Saturday, March 08, 2008

Culture Jamming Compared to Invisible Theatre

i just learned about this "frozen crowd" event that took place in February at Grand Central Station in New York City. Pretty impressive. Here's the backstory. It's a pretty compelling performance art piece. Makes me think about Invisible Theatre invented and developed by Augusto Boal. The difference is that Invisible Theatre is aimed at provoking dialogue on issues of power, oppression and social change while the types of public performance art like the one above (and also culture jamming events like flash mobs and public pillow fights) aim to be politically "neutral". And, of course, nothing is politically neutral. My concern with these public performance art things is how vulnerable they are to commercial (i.e. advertising industry) co-optation.

The Pinky Show - okay, so, like, i'm an instant total fan

I've just learned about The Pinky Show and i'm pretty impressed. The matter-of-factness of the little girl voice coming from the always-bewildered-looking Pinky gives wonderful life to facts (about resistance to immigration in the US) and quotes (as with Ivan Illich in this piece featured here). As much as racism, homophobia, mysogyny and all the other ways in which we do violence to each other deserve rage and anger, there's something to be said for a disposition of bewildered dismay, like "isn't racism just stupid?" Racism is, of course, many things and that includes "just stupid". This disposition carries truths in a peculiar way. I've always felt that we have to be careful with our anger - that it represents an enormous amount of energy and that it should be called forth only when violence is in action and dignity and life need immediate defense. Most other times, i feel, that humour is the best defense. To allow our anger to carry on beyond the moment of defense is to risk being drawn into the dance of violence and to give our energy away. I compare this to what i've learned about aikido - to stay centered, to keep the movement and energy flowing, to resist being drawn into your opponent's dance, to realize that there is no opponent, only movement. Humour can keep us centered, balanced. And The Pinky Show is doing a good job of that.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

New Paper on Popular Education

Claudia de Simone is a friend, a journalist, a drummer and a former student at the Faculty of Environmental Studies (including having been a participant in the popular education course that i've been teaching and co-teaching these past several years). Claudia has recently graduated and her studies included an excellent case study of popular education used in the context of watershed issues in a neighbourhood of Sao Paulo, Brazil. Her paper has just been published on the FES website under the outstanding major paper series and you can download it by clicking on the following:

‘Toward Popular Environmental Education in Marginalized Watershed Communities: The Case Study of São Paulo.’
Abstract: It is rare to find a critical discussion of race in literature about Brazilian urban environmental degradation and water pollution. Most of the literature discusses what to do with the “problem” of the periphery neighbourhoods – called favelas – whose residents are often represented as polluters of the rivers near to which they live and as occupiers of ‘environmentally risky’ territory. In Brazil, it is common to encounter environmental education projects that incorporate a debate on economic inequalities and environment, but without mention of colonialism or race subjection. Using the case study of São Paulo, this paper shows how racism has been historically spatialized through the material production of the favela, as well as through its discursive production in mainstream media and literature. That environmental injustices taking place in racialized communities are officially accepted makes it crucial to problematize this hegemonic violence in educational spaces. The author argues for the discussion of race, interconnected with class and gender, in environmental education. Paulo Freire’s principles of a pedagogy of the oppressed are critical to a discussion about the meaning of an anti-colonial pedagogy and thus, of the practice of anti-colonial environmental education.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Mark Your Calendars (if you're in Toronto or near enough)

I've been part of organizing a community development institute here in Toronto and if you're in the area i recommend checking it out. We'll have a program to share soon. It includes over 70 sessions on topics ranging from community engagement to community arts, anti-poverty to health and more; and much of it featuring popular education. If you want to distribute the poster you can download it here.