Organized Events


Avant-Garde Pedagogies

IMCC, University of Westminster

HEAT & Philosophy of Education Research Centre (University of Winchester)

AGPThe conference is intended to provide an interdisciplinary forum for addressing how we might respond to the contemporary crisis or transformation of education without succumbing to conservative nostalgia for the past or an uncritical acquiescence to present forces in an increasingly corporately-driven agenda. The concept of the avant-garde will be used as a lens to focus these discussions.

The late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries witnessed a series of social, political, economic and technological upheavals that transformed aesthetics and contributed to a sense of the crisis of the arts and culture. While the technical developments of photography, radio and film, increasing commodification, the emergence of the culture industry and the rise of kitsch, mass and popular culture produced tensions within art that lead to a reactionary nostalgia for the culture of the past they also gave rise to a period of intense artistic innovation and experimentation that has come to be associated with modernism and the avant-garde. The avant-garde is ‘not that which is most historically advanced in the sense that it has most history behind it’ but, as Peter Osborne suggests, that which ‘disrupts the linear time-consciousness of progress in such a way as to enable us, like the child, to “discover the new anew” and, along with it, the possibility of a better future’. It is ‘the aesthetic anticipation of the future’ (Jacques Rancière) and sought to be not a ‘display case or a salesroom but a free, or least an open, laboratory’ (Poggioli Renato).

A hundred years on from the frenetic flurry of movements and manifestoes that characterized the high point of modernism and the avant-garde in art, this conference turns it attention to comparable experimentation in pedagogical theory and practice, asking how we might imagine a pedagogic anticipation of the future or an open laboratory of learning. How might such modernist or avant-garde impulses in the arts provide a framework for calling into question not merely traditional or bourgeois pedagogical ideas, techniques and the distribution apparatus upon which education depends, but perhaps also the dominance and assumed value of higher education itself within contemporary society?

Alan Golding, University of Louisville, ‘“Poetic Ambition on the Semester System”: Ezra Pound’s Avant-Gardism and Teaching Institutions’

Michael Kindellan, University of Sheffield, ‘Charles Olson’s pedagogical poetics’

Kerstin Stutterheim, Bournemouth University, ‘Die Idee der Methode: Walter Gropius and the Bauhaus pedagogy’

Aislinn O’Donnell, Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick, ‘How Things Teach Us: Experience and Experimentation in Spinoza’

Emile Bojesen, Philosophy of Education Research Centre, University of Winchester

Zlatina Nikolova, Royal Holloway, ‘Development of the Self: Women’s education in Bryher’s Early Prose’

Maria Teresa Cruz, New University of Libson (NOVA), ‘Avant-garde and Experimentation in the Age of Hyper Industrialization of Culture’

Richard Miles, Leeds College of Art, ‘The School of the Damned: Autonomous Art education and the University Struggles’

Jonathan Owen Clark and Louise H. Jackson, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance,  ‘Specialist Institutions and Managing the Avant-Garde’

Hannah Proctor, University of Leeds, ‘Educating the Vanguard: Soviet Developmental Psychology and the Paradoxes of Revolutionary Childhood, 1917-1936’

Steven Cranfield, University of Westminster, ‘“Battles for the mind”: military psychiatry and pedagogic innovation in the ‘Cambridge English’ School

Alys Moody, Macquarie University, ‘Learning with Brecht and Coetzee’

Gary Peters, York St John University, ‘The Music Teacher: The Pedagogy(s) of 20th Century Avant-garde Music’

Peter Roberts, University of Canterbury, NZ, ‘Doubt, Despair and Education’

Matthew Charles, HEAT & University of Westminster

The Hypothetical: Institutions, Fictions, Environments

IMCC, University of Westminster

243_Ida_largeElizabeth Ellsworth & Jamie Kruse, Walking in Hypotheticals
Anthropocene events and materialities are producing strange new Earth patterns and cycles. According to William Gail, former head of the American Meteorological Society, our habitat’s emerging biological, geological, and climatological dynamics will need many years, sometimes decades or more, to reveal themselves. And because of this, “our [foundation of Earth Knowledge] will turn obsolete faster than we can replace it with new knowledge…. Our grandchildren could grow up knowing less about the planet than we do today” (William Gail). In other words, our species’ relatively recent ability to consistently anticipate the future, design and plan for it, is rapidly going extinct. From now on, our attempts to respond to events and challenges of the Anthropocene will be made “too soon,” before they have settled into individual or collective understandings. More and more, we humans will be acting in hypotheticals. Our 20-minute video presentation offers images and stories about how we might do this. We will propose a practice of walking in hypotheticals, an ambulatory form of knowing via a joining with things through movement rather than arresting or bracketing off experience. Drawing from contemporary film and art generated in post-Fukushima Japan, we will offer illustrations of how, as an aesthetic energetics, walking in hypotheticals is enabling us (as artists|humans) to be and to last, for the time being.

Mikhail Epstein, Hypothetical Communities and Institutions
This paper deals with a variety of hypothetical communities and institutions and is itself presented in a hypothetical mode. First, I will clarify the difference between hypothetical discourse, on the one hand, and metaphysical and utopian discourses, on the other, and characterize their historical succession. Hypothetical thinking is implicitly permeated by philosophical humor that makes it very different from deadly serious utopianism. I will outline several examples of hypothetical communities, including “Intra–Humanity” and “Organization of United Individuals.” Then I will describe intellectual communities and institutions founded on certain principles of creativity, such as hypothetical departments of creative thinking, as distinct from academic departments of arts and humanities.

David Wittenberg, Revisiting Fictionality: A Suggestion for the Metaphysics of Event and Narrative
Theorists of fictionality frequently employ an axiom along these lines: “fictional particulars are ontologically different from actual persons, events, or places” (Doležel). The axiomatic impression of this statement bleeds into further claims about fictional worlds: “it would obviously be absurd to claim that the fictional Raskolnikov … lived in St. Petersburg”; “it is quite evident that fictional persons cannot meet … real people,” etc. Despite the seeming self-evidence of such assertions, I propose we abandon any ontological distinction between fictional and nonfictional entities, reconsidering the pragmatic means by which fictional worlds are “logically” distinguished at all. I begin with a familiar narrative theorist’s thought experiment: whether or not Emma Bovary has a birthmark on her left shoulder is a question with neither a true nor a false answer — it is “undecidable.” Since Flaubert doesn’t mention birthmarks, the “world” of Madame Bovary is “incomplete” with respect to them. However, claims both for incompleteness (in a fiction) or completeness (in actuality) employ a circular logic, as well as presuming a dualism between events and their narrative traces. Such dualism does not survive basic scrutiny — narratives are events, along with any meta-stories we tell about their ostensible fictionality. More crucially, events –even strictly physical ones — are narratives: the trajectory of a football is the story of the kick, for example. Such an ontological indistinguishability of event from narrative trace leaves us only generic and circumstantial means — in a word, further stories — to differentiate fiction from nonfiction. This point may be trivial in the case of a novel, but more problematic when determinations of fictionality are aesthetically or politically fraught: Jesus, James Frey, the Armenian genocide, the Elders of Zion, WMDs. I briefly suggest an alternative ontology of “event” and “trace” that might more firmly ground a theory of fictionality.

Mark Currie, The kingdom of the as if
This paper explores three kinds of ‘if’ in fiction and the theory of fiction. It begins with hypothetical focalization, a relatively new category in the description of narrative perspective, which designates an alternative viewpoint from which fictional scenarios might have been observed. HF, it argues, draws on two further modes of hypotheticality: the ‘what if’ of alternative histories, and the ‘as if’ of imaginative narration. Between the what if and the as if lie two contradictory understandings of the relevance of epistemic modality to narrative fiction, one concerned with the modality of alternative possibility and the other with the modality of future time reference. The paper pursues this tension, through several moments of HF in contemporary fiction, between what might have been seen and what will have been seen.

Claudia Aradau, Arts of conjecture: of surveillance
One of most recent cases disputing the NSA’s mass surveillance (Wikimedia v NSA) has problematized a distinction that has plagued previous legal cases about surveillance, both pre- and post-Snowden: that between ‘real and immediate’ and ‘conjectural and hypothetical’ injury. Since the Snowden revelations, US courts have continued to dismiss challenges to NSA’s surveillance practices as based on conjecture, presenting ‘speculative chains of possibilities’ rather than ‘objective reasonable likelihood’ (ACLU v Clapper, Wikimedia v NSA). While conjecture, hypothesis and speculation are relegated to realm of non-knowledge, reasonableness, immediacy, and likelihood define what counts as knowledge. Yet, conjecture and hypothesis are not opposed to reasonableness and likelihood, but are all formulations of probabilistic thinking. Since the 17th century, the shift from ‘the traditional philosophical norm of the demonstrably certain toward a more probabilistic view of human knowledge and natural science’ (Shapiro, 1983: 15) has shaped the epistemic practices of law, aesthetics and science. By tracing conjecture to 17th century debates about probabilities, the paper articulates the limits of epistemic resistance to surveillance practices.

John Richard Sageng, The Hypothetical and the Virtual
The virtual objects we interact with in online environments and computer games blur the distinction between the hypothetical and the actual. In this presentation I will examine the prospects of a Vaihingian fictionalism about virtual objects. This type of fictionalism can be defined as the view that the referential attitudes we adopt towards virtual objects merely are expedient ways of facilitating practical aims when we interact with the computer system. Such attitudes do not aim to correspond to situations involving virtual objects. Rather, they constitute cognitive inclinations to treat the interfaces as if they govern objects with range of characteristic properties and effects. Vaihingian fictionalism about the virtual offers a promising approach to some of the contexts that virtual objects enter into, especially to the use of simulations to gain knowledge of hypothetical scenarios. I argue, however, that central aspects of goal attainment in online environments and computer games cannot plausibly be said to involve attitudes that treat these objects “as if” they have a set of characteristic properties and consequences. These aspects are moreover inextricably included in the referential apparatus of normal beliefs and intentions by way of inferences. As an alternative to this fictionalist view I will work out a semantic account for virtual objects which allows that we can have normal truth-directed attitudes towards them. I propose that the virtual objects are graphical objects which have lost their original representational properties due to their role in action. These graphical objects are genuine additions to our lifeworlds and they arise from the need to support new action types that emerge in computer-generated environments. Computer games in particular present settings for the hypothetical which are interestingly different from fictional make-believe. Rather than just simulating settings for actions, they are designed to create real action types which will be instantiated in the course of play.

Greg Garrard, The Hypothetical Anthropocene
The IPCC’s Assessment Report 4 states that the change in global mean temperature resulting from a doubling of CO2 over preindustrial levels is “likely to be in the range 2 to 4.5°C with a best estimate of about 3°C, and is very unlikely to be less than 1.5°C.” Seldom, if ever, has a scientific hypothesis had such immense significance. For environmentalists, the future of human civilization, as well as the prospects for innumerable ‘Earth Others’, is at stake; for sceptics, the IPCC projection is the ‘alarmist’ outcome of a politicized process that abandons scientific objectivity. The designation of the current epoch as ‘the Anthropocene’ by Eugene Stoermer and Paul Crutzen depends primarily on the global geophysical changes the IPCC projects. Increasing numbers of literary works, too, demand to be read as realizations, exaggerations, or denials of this central hypothesis. So what does it mean for the cultural place of science to be living in a hypothetical age?


A Colloquium on Andrew Benjamin’s Art’s Philosophical Work

IMCC, University of Westminster


Image result for art's philosophical work

Andrew Benjamin

Kaja Marczewska on ‘iteration’

David Cunningham on ‘relationality’

Matthew Charles on ‘colour’


Symposium on Educational Eliminationism and Cultural Colonization (2014)

IMCC, University of Westminster


Image result for educational eliminationismJohn Beck and Matthew Cornford

David J. Blacker

Nina Power


Walter Benjamin, Pedagogy and the Politics of Youth (2013)

IMCC, University of Westminster



Introductory Remarks
David Cunningham
Matthew Charles
IMCC, Westminster
IMCC, Westminster
The Life of Students is a Great Transformer Antonia Birnbaum
Chair: Andrew McGettigan
Paris 8
Attunement and Interference:
Benjamin’s Hölderlin Reading
Howard Caygill
Chair: Peter Osborne
CRMEP, Kingston
Quo Vadis? Knowing and being in the digital age Milan Jaros
Chair: Steven Cranfield
Chockerlebnis and Education: Learning from Modern Experience Élise Derroitte
Chair: Howard Caygill
Student as Producer: a pedagogy of the avant-garde; or, how do revolutionary teachers teach? Mike Neary
Chair: David Cunningham
Education as Awakening
Howard Eiland
Peter Osborne
Chair: Matthew Charles
CRMEP, Kingston

Stream on Critical Theory and Education, 6th International Critical Theory Conference of Rome (2013)

John Felice Rome Center of Loyola University Chicago

Crisis and Critique: Mass Education and The Education Industry
Matthew Charles, Westminster

Theatre is the New School: On Benjamin’s theory of Emancipation through Aesthetic Education
Élise Derroitte, Louvaine

George Mason Contesting Technique: Incorporating Marcuse’s Critical Praxis in Conflict Education
Michael D. English,

The Contradictions of Critical Art Discourse within Institutions of Cultural Capital Accumulation
Dean Kenning, Kingston University

Critical Pedagogy and the Student Learning Experience: Engaging with the Student Community Not as Learners but as a Public
M. Marinetto; C. Cederstrom, Cardiff University; S. Dallyn, Swansea University Walter Benjamin,

Constructions and Contradictions: Notions of Self and Society in relation to Social Practice Art Pedagogy
S. Jahoda, University of Massachusetts, Amherst; M. Connor, Queens College, New York


Stream on Critical Education and Radical Pedagogy, London Conference in Critical Thought (2012)

Birkbeck College University of London

I The Institutionalization of Education

Evolution of welfare states 1960-1970: Birth of Education Society in Finland and West Germany Matias Gardin

The Politics and Pedagogy of Debt: The New Poverty of Student Life
Gurnam Singh

The Tyranny of Structured-ness: Is the struggle for education restricted to institutional battlegrounds?
Soo Tian Lee

II Critical Theory and Radical Pedagogy

Critical Education and the Creation of Situations: From Adorno’s Critique of Halbbildung towards a Situationist Pedagogical Praxis
David Christopher Stoop

Understanding Post-Situationist Struggles in Education: A Comparative Analysis of the Production of Bio-Political Utopias and Revolutionary Subjectivities Then and Now
Kasper Opstrup

Walter Benjamin and Critical Pedagogy: the Limits of Liberalism and the Refunctioning of Pedagogy
Matthew Charles

III Critical Pedagogy Now

Paulo Freire’s Educational Progressivism and Its Contemporary Significance
Jones Irwin

Critical pedagogy, Public Sociology and Student Activism
Joyce Canaan