Avant-Garde Pedagogies Conference Schedule


To book your seat for the Avant-Garde Pedagogies conference, please follow this link: Book Now!

Friday 8th and Saturday 9th July 2016, University of Westminster, London

Hosted by the Higher Education and Theory (HEAT) network, the Institute for Modern and Contemporary Culture (University of Westminster) and the Philosophy of Education Research Centre (University of Winchester)

Continue reading Avant-Garde Pedagogies Conference Schedule


Learnification, Biestafication, Beatification: a weak engagement

George Brecht, Tonnere de Liege, 1966-1967

The HEAT group met on Wednesday 2 March to discuss Gert Biesta’s The Beautiful Risk of Education. A weak engagement with a few of his ideas is presented below.

Continue reading Learnification, Biestafication, Beatification: a weak engagement

Heat Workshop: Emerging learning ecologies within higher education

Doris Salcedo, Untitled, 2004-2005

The University of Westminster Academic Liaison Librarian team and the HEAT (Higher Education and Theory) group present:

Emerging learning ecologies within higher education

Lutyens Room, 2nd Floor, RIBA, 66 Portland Place, London, W1B 1AD

Tuesday 23 February 2016

9.30 am to 4.00 pm

To register for this workshop, go to this Eventbrite page. To obtain the password for this page contact a.parsons@westminster.ac.uk

About the workshop

While thinking about learning futures has often focused on changing the classroom, the teaching role and the text/book, as elements of the institution of higher education (HE), the academic library, and the modes of learning associated with it, are often left out of the frame. Again, while media technologies other than the text/book are often discussed in thinking about learning futures, less effort is spent considering the concomitant adjustments that occur in ways of learning elsewhere than in the classroom and otherwise than through explicit relation to teachers/teaching (as other modes of authoring and authoritisation – by default – enter the overall learning environment).

The proposal behind this workshop/gathering is that higher education professionals as a whole, within the university and in related institutions such museums and galleries, and not just those associated most directly with the academic library, need to respond creatively, co-operatively and collaboratively to the changing horizons in which higher education is operating in England and Wales, and work in alliance to articulate new learning ecologies, interweaving a re-thinking about learning, roles, classrooms, text/books, pedagogies, libraries, learning environments, learning resources, media/technologies, working relationships, and so on.

A major question for HE professionals, then, which the Academic Liaison Librarian team and the HEAT group would like to address, is how to leverage contemporary media and technologies, first, to enable professionals associated directly with the academic library (with its various procedural, cultural and intellectual legacies) to transition from ‘librarian’ roles to more active, creative, educational and curatorial roles within the university (i.e. technology-enabled, new roles); and, second, how to do this in a way that enables more collaboration among different kinds of professional groups employed by universities (and in related institutions) in delivering a technologically-sophisticated, educationally-rich, learning experience to students and also to staff (i.e. technology-enabled, new ensemble roles).

The two keynote speakers will provide stimulating examples of what has already been achieved in response to these questions in order to guide our thinking about future possibilities:

Shaun Hides, of Coventry University’s Media Department and the Centre for Disruptive Media, will explore some of the key fault lines in this changing landscape and offer a series of suggestions as to the kinds of tactics which might be employed to mobilise the new connected media possibilities, tactics that Coventry University Media Department have begun to explore and more recently across the University through the Disruptive Media Learning Lab.

Ad Polle, of Europeana, will focus on the digital1418 project as an example that addresses many of the complexities that a digital horizon brings to the reconfiguration of the notion of a ‘library’ as a form of cultural and educational heritage.

Spivak’s lessons: refractions of the scene of teaching

John Latham, Film Star, 1960
“In Marx’s text philosophy must thus displace itself into the everyday struggle. In my argument, literature, insofar as it is in the service of the emergence of the critical, must also displace itself thus.” (Spivak, 2002: 30)

Picking up from the blog post, Critique, criticality and the right to be critical, it might be suggested that here we are considering some aspects of the role of ‘the critical’ in ‘the everyday’, ‘the everyday’ conceived as a struggle or, in other words, agonistically, i.e. as political contest. This post is simultaneously published in Allan Parsons’ blog, Poiesis and Prolepsis.

The ‘everyday struggle’ for the teacher takes place in the classroom. For everyone else, the classroom struggle is an everyday occurrence for only that part of their lives when they are engaged in formal education. Formative as that ‘period’ may be (in a day-in-the-life divided into ‘periods’), it nevertheless opens out into other kinds of everyday struggle.

The question raised by Spivak in the quote above is whether ‘the critical’ (critical thinking, critique), which is a central part of the everyday struggle for the teacher, has wider value in the other kinds of everyday struggle experienced by those who engage in the everyday struggle of the classroom as a ‘period’ in their lives: the insertion of ‘the lessons’ from one struggle within other struggles.

Unless Spivak is suggesting, which by her own account she surely is not, that we are all engaged in the same struggle … ? The answer to this implicit question must be that, yes, in some ways we are all (the world’s inhabitants, the world’s population, human-reality-in-situation) engaged in the same struggle, but yet that struggle is not the same for all of us, positioned differently, and differentially, as we are.

Yet …

We seem to keep coming back to the classroom:

“Let us return to the undergraduate classroom” (Spivak, 1992: 9), “a typical liberal multicultural classroom” (Spivak, 1992: 7).

We seem to keep coming back to the text [-book] in the classroom:

“On a given day we are reading a text from one national origin.” (Spivak, 1992: 7).

We seem to keep coming back to the teacher and the text [-book] (from one national origin) in the classroom:

“Each discipline has its own species of “setting-to-work”- and the texture of the imagination belongs to the teacher of literary reading.” (Spivak, 2002: 26)

We seem to keep coming back to the teacher and the text[-book] (from one national origin) in the classroom, with the class:

“The group in the classroom from [the text[-book]’s, add. AP] national origin in the general polity can identify with the richness of the texture of the “culture” in question. (I am not even bringing up the question of the definition of culture.) People from other national origins in the classroom (other, that is, than Anglo) relate sympathetically but superficially, in an aura of same difference. The Anglo relates benevolently to everything, “knowing about other cultures” in a relativist glow.” (Spivak, 1992: 7)

We seem to keep coming back to the teacher and the text[-book] (from one national origin) in the classroom, with the class, wherein lies the student:

“Speaking to them and their teachers in December, I stressed repeatedly the importance of explaining the text, of explaining repeatedly, of checking to see if the student has understood.” (Spivak, 2002: 28)

It matters little if we substitute the (static, pictorial) image (painting or photograph) or the (cinematic) film (movie) for the text[-book]. Image and film can become text.

It matters little, equally, if we substitute the studio or the laboratory for the classroom. Studio and laboratory can become classroom.

In one account, then, the student, the student body, the classroom and the text[-book] are centred on the teacher, a centre from which the world (outside the classroom, by means of the text[-book], through critique) may be mastered.

Nevertheless …

Most learning takes place outside of the classroom. The scene of learning has multiple sites, one of which is the classroom, perhaps the archetypal ‘scene of teaching’, a scene which differs from that of indoctrination. Classroom teaching inflects that learning or refracts that learning, and may claim to be formalising that learning through learning-how-to-learn (formally), one the one hand, while critiquing that (everyday) learning, on the other hand.

Classroom learning re-articulates the learning that takes place outside the classroom. Without an awareness of the ‘out’ side of the classroom, already brought ‘in’ side by the student body and the student’s body, classroom teaching could not develop the specificity of its mode of learning, its particular inflection of everyday learning.

In the sense that it inaugurates learning, or brings to awareness the always-already of learning, it is in the form, partly, of an unlearning (of bad habits, the Platonic philosophical stance, raising the philosopher up from the everyday ‘man’) or a learning otherwise, but otherwise in the sense of disciplinary learning, a form of learning that may be more ‘technical’, more ‘analytical’, more ‘critical’: technique, technology, analysis, critique, the main modes through which the Western episteme is developed, which may be to say ‘method’ but not necessarily methodology.

Alternatively, such (re-)inauguration may form a making strange of what has been learned in the everyday, as in avant-garde art practices, which bring to attention what has been termed, in another time, the ‘absurdity’ of the everyday.

What classroom learning may, however, inaugurate is a mode of perceiving the world in more detail or, rather, as a series of fragments.

The scene of teaching, as has already been noted in a prior discussion of Basil Bernstein’s work [1], [2], [3] and [4], forms across a plurality of sites. What matters is the articulation of the modes of learning that take place within the different sites. The classroom is, in part, where you are classed, and may bring to awareness a degree of class consciousness, but not class mobilisation. The classroom is where you learn your class, categorically, where you learn to split your (imaginary-originary) persona among sites, to become an actant in different apparatuses; an actant, both acting and acted upon, both affecting and affected, both perceiving and perceived. [Note 1]

The text[-book]

John Latham, Film Star, 1960

The text[-book] may be seen as an articulated joint or hinge, bringing text and book into some kind of folding alignment, an arrangement which holds together two of the leaves or threads of university pedagogy as it has developed since the 18th century in the form of the professorial system, as a bridge from the professor’s speech to the disciplinary content, as discursive archive.

The text, the vital part, comes alive in the classroom, as ‘living presence’ in the hands of the teacher, who displays his/her mastery of the world which unfolds from the codex. The book, the dead part or the inert part, the text’s remains, so to speak, are held in the tomb of the library, which may or not be a magnificent monument. Together, both parts, the live part and the dead part, form the ‘materiality’ of the text[-book] or, in other words, its actantiality, its ability to rise from the dead, again and again, as the inert body of the book is resuscitated in the classroom, life breathed back into it through the teacher’s voice.

The text belongs to the teacher; the book belongs to the librarian.

The academic library …

The book may be studied in the library. What form of life does it take then and there, without the presence of the teacher. Has the teacher imparted ‘tools’, perhaps in the form of a conscientiousness or a method, to enable, at least, a partial text-to-eye resuscitation: can the student understand?; has the student understood?; can the student’s understanding be tested/assessed?

From another perspective, the learning that takes place in the classroom is (necessarily) supplemented by the learning that takes place without it (both outside of it and without the aid of the classroom), i.e. necessarily and so therefore not supplementarily: both necessary and supplementary.

One ‘immediate’ contextual feature of the classroom, the context which enters into the classroom frame metaleptically, so to speak, is the learning environment, or the learning ecology, constituted by the higher education institution: the (non-)place, material-virtual, the student enters in order to learn to be a student.

Of the several ‘non-places’ of this wider institutional learning environment, none is more present and more absent than the library. Not-classroom, not laboratory, not studio, not seminar room, not lecture hall, nevertheless, learning takes place there: learning (‘studying’) is where the library takes place. What kind of pedagogy inhabits or animates this kind of learning-taking-place?

Neither presence nor absence/both presence and absence, the academic library, as an element of/in the scene of teaching-as-learning or classroom teaching/learning, spread across several sites, constitutes a kind of learning, a testing moment (does the student understand?), which is not an external assessment, that opens the learner to a ‘void’, an untried and unanticipated step into learning/not-knowing, which is not a step towards knowing-as-mastery, and which brings into focus an awareness of the performative scaffolding from which that step is, hesitantly, being taken.

Becoming devoid of support, the student must find a way to deal with that emptiness (there is no step that is obvious, no direction to be taken), or simply with emptiness without particularity. Nevertheless, learning remains, in this elemental scene, an individual enterprise, private study, silent study, even in the midst of the (semi-)public space constituted by the library – subsumed in the classroom as the primary (traumatic) scene of teaching: instruction as in-struck-tion, as being struck, beaten into shape, finally stricken.

The text[-book], the classroom, the library and the world

What is missing, clearly, is a philosophy of the academic library, particularly a philosophical justification of the pedagogy of the library, a reasoned account of the learning that takes place in the library as the library, perhaps along the lines of curatorial pedagogy/pedgogical curation, one might joke.

This would be a performative account, focusing on what the library can do, for example, does the library de-centre the mastery of the teacher?; does the library disperse the living presence of the text[-book]; does the library endlessly defer knowing taking place; does the library open knowledge to sharing, through deferral and referral. And if the library performs thus, how does it do so?


Are we anywhere near understanding the academic library as part of a larger, multi-levelled, socio-technical learning environment and learning apparatus?

One could almost imagine a manifesto, such as those favoured by the profession of architecture, in which it is stated, as a series of slogans:

The academic library codifies multidisciplinarity, and holds the potential for interdisciplinarity, while permitting the possibility of cross- and trans-disciplinarity. The academic library materialised the ‘flipped classroom’ long before the phrase entered the educational vocabulary. The academic library facilitated ‘blended learning’, again long before this phrase entered the educational vocabulary. The academic library enables independent learning, which is non-classroom-based and a-curricular. The academic library promotes the sharing, exchange and circulation of ideas and knowledge, through collective learning. The academic library is one remaining isolated enclave of (limited, constrained) collective, public, shared, collegiate space. The academic library embodies the sociality, the materiality and the technicity of knowing. The academic library is a social medium, but neither purely nor simply. More programmatically, the library encourages rhizomatic learning, i.e. non-linear, mixed physical-social-virtual learning.

The academic library articulates the following principles, such a manifesto might go on to say:

  • The principle of browsing (chance)
  • The principle of derive (aimless, endless, wandering)
  • The principle of detournement (de- and re-contextualising)
  • The principle of collage, assemblage, montage (metaleptic, relational creativity)
  • The principle of curation (multi-media, multi-modal inter/trans-media/textuality)
  • The principle of avant-garde making-strange/defamiliarisation (critique  of ortho-doxy)
  • The principle of deconstruction (critique of injustice and exclusion)
  • The principle of Buddhist (in)direction (critique of teleology)
  • The principle of Buddhist mindfulness (‘silent study’ and its relations to the mindfulness of body, feelings/sensations, mind/consciousness and the dhammas, i.e. Buddhist teachings)

Last word … 

The last word falls to Spivak, her final lesson:

“The solution is not to write new textbooks, the liberal intellectuals’ favourite option.” (Spivak, 2002: 26)

[Note 1]

Lynsey Hanley (2015) reviews Mike Savage’s book, Social Class in the 21st Century, in The Guardian newspaper. She points out that Savage and his colleagues at the London School of Economics have constructed a seven-class schema for the UK in the 21st century, ranging from the elite, the established middle class, the technical middle class, the new affluent worker and emergent service workers, through to traditional working class and the precariat.


Hanley, L. (2015). “Social class in the 21st century” by Mike Savage. The Guardian, 14 November, Review p.7. Available from http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/nov/13/social-class-21st-century-mike-savage-review [Accessed 15 November 2015]

Savage, M. (2015). Social class in the 21st century. London: Pelican.

Spivak, G.C. (1992). Teaching for the times. The Journal of the Midwest Modern Language Association, 25 (1), 3–22. Available from http://www.jstor.org/stable/1315070 [Accessed 11 November 2015].

Spivak, C.G. (2002). Ethics and politics in Tagore, Coetzee, and certain scenes of teaching. Diacritics, 32 (3/4), 17–31. Available from http://www.jstor.org/stable/1566443 [Accessed 11 November 2015].

Social Theory Applied

Screen Shot 2015-10-18 at 15.27.27

Readers of and contributors to HEAT may be interested in the Social Theory Applied website which is maintained by Mark Murphy, a Reader in Education and Public Policy at the University of Glasgow. He initiated it in January 2013.

Mark and the contributors to the Social Theory Applied website are engaging with a set of theories, developed by the likes of Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Pierre Bourdieu, et al., theorists who could never be described as straightforward or easy to follow. In addition, there is a variety of issues to face when applying such ideas in research contexts, a field of complex interwoven imperatives and practices in its own right.

Mark notes that the various levels of challenges, such as epistemological, operational or analytical, inevitably impact on researchers and their attempts to make sense of research questions, whether these be questions of governance and political regulation, social reproduction, power, cultural or professional identities, etc..

It has a sister site hosting the Journal of Applied Social Theory, of which no issues have yet been published. We look forward to its first issue.

Critical Digital Pedagogy

Jesse Stommel, Assistant Professor in the Department of Liberal Studies and the Arts at University of Wisconsin-Madison, has posted the following presentation on SlideShare, entitled Critical Digital Pedagogy, which may be of interest to HEAT readers.

He also brings to attention the Hybrid Pedagogy website, with which HEAT readers may wish to engage.

Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 17.34.48

Reading Sedgwick

WallMarx Ink

A more easily readable version of this text can be opened here: WallMarx

At the 20 May 2015 meeting of the HEAT Reading Group, Jenni Nowlan introduced the text “Pedagogy of Buddhism”, chapter 5 of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s book, Touching feeling: affect, pedagogy, performativity. The session raised a number of themes related to contemporary pedagogical practices.

1. One issue concerned the relationship between the two terms ‘pedagogy’ and ‘Buddhism’. Was Sedgwick, and in what senses, engaging with ‘pedagogy of Buddhism’?; or, rather, was she addressing the attempted pedagogisation of Buddhism, and what this might mean? In relation to the latter point, the pedagogisation of Buddhism, Jarow (2002) notes that,

“The Teaching of Buddhist traditions may itself be inherently problematic in this regard: after all, the historical Buddha is said to have balked at the idea of teaching.”

Another potential disjunction emerges, between ‘teaching’, understood perhaps as a set of practices developed around ‘instruction’, and ‘pedagogy’, understood perhaps as a body of literature or theory concerning how best to teach; to put aside for the time being the question of whether and how ‘teaching’ may be more than ‘instruction’.

Continue reading Reading Sedgwick

Articles on English higher education


The London Review of Books has recently published two articles on two different aspects of current conditions within the English university. Andrew McGettigan writes on the reasons for the government’s delay in further sales of the student loan book while Marina Warner writes about prevailing employment conditions.

Warner cites examples of what the American scholar Lauren Berlant has called ‘cruel optimism’, such as,

“People open themselves to exploitation when the sense of self-worth that derives from doing something they believe in comes up against a hierarchical authority that is secretive, arbitrary and ruthless.”

The articles can be found here:

McGettigan, A. (2015). Cash today. London Review of Books, 37 (5), 24–28. Available from: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v37/n05/andrew-mcgettigan/cash-today [Accessed 22 March 2015].

Warner, M. (2015). Learning my lesson: the disfiguring of higher education. London Review of Books, 37 (6), 8, 10, 12, 14. Available from http://www.lrb.co.uk/v37/n06/marina-warner/learning-my-lesson [Accessed 22 March 2015].

Research Lab 1: Difference: Disagreement, Dissensus, Disavowal

Habit-in-Habitus-in-Habitat? Andro Wekua, Untitled (2011) Collection Nicoletta Fiorucci, Londres. Courtesy Gladstone Gallery (New York, Bruxelles) © Andro Wekua. On show at the Inside exhibition at the Palais de Tokyo, October 2014-January 2015.
Andro Wekua, Untitled (2011) Collection Nicoletta Fiorucci, Londres. Courtesy Gladstone Gallery (New York, Bruxelles) © Andro Wekua. On show at the Inside exhibition at the Palais de Tokyo, Paris, October 2014-January 2015.

“…the [Warburg] institute has always made a practice of employing scholar-librarians, actively engaged in research and often teaching. The head of ULRLS [University of London Research Library Services] made no secret of the fact that he thought our librarians over-qualified…” (Hope, 2014: 32)

“When Strathclyde Regional Council sheriff officer came to collect [Ian Hamilton] Finlay’s rates arrears in 1983, disputing his argument that as a temple to a pagan god (rather than an art gallery) Little Sparta [in sly opposition to Edinburgh, ‘the Athens of the North’] was exempt, he encountered mock French Revolutionary armed resistance.” (Wheatley, 2014: 43)

“With the Catholicism of A. W. N. Pugin in England and the Fourierism of Victor Considerant and Cesar Daly in France, architectural theory took a step towards new moralizing objectives. Instead of servile response to existing needs, inscribing in ordered spaces, the intention of the architect was to transform the “habits” themselves of future users. In the eighteenth century architecture was to be “speaking” and acting through its form upon perception, in the nineteenth century architecture was instead to be “moralizing” and acting to reform.” (Teyssot, 1996)


Setting the Scene

While Steven’s contribution to Research Lab 1 on 3 December 2014 concerned the de-contextualisation and re-contextualisation of a passage of text, framed as a kind of thought experiment, Allan’s contribution to the Research Lab  sought to open a debate on contextualisation and, to create a neologism, contestualisation, the latter term taken to evoke processes of making contested, making contestual, making contestable and recognising as contested.

Contextualisation and contestualisation taken together may serve as a possible starting point to open a further discussion on subjectivation/subjectification (becoming-subject and becoming-subject-to, in the sense of prevailing conditions, the conditionality and contingency of being and doing) and subjection (becoming subjected, in the sense, beyond conditionality, of being oppressed, being subject to dominant other subjects in a regime); and the possibility of discussing the conditions of and for inter-subjectivity, collaboration and collective action, in the context of the Higher Education Research Centre, for example. Contestuality may also contain remnants of the obsolete use of contestation as “the action of calling or taking to witness, adjuration; solemn appeal or protest.” (Oxford English Dictionary)

Contextuality and contestuality are taken as active processes of simultaneously acting (becoming subject, acting inter-subjectively, inter-acting, acting-in-between) and framing action (being subject to, being subjected to, being environed).

Aside: “I have been outside higher education for a long time now; no, not outside of higher education but on its ‘out’ side. I have played many roles in relation to higher education: I have been a student (several times, at different times in different places); I have been a teacher; I have been a lecturer; I have been a tutor; I have been a facilitator; I have been an academic librarian; I have worked on commercial products for higher education; I have worked on research projects about higher education.

Yet, somehow, the sense remains: ‘You do not belong here. You are not one of us.’

This is a strange kind of exclusion, because higher education runs on its ‘out’ siders. It could not work without them. Its ‘out’ side defines its ‘in’-side, a condition that may perpetually recede, such that there may no longer be an ‘in’ side; although there are people, let us call them ‘professionals’, who consider themselves ‘insiders’, for example, those who profess to know that (disciplinarily), those who profess to know how (organisationally – being-together) and those who profess to know-how (technologically – automatically); and those who profess to know-how (administratively – processually and procedurally).”

While this text may seem to be autobiographical, ‘I’ may yet be classified or assessed as an unreliable narrator, not necessarily because the (paradoxical) statement ‘I am unreliable’ is true, which brings to attention the ways in which such statements may be evaluated, but because the narrative form, in generating positions for ‘I’ to inhabit opens a field of contestation, for example, concerning the capability of articulating the truth or concerning the lack/possession of the requisite authority and the question of the existence of various ‘I-for-others’. Equally, ‘I’ may be classified or assessed as an unreliable witness, drawing to attention the distinction (and relationships) between providing an account (accounting for (explaining) and accountable for (taking responsibility)) and ‘witnessing’ (eye-witnessing and bearing witness), and the distinction (and relationships) between the question of (telling or stating the) ‘truth’ (‘adequate’ account, accounting, accountability) and doing justice to the other (responding, taking responsibility, acknowledging – ‘adequately’).

This ‘I’, from another perspective, may be a signifier in someone else’s discourse, an ‘I’ that is spoken rather than speaking (Wilden, 1980: 261).

How does one gain access to this process, whereby the senses of inclusion and exclusion, of being in the know and being ignorant, of speaking and being-spoken are co-incidental and divisive?

Diagram 1

By way of seeking a path into the operation of this labyrinthine, flyped, engagement, Allan sketched out an alliterative trinity of terms (habit – habitus – habitat), a trinity which, whether intentionally or not, resonates with the Christian Holy Trinity – the Father (Word/Law), the Son (Body/Flesh) and the Holy Ghost (Breath/Spirit), which, Benson (2003) claims, “provides the underlying model for the Hegelian dialectic” of Logic, Nature, and Spirit; and the Marxian parody whereby Marx describes land, labour and capital as “the trinity formula which comprises all the secrets of the social production process.” (Marx, 1894: 794) It may also, secondarily, resonate with Arendt’s (1958) trinity of terms: labour, work and action, with their concomitant realms: life, world and the political sphere [2]


Pauline suggested that the cognate term ‘inhabit’ could be added to these terms, to define the habitation which emerges from the intersection of these separated, but intertwined and involuted, domains. However, Allan insisted that, even while this is a form of inhabiting, this was not a diagramming of Heideggerean ‘dwelling’ (see aside on Lefebvre below). It is, he insisted, more oriented towards a Lefebvrian analysis of ‘the everyday’, replete with a grappling with a Marxian conception ‘alienation’, yet without a presupposition of ‘wholeness’ or ‘totality’, with resonances of the work of Bourdieu and de Certeau; and, to an ambiguous extent, that of Foucault.

Could the intersection of these terms be said to constitute:

everyday life (Lefebvre, Freud, for example);
the quotidienne; (Lefebvre, Barthes, etc.)
daily life; [1]
Dasein/Mitsein (Being-there-here; Being-with; Heidegger)
vita activa (Arendt)
the political – sphere of ‘action’ (Arendt)
lifeworld [Lebenswelt] (phenomenology, Husserl; Habermas)
the familiar (Freud);
the unquestioned;
the taken-for granted;
the undecidable (Derrida)
the given (e.g. forms of life – Wittgenstein – Lebensformen)
the known;
the normal;
the real;
the avowed (See Sedgwick);
praxis (Sartre, Marx, for example);
regularity (Foucault);
regime of practices (Foucault);
apparatus/dispositif (Foucault);
field of action (Bourdieu)?

If characterised in terms of learning, knowing and the known, the dimension of habit, as that of custom, tradition and convention could be called ‘encoded knowledge’; the dimension of habitus, as that of technical and ensemble action, could be called ‘embodied knowledge’; while the dimension of habitat, as atmosphere, surround and environment, could be called ‘embedded knowledge’. What emerges from this triple contextualisation might be characterised as ‘enacted knowledge’ in the form of distinct spatio-temporal social practices.

Microsoft Word - Knowledges.docx

Given this kind of characterisation, learning may take place as a series of transformations, for example, of habit through changes in habitus; of habitus through changes in habitat; and of habitat through habit transformed through changes in habitus, in a series of virtuous or vicious cycles. The overall, emergent ‘problematiques’ of the habit-in-habitus-in-habitat, to which it provides its own ‘solutions’ by means of the various inter-linked ‘agencies’ of the assembly, themselves contingent, changes over time. For example, in Europe after 1848, Teyssot (1996) argues,

“Industrial capitalism and the State have both the objective and the urgent need to create a habitat for the wage earning class in rural and mining zones and industrial cities”

Aside: In the context of learning in higher education, one might take as example here the notions of ‘the book’ (habit, encoded knowledge – de-coding), ‘reading’ (habitus, embodied knowledge – interpreting) and ‘the library’ (habitat, embedded knowledge – environing), as an instance of an emergent academic and scholarly practice (enacted knowledge – learning – coming to know). All of these dimensions of academic (pedagogic, research and scholarly) practice are under transformation and are transforming one another. [For a view of how this might be understood from the perspective of ‘the library’ see Academic liaison librarianship: curatorial pedagogy or pedagogical curation and From liaison, through media performance to performative, interactive sensemaking

In this example, the knowledge medium par excellence remains ‘the book’, as resistant habit in the form of a technology of encoding. The ‘print tradition’, having overwritten the ‘oral tradition’ and having fended off the challenge of (broadcast) audiovisual media (cinema, television, video recording) is busy fending off the digital re-working of oral, typographic and audiovisual, multimodal media through the World Wide Web.

Nevertheless, ‘the library’, as resistant habitat, while still wedded to ‘the book’, ‘the printed book’, even as ‘the book’ itself becomes a digital entity, is to an extent transformed, as the spatio-temporal practices of social interaction, which were previously considered a secondary, if not irrelevant, part of ‘the library’ with its regime of ‘silent study’ or ‘silent reading’ in the presence of ’the book’, have given way to group study spaces, to cafe culture, casual conversation, to browsing on the internet and to engagement in social media. The practice of extra-curricular reading, as academic (pedagogic) habitus, is displaced by the sociality of learning, as emergent academic habitus, on the one hand, and by new forms of technologies of encoding (digital, networked, multimedia, multimodal), as habit, on the other hand.

While undergoing multiple changes, including those practices pertaining to the funding of higher education, the overall academic habit-in-habitus-in-habitat and its emergent academic and scholarly practices, nonetheless, requires a reconfiguration to accommodate the emergent practices of learning and coming to know; crucially, it requires a rethinking of all the dimensions together, including the emergent ones.

While this diagram might open up a certain understanding of ‘contextuality’, with each of the dimensions of habit, habitus and habitat serving as contexts for one another, it does not necessarily open up the character of the ‘contestualisation’ that occurs within that domain of spatio-temporal social practices, unless one adopts Lefebvrian insights concerning the rhythms of ’the everyday’.

Further Aside: For Lefebvre, revolt and resistance are at the heart of the everyday. This was a central theme of Lefebvre’s dialogue with the Situationists, a theme developed subsequently by de Certeau. Lefebvre argues that the everyday is neither the realm of the inauthentic (as it is for existentialism) nor the realm of the ‘truly’ authentic (Sheringham, 2006: 145).

The everyday, in this characterisation, is the arena of personalisation (or perhaps, rather, persona-fication: the making of personas as socialised persons) and of individuation, the place where the personal and the social intersect within the person/persona – the (abstract) human being becomes a (concrete) person.

Crucially, for Lefebvre, the everyday is not to be confused with the Heideggerian ‘ground’ (Sheringham, 2006: 147).

Lefebvre initially focused on Brechtian epic theatre: placing the spectator, for example in the ‘street scene’, in the middle of the bustle, and hence the ambiguities, of everyday life (Sheringham, 2006: 138).

Finally, from a design (discipline) perspective, because there are several orientations at play here, for example, ‘learning’, ‘design’ and perhaps also ‘design pedagogy’ and ‘learning design’, it may be relevant to point out that:

“Suchman (2007) has noted that “the coherence of action is not adequately explained by either cognitive schema or institutionalised social norms. Rather, the organisation of situated action is an emergent property of the moment-by-moment interactions between actors, and between actors and the environments of their action”.” (Giacomin, 2012)

We might add here, proleptically, that the ‘actors’ are more properly ‘actants’ and that the interactive field is thereby rendered complex by the ‘actants’ being relational through-and-through, a condition which, nevertheless, renders their ‘nodal’ qualities material. Thus, similarly to Lefebvre, for Bourdieu “[a] social field is a “locus of struggles” … that represents a network of positions …” (Walther, 2014: 9), an insight to which we will try to adhere in what follows.

Lab Questions

Is disciplinary learning solely habitual, i.e. concerned solely with encoded knowledge, such as text-books, laws, statutes, principles and authorities? [Could one phrase this questions as: Is disciplinary learning solely ‘academic’?]
Does one also, in addition to learning encoded knowledge, have to learn an appropriate habitus (set of pre-dispositions and dispositions; embodied knowledge; skills and ensemble acting) in order to ‘know’ a discipline?
Does one have to learn a discipline, both in terms of its habit and habitus, in an appropriate habitat (learning environments; technologies; embedded knowledge)?
Does one have to partake in a disciplinary ‘world’ (habitation; enacted knowledge), with its appropriate habitat, habitus and habits, in order to ‘know’ a discipline?
Depending on how these questions are answered, what might the term ‘inter-disciplinary’ mean?
Additional questions
Is ‘design’ a discipline or a collection of disciplines?
Alternatively, is ‘design’ inherently inter-disciplinary?
If design is inter-disciplinary, in what sense(s) is this so?
Further questions
What are the relationships and the differences between a ‘discipline’ and a ‘profession’, for example, in relation to ‘design’ or ‘law’ or ‘politics’?

Diagram 2

If Diagram 1 concerned (a possible conceptualisation of) the emergent space of learning and coming to know, with learning as both contextualisation and contestualisation, what of the learner?

In order to gain some leverage on the learner as situated, embodied, de-centred and negotiated subject, and to avoid assuming a methodological individualism, Allan resorted to a second diagram, the Apuleian diagram of the Aristotelian logic square, as refracted through Lacan, in relation to the constitution of inter-subjectivity, and through Greimas, in relation to the constitution of narrativity.

To be continued…


[1] As an interesting aside, and possibly a classroom exercise, in the context of ‘daily habit’, it is worth looking at the Josh Jones’ text, The Daily Habits of Highly Productive Philosophers: Nietzsche, Marx & Immanuel Kant, in the Open Culture website, to begin to discern the differences in ‘outputs’ arising from the contingent set of practices organised around ‘the everyday’ and ‘daily life’. To find other examples, Jones suggests looking at the blog and now book Daily Routines.

[2] For Arendt, the human condition of labour is life itself, whereas the human condition of work is worldliness, and action corresponds to the human condition of plurality, as the indispensible condition of all political life and the condition through which all political life takes place (Arendt, 1998: 7).


Arendt, H. (1998). The Human condition. 2nd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Benson, P. (2003). Hegel and the Trinity. Philosophy Now, no. 42, 23–25. Available from https://philosophynow.org/issues/42/Hegel_and_the_Trinity Accessed 20 December 2014.

Giacomin, J. (2012). What is human centred design? In: 10th Congresso Brasileiro de Pesquisa e Desenvolvimento em Design, São Luís (MA), Sao Paulo: 2012. Available at: http://hcdi.brunel.ac.uk/files/What%20is%20Human%20Centred%20Design.pdf Accessed on 16 October 2014.

Hope, C. (2014). Charles Hope writes about the battle over the Warburg Institute. London Review of Books, 36 (23), pp.32-34.

Marx, K. (1894). Capital: a critique of political economy. Volume III: the process of capitalist production as a whole. New York, N.Y.: International Publishers. Available from: https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/download/pdf/Capital-Volume-III.pdf Accessed on 2 December 2014.

Sheringham, M. (2006). Henri Lefebvre: alienation and appropriation in everyday life. In: Everyday life: theories and practices from Surrealism to the present. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 134–174.

Teyssot, G. (1996). Habits/habitus/habitat. Public Space [Website]. Available from: http://www.publicspace.org/en/text-library/eng/a018-habits-habitus-habitat Accessed on 2 December 2014.

Walther, M. (2014). Bourdieu’s theory of practice as theoretical framework. In: Repatriation to France and Germany. Wiesbaden: Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden, pp.7–21.

Wheatley, D. (2014). Agh, agh, yah, boo. London Review of Books, 36 (23), pp.43-44.

Wilden, A. (1980). System and structure: essays in communication and exchange. London, UK: Tavistock.