Tropological Curriculum Studies: Puppets and Statues of Curriculum Quagmires


  • Peter Appelbaum Arcadia University, Freie Universitat Berlin



curriculum theory, Rancière, psychoanalysis, Zizek


There is a never-ending tension between conceiving of educational experience as enabling and as constraining. We seem locked into this dichotomy with no escape: In The Character of Curriculum Studies, William Pinar (2011) notes that the sociology of education, so dominant in the field of curriculum studies, has seemingly “won out” as the clearest interpretation of schooling: schools are institutions of social reproduction. Rather than accepting this idea and moving on, we perseverate, constantly creating new research projects that reconfirm the hypothesis, which of course, in Foucauldian terms, makes for a successful perpetuation of practice and guarantees a career. But what would it mean to “move on”? A psychoanalyst would define repeated behaviors with no “results” as psychosis. If reproduction studies as social change is the result sought, then yes, we would have to recommend serious therapy for curriculum studies. If the goal is to establish careers in a field that excels at critiquing schooling, then we might instead celebrate our field as fairly healthy. Regarding the possibility of “therapy” for our field of research. In his introduction to The Puppet and the Dwarf, Žižek evokes Hegel’s assertion that it is folly to alter a corrupt ethical system without changing the religion, to make a revolution without a reformation. The basic tension is not so much between reason and feeling, but instead between knowledge and a disavowed belief embodied in external ritual. That is, between logical consistency and the notion that “I know what I am doing, but nevertheless I am doing it.”