Speaking of Bodies in Justice-Oriented, Feminist Teacher Education

Jan. 02, 2012

Source: Journal of Teacher Education, 63(1), January/February 2012, p. 51-61.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

In this article, the authors articulate a theory of a critical body pedagogy that can contribute to a larger justice-oriented project.
This article had two purposes:
a) the authors tried to work with their students to understand the concealed power that is inscribed on bodies, and
b) they tried to create a pedagogic process.

The authors drew on class readings, writings, activities, class discussions, and reflective notes to explore what this critical pedagogy of the body afforded for their preservice education students—and them.

Critical Body Pedagogy in a Teacher Education Classroom
One of the first writing assignments asked students to focus on their own bodies and lived experiences so they could articulate how their embodied experiences of an inequitable society affected the ways they perceived the world around them.
The students had several prompts to help them think about different aspects of their embodiment, including race, ethnicity, language, religion, sexuality, social class, abledness, geography, gender, relationships, family structures, and body image.
An overwhelming number of the students regularly incorporated issues of body image in their essays.

Rooted in feminist epistemology, this kind of assignment allowed students to begin with a focus on their embodied experiences in the world while it simultaneously attributed inherent values to their lived realities.
This is particularly important in teacher education where so much attention is aimed at learning about others, and what others need to learn best.
However, teachers themselves need time to deeply reflect on and actively consider their bodies.
They can consider how their body is shaped and contoured according to particular social and political demands in their immediate lives and in the media.
They can engage in intellectual inquiries around how comfortable they are with their bodies in different spaces, and they can explore their most intimate thoughts and critiques of their own bodies.

Theorizing their own bodies first—exploring the assumptions the authors have about their bodies that are always being read by others, including students in the classroom—opens up possibilities for articulating how and why bodies matter in education.

Body as Pedagogy: Thoughts on Teacher Education and Future Research

A critical body pedagogy that introduces a subtle integration of issues of the body throughout a justice- oriented teacher education course opens up spaces for students and instructors alike to explore, critique, and reconstruct normative discourses and practices around the body.

Specifically in this article, the authors drew on student responses from three separate
assignments designed in dialogue with theory that were focused on educating their students as people living in the present who can grow how they see themselves, others, and the world from different perspectives.

The authors want to add that the prevalence of body-related discourses in the students’ work, points to the necessity of a critical body pedagogy within justice-oriented teacher education.
The bodies represented in the texts in this article certainly support that argument, as students have explicitly and wisely described how images of bodies—and the bodies of others around them—have taught them much, although not enough to be satisfied with.

Therefore, the authors conclude that some teacher education programs, future and present teachers are taught to be reflexive in their understandings of race, social class, gender, religion, language, ethnicity, and sometimes sexuality as a way for them to become critically conscious of the power and discourses circulating such positionalities.

Updated: Apr. 22, 2014