This website grew out of the two-day international conference on ‘Walter Benjamin, Pedagogy and the Politics of Youth’, which was hosted by the Institute for Modern and Contemporary Culture (IMCC) and the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy (CRMEP) and held at the University of Westminster, London on 31st May and 1st June 2013. It now serves as a more general blog for issues relating to Benjamin, pedagogy and education.
I am a lecturer and researcher in modern European literature, culture and philosophy at the University of Westminster, with a specific interest in the politics and ideology of pedagogy and theories of mass education. I am co-founder of the Higher Education and Theory group (HEAT), affiliated with the Higher Education Research Centre (HERC).
My PhD thesis, completed at the end of 2009 in the CRMEP, was on ‘Speculative Experience and History: Walter Benjamin’s Goethean Kantianism’. I have co-authored the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on Walter Benjamin, and published on aspects of political aesthetics, including Hiroshima, utopianism, catastrophe, post-Jungian criticism, film, and education as well as book reviews and news items. I am a member of the editorial collective of the journal Radical Philosophy.
My current research concerns theories of mass education, with a specific interest in the history and theory of education in England. I argue that the peculiar social and political conditions of education in England – which have typically been “belated” in relation to other nations – have entailed an ideological drift from the social, to the cultural, to the educational sphere. This results in a a process of ideological fetishization, as the part is increasingly invested with the potency of the repressed whole. The resulting pedagogical turn in theory is symptomatic of a crisis of mass education, the political consequences of which are problematically framed within the limits of version of classical or neo- liberalism (individual citizens or consumers). Amongst others, Walter Benjamin’s work contains the seeds of a pedagogical materialism that will provide a more critical theory of mass education in response to the present crisis. This demands the (Brechtian) refunctioning of pedagogy.