Living Impotentially

An Allegorical Inquiry


  • Ying Ma University of British Columbia, Canada



impotentiality, Agamben, allegorical inquiry, Dao


This paper challenges the reduced understanding of schools as places for students to learn the useful towards tomorrow and explores alternate languages to understand schools more educationally. It mainly appropriates Agamben’s and Lewis’ conceptualizations of impotentiality with particular attention to its relevance to and implications for education. Allegory as a curriculum concept is adopted methodologically to unpack and reactivate the fragmented, nuanced and autobiographical stories, exploring what might count as living impotentially. Through the allegorical re-searching in my own stories in relationship with others, I find that living impotentially involves overlapping and recursive moments, including yielding and suspending, wondering and wandering and dis/re/connecting, which jointly contribute to one’s becoming/unbecoming and doing/undoing. Finally, I briefly discuss Laozi’s dao and how it could speak to impotentiality in dao’s dynamic stillness. Skhole, a place originally meant for free time, yearns for a space of impotentiality, inviting each one of us to return to ourselves, to understand ourselves better as a human being.

Author Biography

Ying Ma , University of British Columbia, Canada

She is currently a post-doctorate fellow in the Department of Curriculum and Pedagogy at University of British Columbia. She had been a high school teacher in Beijing, China for seven years prior to her graduate study in Canada. Currently, she teaches cross-culturally in diverse settings. Dr. Ma teaches B.Ed. courses in the Department of Educational Studies at University of British Columbia in Canada and graduate courses at Northeast Normal University in China. Her research interest includes teacher education, curriculum studies, comparative research, narrative inquiry, teacher identity, social equality, philosophical inquiry, and ethics.


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