie norman 58
Equality of access to a primary geography education within a self-improving school
system in England
simon asquith 65
Geeky and boring, or real and relevant? Reections on the image of geography in
primary schools
emma till 68
Reections on primary geography – Where are we now and how do we nd our way in
the future?
chris trevor 70
Developments in primary geography teaching in independent Prep schools
paul baker 77
Characteristics of primary geography in Japan
kazuyoshi yoshida 82
Primary and secondary geography: Common ground and some shared dilemmas
mary biddulph 85
Geography and children’s well-being – A personal reection
julia tanner 89
A reection on the schemes of work in geography – Why, how, what and when?
paula richardson 94
e changing face of technology in primary schools and the impact on geography
kate russell 97
e ‘joys’ of independence: e responsibility of geography teaching and curriculum making
in a Preparatory school
assunta spina 101
Perspectives on geography subject leadership in primary schools 1970-2016
john halocha 104
contents
vii
Teaching and Learning Primary Geography
‘Is not the King’s name twenty thousand names?’ Why geographical language sticks
philip maudsley 111
A new potential for maps in the classroom?
emily rotchell 113
Speaking geographically: e importance of talking about and through primary geography
anne dolan 115
Young children’s ideas of dierent nations, peoples and cultures: A research perspective
stephen scoffham 121
Overcome borders – An integrated subject approach for teaching science and social science
in primary school
daniela schmeinck 128
What makes intercultural study visits meaningful? A look at the pedagogy of study visit
experiences
imogen sahi 132
Places, spaces and boundaries: A critical look at the relational in geography classrooms
fran martin & fatima pirbhai-illich 140
Without walls
stephen pickering 147
Changing perspectives on eldwork
rachel bowles 151
Taking the fear out of eldwork
lindsay west 157
Fostering geographical wisdom in eldwork spaces – Discovery eldwork, paying close
attention through sensory experience and slow pedagogy
sharon witt 159
Primary Geography Teacher Education
What do people remember and what do teachers assume about primary geography in Ireland?
shelagh waddington 167
Becoming a geography teacher in a primary school: Reections on the value of HEIs in ITE
clare brooks 171
Developing primary student teachers’ pedagogical content knowledge for the subject of
geography in the Netherlands: Challenges and constraints
marian blankman 174
Pre-service primary geography: Everyday geography and geographical thinking
simon catling 178
viii
reflections on primary geography
Local ways into ESD: Wonder-ful thinking at the dump
anthony barlow 185
Teaching primary student teachers about development issues: Avoiding stereotypes and
prejudice
richard greenwood 194
Finding my place within primary geography education: Exploring a transitional moment
in my professional identity
joe usher 198
Finding my place: Reecting on new beginnings as a geography educator
sandra austin 202
Returning to Charney
Making sense of Charney Part 2: Sense of place – A reection
jeremy krause 209
Charney 2125: Moribund or vital?
tessa willy 213
Twenty conferences on! A reection on the Charney Manor Primary
Geography Conferences 1995-2017
simon catling 216
140
Fran has been going to the Charney Manor Primary Geogra-
phy Research conference since 1997. It has been a privilege to
be part of the growth of scholarship in this community. Other
chapters in this publication will testify to the breadth of inter-
ests and the directions research and practice have taken over the
last two decades, and the contributions these have made to the
nature of primary geography that evokes a conceptually rich way
of being in and knowing the world founded on children’s lived
experiences. Primary geography has a strong sense of character
and purpose that is not solely a preparation for ‘real’ geography
in secondary schools, and can withstand the vagaries of policy
and curriculum change.
And yet, it is surprising that the lens geography brings to mak-
ing sense of the world has not been applied to the classroom as
a place, and the spaces and boundaries that are created through
the social interactions that provide the context within which
primary geography is enacted. e classroom represents the key
site of education for pupils in the west and, as statistical evi-
dence shows, it serves some pupils better than others and the
gap between the achievements of mainstream and minoritized/
marginalized pupils is a persistent concern. In this chapter we
use the concepts of place, space and boundaries to examine the
social relationships in classrooms and the ways in which particu-
lar discourses create educational spaces that reproduce inequali-
ties rather than challenge them. While our argument applies to
all areas of the curriculum, we conclude the chapter by consider-
ing the implications for primary geography.
Background
Drawing on ndings of a research project conducted between
2009-2013 (Martin & Griths, 2014), Fran argued that
while subject knowledge is often cited as an issue for primary teach-
ers, it is not only what teachers know that is an issue, but the episte-
mological basis for that knowledge that also needs to be considered.
Drawing on the data, it is proposed that an object-based tradition fo-
cuses on assigning people and cultures to categories, identifying what
is similar between people, and often unwittingly creating a standard
from which dierence is judged to be a deviation.
(Martin, 2013, 411).
e article went on to argue that ‘in addition to object-based
thinking, there is a need for relational thinking, in which dif-
ference is understood as a relation, rather than a distinction’
(411). e focus of the article was on epistemological traditions
which lead to alternative logics from which the world is under-
stood and acted in dierently. e relation discussed was that
of teachers and pupils to curriculum content and unwittingly
therefore created a subject-object discourse which postcolonial
and other critical theorists critique. Fatima, a critical pedagogue
(Freire, 1970), in her work on culturally responsive pedagogies
proposes an understanding of the relational that is subject-sub-
ject, that is a social relation between teachers and learners whose
relationships are argued to be intercultural and laden with power
(Pirbhai-Illich, 2013).
A critical, intercultural dialogue took place between us about
our respective work, including a re-reading of Fran’s earlier work,
which led to a publication (Martin & Pirbhai-Illich, 2016) in
which we concluded:
As critical educators, we . . . call for alternative approaches . . . [in
which] teachers and teacher educators become aware of, and explic-
itly acknowledge, the loci of their enunciation and use this as a start-
ing point for being and doing ‘otherwise’. For us, this deep attention
to the subjectivity of self requires a decolonising pedagogy, in which
teachers and learners come into dialogue over dierences. In this we
are linking the concept of ird Space to the intercultural space, where
education settings should be perceived as spaces of critical relation-
ality, where teachers and students collaborate and engage with each
other, where they have an orientation of ‘being with’, where binar y
lines of teacher–student are blurred and roles re-inscribed.
(Martin & Pirbhai-Illich, 2016, 369).
In January-March 2015 we applied this to a research project in
Canada that focused on the nature of the subject-subject rela-
tion in the context of a university Culturally Responsive Literacy
Education course. e ndings of the project have been reported
elsewhere (Pirbhai-Illich & Martin, 2015; Pirbhai-Illich et. al.,
forthcoming); in this chapter and informed by the ndings of
this project, we propose a way of theorizing about the teacher-
student relation that we argue is not only applicable but also es-
sential to teaching and learning of geography in primary class-
rooms.
Our focus
[I]t is true to say that the world is certainly not postcolonial, neither
has geography been transformed into a postcolonial discipline. As re-
cent debates on CGF [the Critical Geography Forum] have suggested,
geography (at least in Britain) remains overwhelmingly white, euro-
centric and, in some cases, colonial in terms of its practitioners and
the subject of its inquiry. (McEwan, 1998, 1).
Cheryl McEwan was writing about the discipline in Higher Edu-
cation, but her observation equally applies to the world and to
teachers of school geography almost twenty years later. Her com-
ment strikes at the heart of the issue that we wish to focus on,
that teachers of geography are not neutral; they do not come
from ‘no-where’. Not only are teachers socialised into ways of
being and knowing through their location in time and place, but
also these ways of being nd expression in their actions in the
Places, spaces and boundaries: A critical look at the
relational in geography classrooms
Fran Martin and Fatima Pirbhai-Illich
fran martin and fatima pirbhai-illich | places, spaces and boundaries
141
classroom and in the relationship between teacher-pupil-curric-
ulum.
In Figure 1 the concentric circles represent the broad knowl-
edge bases that inform the teacher-pupil relationship. On the
left the teacher is also a learner, but the teacher role will pre-
dominate; on the right the pupil is also a teacher, but the learner
role will predominate. ese roles will be inuenced by the two
broad knowledge bases of School/Curriculum and Home/Com-
munity. Our own research into beginning teachers’ professional
development has shown that when thinking about knowledge
for teaching, teachers focus on school/curriculum knowledge
and minimise the importance or relevance of their students’
everyday, home/community knowledge (Pirbhai-Illich, 2013;
Catling & Martin, 2011). In contrast, students bring these vast
Funds of Knowledge (Gonzalez et. al., 2005) but, because these
knowledges are undervalued by teachers, they are often not uti-
lised to any benecial eect. Figure 1 therefore represents the
teacher-pupil relationship as an intercultural interaction which
takes place in the space between the cultures of teacher and pu-
pils. It shows that the relationship between teacher and pupil is
at the centre of a pedagogy of relation, and that this relationship
cannot be viewed or understood separately from the cultural
contexts within which teachers and pupils operate and the space
of relation that is consequently opened up. To theorize the space
between cultures, we turn to work on irdspace by Soja (1996)
and ‘ird Space’ by Bhabha (1994) in their respective elds of
geography and cultural studies.
e intercultural as a third space
Soja envisions thirdspace to be that which is lived space; rst-
space is the mapping of a place (the geographical location of a
school in an area, a classroom within a school); secondspace is
the conceptualization of rstspace (schools and classrooms are
places for education); and thirdspace is the lived experience of
that place (where adults and children come together to teach and
learn). Bhabha envisions third space to be an in-between space,
or a hybrid space; it has the ‘advantage of in-betweeness, the
straddling of two cultures and the consequent ability to negoti-
ate the dierence.’ (Hoogvelt, 1997, 158) with the possibility of
a third, new way emerging that does not negate the dierences.
Ikas and Wagner (2009) argue that the promise of the third space
is its ability to imagine an identity or subjectivity, even a culture,
that does not succumb to an either/or logic, but rather embraces
the simultaneity of the also/and. Bringing the two together, we
have classrooms as places which take on meaning through the
lived relation of teachers and pupils these are spaces of edu-
cational relation and, depending on the nature of that relation,
they may be autocratic, democratic, authoritarian, paternalistic,
and so on. When combined with the intersections of dimensions
of culture (e.g. adulthood, childhood, gender, ethnicity, family,
religion, race, ability, socio-economic status), the nature of the
relation will reect how these dierences are perceived, under-
stood and negotiated. It is to the relation between place, space
and boundaries on the one hand, and cultural similarity and dif-
ferences on the other, that we now turn.
Spatial thinking and cultural dierence
ere has been a tendency in geography to move away from
boundaried places (regions, territories) to a focus on the spac-
es for social action and inter-action that places aord (Massey,
2005). is move has been in response to the essentialist dis-
courses associated with the hierarchical categorization of place
that grew out of the colonial expansion from a European centre
to an Oriental periphery (Said, 1985). Massey (1995) described
how Europeans claimed ownership of the lands they settled,
creating boundaries, possessing and naming territories. It was
on this foundation that the discipline of geography was created.
Categorization, against apparently ‘neutral’ criteria, and careful
description recorded in writing and cartography were the skills
of the geographer at that time, the ‘–graphy’ meaning from the
Greek ‘to write’. Understanding the foundations of geography in
colonialism is an important part of understanding that the vo-
cabulary of geography is colonial, as are its discourses. However,
our argument goes beyond this to include education and what
passes as curriculum and schooling. ese have also been pro-
foundly aected by colonialism and, Grosfoguel (2011) argues,
are part of the ‘Colonial World System’ that continues to divide
Figure 1: Imagining the teacher-learner
relationship as an intercultural relation
reflections on primary geography
142
the world. e content of geography is constructed on a colonial
legacy. In the English National Curriculum content is presented
as ‘factual’ (DfE, 2013), while in the Saskatchewan Social Stud-
ies Curriculum guidance advises that when ‘investigating diverse
communities and cultures, students must be cautioned to avoid
ethnocentric judgements’ (MoE, 2010, 9). Following Michael Ap-
ple (1993), we ask: Whose truths are represented in the geogra-
phy curriculum? Whose knowledges are included and excluded?
Whose ways of being are presented as superior and whose infe-
rior? ese are essential questions for teachers to ask, and even
more so is the question: ‘To what extent am I complicit in this?’
Returning to the concepts of place and space, Massey (2005)
and rift (2006) made compelling arguments for a relational
rather than a bounded or boundaried conception of space. is
was a deliberate move to ‘undercut a range of dichotomies and
distinctions’ (Malpas, 2012, 228) that were seen to be so harm-
ful to peaceful, intercultural relations. rift (2006, 140) goes so
far as to say ‘there is no such thing as a boundary’, while Massey
(2005, 152) argues that
a particular problem with … place is that it seems to require the draw-
ing of boundaries [which] precisely distinguishes between an inside
and an outside … [and] can so easily be yet another way of construct-
ing a counterposition between “us” and “them”.
However, Jones (2009) and Malpas (2012) both argue for a deep-
er understanding of the idea of space which, they say, is lost in
the spatial politics of Massey ‘which emphasises the political/so-
cial consequences of how the spatial might be understood’ (Mal-
pas, 2012, 228). Jones observes that ‘relational thinking implies
openness that often belies the lived-experience of many … draw-
ing our attention to the importance of power relations’ (2009,
494), while Malpas argues that ‘things are never ‘in’ the world
in some indeterminate fashion but are always orientated and lo-
cated in relation to other things around them … one might say,
in fact, that boundedness just is the possibility of orientation or
location’ (2012, 238).
To illustrate his point, Malpas uses the analogy of a box of
cherries. If the focus is on the box, which is the boundary and
the inside space for the cherries, then boundedness limits ex-
tendedness in that there is a nite space for the cherries, and
one ‘can think the cherries away to be left just with the space as
a container’ (Malpas, 2012, 233). On the other hand, if the focus
is on the space rather than the box, then that space is an open
expanse partly occupied by the cherries, and one can ‘think away
the box to be left just with space as that which is contained’ (233)
– the cherries being seen as modes of that space, an extension of
space. is is in contrast to the concept of space put forward by
Massey and rift, which is more of an innite, boundless ex-
tension. e key message Malpas is making is that space needs
to be seen in relation to boundedness and openness – a kind of
bounded openness. Furthermore, Malpas connects these to a
third concept – that of emergence, ‘a coming forth – that might
itself be thought as a form of movement towards, into, or out of’
(Malpas, 2012, 235). In the bounded openness between space as
container and space as contained, there is space for movement
into and out of, for a coming into being in that space.
e neglect of boundedness is problematic when allied with the in-
sistence on relationality since the two are intimately connected. All
relations presuppose boundaries, while the boundary is properly that
on which the possibility of relation is dependent. e boundary is
that which, inasmuch as it established the possibility of openness and
emergence, also establishes a certain oriented locatedness. Bounded-
ness is thus necessary for the establishing of what we might think of
as a certain relational eld as well as for the establishing of the ele-
ments that are related within that eld (Malpas, 2012, 238).
Places, spaces and boundaries in the geography
classroom
At the beginning of this chapter we set out our aim to use the
concepts of place, space and boundaries to examine social rela-
tionships in the classroom and the ways in which certain dis-
courses reproduce inequalities. ese discourses – paternalistic,
othering, categorical, universalist are the product of a binary,
object-focused logic that has its roots in colonialism; a logic
which Grosfoguel (2011) argues has created a Colonial World
System that continues to be present today. Colonialism rested
on appropriation of land, on staking claims, drawing boundar-
ies, and establishing ownership. Territories were re-named to
reect the language and culture of the colonizers and a vocabu-
lary of belonging, inside-outside, included-excluded, citizen-
immigrant, us-them grew up. e move to space as an innite
extension without boundaries (Massey, 2005; rift, 2006) was
a move against the damaging eects of the divisive colonial logic;
but the idea has not gained purchase in people’s lived realities, as
evident in the xenophobic discourse of the Brexit campaign and
the UK (Khaleeli, 2016) and the Trump presidential campaign in
the USA (Borowitz, 2016).
For example, if we look at the spaces for education that are
constructed in schools and classrooms, teachers act as if the
boundaries are real – they talk about ‘my’ class and ‘my’ children.
Within the subject community, primary geographers have gone
to great lengths to create a boundary around primary geography
in order to distinguish it from secondary geography, and to ar-
gue for its unique place in the primary curriculum (see Martin,
2013). e point we are making here is not that boundaries are
necessarily harmful (for example in creating a sense of identity
and belonging) but that the ways in which boundaries are, often
implicitly, understood and acted upon can be harmful. Following
Malpas’ conceptualisation of space and place as intimately con-
nected to boundedness, and Jones’ (2009) assertion that social
networks and relations have geographical anchors we consider
the implications of the ideas of bounded openness and emer-
gence for primary geography education.
Locus of enunciation
Returning to Figure 1, the diagram creates boundaries around
home/community knowledge and school/curriculum knowledge.
e intention behind this is to represent how the teacher and
learner roles are both located in home/community and school/
curriculum knowledges, but that for the teacher the school/cur-
riculum takes precedence and for the learner the home/commu-
nity takes precedence. What Figure 1 does not show is (a) the un-
derlying system that these locations are connected to, which we
argue is a colonial world system, and (b) the hegemony of what
it means to ‘do school’ that is Eurocentric, and based on white,
male, middle class, Christian, able, heterosexual norms. In fact,
reecting on the diagram from this perspective has enabled us to
see how it presents the cultures of teacher and learner and the
knowledges that stem from them as neutral; it is a reminder that
‘epistemic practices are never neutral, but emerge from our par-
ticipation in forms of social life in real places’ (Kerr, 2014, 90).
A bounded openness approach to the relation between teach-
er and pupil requires teachers to decentre themselves and the
curriculum from the ‘tyranny of the real’ (McGregor, 2004, 13)
where what counts as ‘real’ education is founded on a colonial
project that now nds expression through the marketization of
education, the language of value for money and accountability,
and in which knowledge, skills and attitudes are treated as ob-
jects that can be measured through the use of arbitrary stan-
dardised criteria that are universally applied (Alexander, 2008).
is is an and/also position: that accepts the reality of western
fran martin and fatima pirbhai-illich | places, spaces and boundaries
143
education systems and the boundaries they create through the
categorization of schools as excellent or failing, and pupils as
mainstream or minority; and that refuses to let this be the only
way of being and doing school.
As critical educators, we agree with Andreotti (2011) and Kerr (2014)
when they call for alternative approaches … in which, when applied to
education contexts, teachers and teacher educators become aware of,
and explicitly acknowledge, the loci of their enunciation and use this
as a starting point for being and doing ‘otherwise’.
(Martin & Pirbhai-Ilich, 2016, 369).
Our call is directed unapologetically at white teachers who make
up 88% of the teaching population in England (DfE, 2014), and
indicators show a similar picture for Canada (Ryan et. al., 2009).
It is a call for locating the places and spaces from which they act
in both the pervasive colonial world system and in the specic
contexts within which they have been socialised, including their
own education experiences and the teacher ontology developed
as a result (Martin et. al., forthcoming). is is a crucial rst step
towards avoiding locating pupils within their own grid (Bhabha,
1994), something that is particularly important when relating to
pupils from backgrounds that are ‘Othered’ within the colonial
system. It requires teachers to not only ask questions such as
what or how will I teach? But also to ask ‘Who is the self that
teaches? How does that quality of my selfhood form – or deform
– the way I relate to my students, my subject, my colleagues, my
world?’ (Sapp, 2013, 200).
Figure 2 shows how Figure 1 has been adapted to make vis-
ible the loci of enunciation of teachers and learners. e teacher
and learner will be bounded by the same contexts of home/com-
munity, school/curriculum but the boundaries are shown with
dotted lines to represent openness, and how each context will
be felt dierently depending on the macro-level contexts. As we
argued earlier, the type of relation established in the classroom
provides the foundation for the educational relationship, which
in turn aects what and how the curriculum is brought into be-
ing – whether as an object to be delivered or as something to be
mediated in the space between teachers and pupils. If the plu-
rality of these contexts is part of what the teacher is explicitly
aware of, then it may be possible to enter into a relation that is
non-colonizing, and that is a meeting of equally valued ontolo-
gies and epistemologies which, when put into dialogue, hold the
potential for something new to emerge. At the micro-level, there
are implications for how we teach about dierence.
Teaching about dierence
We agree with Block’s (2013) assertion that how to teach about
dierence is critical to education. While the ‘how’ addresses
choices made in curriculum content, resources and pedagogical
approaches, we continue with our focus on the latter and our
argument for imagining the pedagogical space as one of inter-
cultural relation, subject-subject. If this is to be a critical space
in which assumptions are questioned, then awareness of one’s
locus of enunciation and the discourses that ow from it is an es-
sential starting point. If the discourse of the teacher in teaching
about dierence is othering, then this may alienate pupils who
have an ‘Other’ background. Teachers need to ask themselves:
How do we talk about dierence? How does this connect to the
relational space between teachers and pupils and the world? How
are we positioning each other? How do we connect this to no-
tions of citizenship and create a sense of belonging (which re-
quires a boundary – something to which one belongs) without si-
multaneously creating an outsider, who may have access to some
of the place/space that the majority belong to but who do not
feel part of the community. We draw on the work of two scholars
to help us address these questions?
Jeannie Kerr (2014) writes about how, in a gardening project
with students, she encountered a garden that was so dierent to
her conception of what a garden is or might be, that she could
not even recognise it as a garden. e garden in question was
based on an ancient Mayan design, and Kerr reects on the con-
fusion and paralysis she felt as she did not know what to make of
it, nor how to respond to the students who had created it. She ac-
knowledged her Eurocentric understanding of gardens, but what
was more painful to acknowledge was that, although identifying
herself as a critical educator, she had assumed a universal view of
what was a culturally laden view of garden and used this as a lens
to make sense of the encounter and to deem the Mayan garden
as ‘not a garden’ – in other words, to silence or erase its ‘garden-
ness’. It is a short step from this to the ways in which people in
the global south were deemed ‘savage’ and ‘inhuman’, the more
so the less ‘like’ the white European standard they were.
6
knowledge, skills and attitudes are treated as objects that can be measured through the use of
arbitrary standardised criteria that are universally applied (Alexander, 2008). This is an and/also
position: that accepts the reality of western education systems and the boundaries they create
through the categorization of schools as excellent or failing, and pupils as mainstream or minority;
and that refuses to let this be the only way of being and doing school.
As critical educators, we agree with Andreotti (2011) and Kerr (2014) when they call for
alternative approaches … in which, when applied to education contexts, teachers and
teacher educators become aware of, and explicitly acknowledge, the loci of their
enunciation and use this as a starting point for being and doing ‘otherwise’. (Martin &
Pirbhai-Ilich, 2016, 369).
Our call is directed unapologetically at white teachers who make up 88% of the teaching population
in England (DfE, 2014), and indicators show a similar picture for Canada (Ryan et. al., 2009). It is
a call for locating the places and spaces from which they act in both the pervasive colonial world
system and in the specific contexts within which they have been socialised, including their own
education experiences and the teacher ontology developed as a result (Martin et. al., forthcoming).
This is a crucial first step towards avoiding locating pupils within their own grid (Bhabha, 1994),
something that is particularly important when relating to pupils from backgrounds that are
‘Othered’ within the colonial system. It requires teachers to not only ask questions such as what or
how will I teach? But also to ask ‘Who is the self that teaches? How does that quality of my
selfhood form – or deform – the way I relate to my students, my subject, my colleagues, my
world?’ (Sapp, 2013, 200).
Figure 2: Locating teacher-learner relationships in time and place
Figure 2 shows how Figure 1 has been adapted to make visible the loci of enunciation of teachers
and learners. The teacher and learner will be bounded by the same contexts of home/community,
school/curriculum but the boundaries are shown with dotted lines to represent openness, and how
Figure 2: Locating teacher-learner
relationships in time and place
reflections on primary geography
144
Lee Anne Block (2013) discusses how she worked in two dif-
ferent places, the USA and Canada, with pre-service teachers on
how to teach about dierence. In the early stages of the courses
she asked the (predominantly white) pre-service teachers to re-
spond to texts about whiteness and about personal narratives
of ‘Othering’. In their written work she noticed that ‘liberal in-
dividualism was the prevalent value system expressed’ (Block,
2013, 61), from which perspective a caring teacher who respects
all would want to create an inclusive space in which ‘we are all the
same under the skin’. e pre-service teachers’ ‘desire to treat all
children as equals made disregarding their dierence “virtuous
rather than convenient’ (62).
For these teacher candidates, naming dierence was embarrassing,
even destructive, because dierence from the norm was understood
as negative. In response to their position, my teaching had to be fo-
cused on nding ways to broaden that perspective so teacher candi-
dates could see dierence, not as decit, but as possibility
(Block, 2013, 63).
Both Kerr and Block talk about the discomfort felt by teachers
who are asked to confront their privileged locations and their
complicity in locating dierence as ‘Other’ and as decit to the
white, middle class, male, heterosexual norm. It is discomforting
to learn that the privileges enjoyed are not solely due to one’s
individual hard work, but also to the socio-economic structures
that produce inequalities, including schools. Where they dier
is in their solutions. Block advocates a pedagogy of discomfort
which uses multiple perspectives and collaborative group work
to ‘disrupt the us-them dichotomy’ (2013, 63). While this is
important, we do not think it goes far enough because the per-
spectives may all be located within the dominant colonial frame.
Kerr, on the other hand, addresses the deeper epistemological
and ontological concern by advocating for a decolonization of
the mind. She notes how, in the discomfort that often comes
with encountering dierence that is outside of one’s frame of
reference, there is resistance but that ‘it is how we work with
resistance that determines its generativity’ (Kerr, 2014, 100).
Whether the other is a pupil in the classroom or people and plac-
es represented through geographical study,
Generative pedagogical encounters occur when teachers help students
engage with their resistance through negotiating a middle ground
where neither self nor the “other” is destroyed. Negotiating the mid-
dle ground is avoiding a context where the student would need to be
extinguished in the encounter with the other, but the student is also
not attempting to extinguish the other. In the context of epistemic
plurality and recognition, this would involve a willingness to listen
to Indigenous scholars and knowledge holders in a way that engages
with the opportunities of being taught by them. (Kerr, 2014, 101).
Conclusion: decolonizing the mind
It is our contention that the majority of teachers have been so-
cialized into a teacher ontology that is written through with co-
lonialism. is conclusion is inescapable if one subscribes to
the view that we are in a colonial world system. It is therefore
essential to do the work of decolonizing the mind (iong’O,
1986), and it means facing the discomfort of truths that white
people have been protected from (Martin et. al. forthcoming).
e minds that have been colonized are not limited to white Eu-
ropeans. e colonized have also taken on a colonial mindset as
evident in the gaze towards the west as a model of development
to which to aspire – whether wearing western clothes, taking on
western ways of being or using English as the ocial language of
schooling. e colonizers need to decentre from white privilege,
and the colonized need to learn to love themselves and not feel
inferior to their colonizers. For example, pupils who are from
families who have a history of immigration to the UK or Cana-
da, particularly those of colour, may well have been convinced,
through being continually subjected to the margins, that the
only way to be British or Canadian is to adopt the ways of the
dominant culture. is involves communities experiencing loss
of culture and identity, and of learning that their culture is not
acceptable. For both tasks a decolonial pedagogy of relation and
love is needed.
We must name and consider epistemic spaces and places, and
the ancestors they invoke, as a praxis of intervention and cri-
tique (Kerr, 2014). e hegemony of the classroom ‘box’ as the
space to do education is one of closed boundedness. Attempts to
this have been made to create openness through building schools
with open-plan spaces, but these are then reinscribed by teach-
ers who create partitions between ‘classes’ (e.g. Cook, 2015) be-
cause the underlying premise of what counts as education, how
spaces and people within those spaces are organised, remains
the same. e mindsets of the teachers are too ingrained in their
colonized teacher ontologies. So while the classroom box can be
critiqued, a solution that intervenes by removing the boundar-
ies without also intervening in the boundedness of the teachers
minds is going to fail.
Catherine Walsh identies the geo-politics of critical thought,
which continues to dominate from Western perspectives, with-
out self-analysis of the location and relation to domination of
the enunciation of knowing. e problem is not with European
thought itself, but with ‘the lack of self-consciousness of its
intimate relation to power in the modernity-coloniality struc-
ture, which results in the continued subalternization of “other”
knowledges, philosophies and frameworks (Walsh, 2012, 14,
cited in Kerr, 2014, 90)
is brings us back to how to create subject-subject relations
in school that do not deny the boundaries of classrooms and cul-
tures, but that are also open to the spaces between and across
these boundaries in which the dualisms of teacher/learner, in-
sider/outsider, superior/inferior and agentic/helpless can be dis-
rupted, as Catling and Martin propose (2011). is requires an
orientation of being with (I-ou relation) rather than doing to
or for (I-It relation) (see Buber, 1958) – a dually agentic position
which might enable ‘other’ voices to be heard. If we are making
all the decisions about how to engage with pupils, using xed no-
tions of teacher and learner as equated with adult and child, and
selecting geography content from only a western location, then
we are colonizing. e alternative is a decolonizing pedagogy.
us, the third space is a mode of articulation, a way of describing a
productive, and not merely reective, space that engenders new pos-
sibility. It is an ‘interruptive, interrogative, and enunciative’ (Bhabha,
1994) space of new forms of cultural meaning and production blur-
ring the limitations of existing boundaries and calling into question
established categorisations of culture and identity. According to
Bhabha, this hybrid third space is an ambivalent site where cultural
meaning and representation have no ‘primordial unity or xity’.
(Bhabha, 1994). (Meredith, 1998, 3).
It is in this space, a space of inclusion rather than exclusion, that
a space for emergence is created and, if it is to emerge through
the hybrid, intercultural relation, then the outcomes cannot be
determined a priori. us, anything done as a normalising prac-
tice needs to be countered with a hybrid strategy where meaning
is negotiated through encountering dierences, and the possibil-
ity for newness is opened up.
Closing thoughts
Geography is a discipline that rests on making sense of the world
through enquiring into patterns and processes resulting from
the interactions between the human and non-human. By de-
fran martin and fatima pirbhai-illich | places, spaces and boundaries
145
fault, this creates boundaries around people and places (settle-
ment types, climate zones, nations, communities, cultures) and
makes comparisons. ere is a sense in which schools and class-
rooms are a microcosm of this. In both spheres we are proposing
a bounded openness to how these spaces and places are brought
into being through a negotiation of anity and dierence (we
use Meredith’s term of anity not sameness, which provides a
very dierent perspective to the pervasive ‘similarity’ = ‘they are
just like us’ discourse so often evoked in distant place studies).
But this has to begin with teachers being prepared to decolonize
what is so ingrained in them and quite literally to teach against
the grain.
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reflections on primary geography
146
Dr Fran Martin began her career as a primary school teacher
in 1980. She has worked in Initial Teacher Education since
1993. Since 2006 Fran has worked at the University of Exeter,
where she conducts research on global educational partnerships
and critical intercultural learning. Between 2009 and 2013 she
worked with researchers in e Gambia and India on an Econom-
ic and Social Research Council funded project: “Global Partner-
ships as Sites for Mutual Learning: teachers’ professional devel-
opment through study visits”. In addition she has worked with
researchers in Canada, Australia, Brazil, Finland and Germany.
In 2012 Fran was president of the Geographical Association and
chose ‘e Geographies of Dierence’ as the theme for the year.
Dr Fatima Pirbhai-Illich obtained her B.A. in Sociology from
Concordia University, Montreal, Canada and her M.A. Linguis-
tics (TESOL) from University of Surrey (UK). She completed her
doctoral studies at the University of British Columbia where her
research focused on the educational outcomes and pathways of
ethnic and linguistic minority students. Fatima is an Associate
Professor, teaching both graduate and undergraduate courses
at the University of Regina in the area of language and literacy
education. She came to Regina from the Faculty of Education at
the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, USA; e National
Institute of Education, Singapore; and the University of British
Columbia. Fatima’s research focuses on literacy and social justice
and, in particular, on the relationship between ethnically and
racially diverse students’ language and literacy ability and their
educational outcomes.
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