The Other other in Difficult Knowledge: Thinking with Jim Garrett’s Learning to be in the World with Others


  • Mario Di Paolantonio



At the close of the twentieth century, a number of scholars in education began to focus their work on how pedagogy might address a legacy of historical violence and injustices that continue to haunt and define our present. Extending from Shoshana Felman’s groundbreaking work (1992) on the vexed relationship between historical trauma, testimony, witnessing and pedagogy, a general concern was forged around how learning from traumatic events involves a break down in meaning, a crisis, and an encounter with what Deborah Britzman (1998) terms, “the failure of knowledge” (p. 265). Whereas, conventionally, learning is understood as the cumulative and progressive acquisition of knowledge leading to “mastery,” at issue for these thinkers is how the encounter with traumatic histories necessarily implies grappling with that which cannot be mastered as knowledge, with what defies and dispossess us of epistemological certainty (see: Kincheloe and Pinar, 2001). Britzman (1998b) crystalized the issue when she coined the term “difficult knowledge,” particularly accentuating the internal conflicts and psychical defences against knowing that learners erect as they become un-done by the difficult stories of others.






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