9 February, 2016
Queer Pedagogy explores the intersection between queer theory and critical pedagogy.
In doing so, it discovers and interrogates the student/teacher relationship, the role of identities in the classroom, the role of eroticism in the teaching process, the nature of disciplines and curriculum, and the connection between the classroom and the broader community with an aim of being both a set of theoretical tools for pedagogical critique / critique of pedagogy and/or a set of practical tools for those doing pedagogical work.
Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick
According to William Pinar, a curriculum theorist at Louisiana State University, homosexuality and pedagogy have been linked as far back as the ancient Greeks and Romans. Notions of queer theory in education, however, originate around 1981 with William F. Pinar’s “Understanding Curriculum as Gender Text,” critiquing the way in which machismo and masculinity plays out in Marxist educational theory. In 1982, Meredith Reiniger wrote about misogyny that had been internalized by her secondary English students. In 1983, James Sears wrote an article entitled “Sexuality: Taking off the Masks” for a journal called Changing Schools.
The term “queer pedagogy” itself, however, seem to have originated in 1993 with an article in the Canadian Journal of Education. This article was written by two Canadian professors, Mary Bryson (University of British Columbia) and Suzanne de Castell (Simon Fraser University), who were grappling with post-structuralist and essentialist theories of determine in the context of a classroom setting. They present various techniques that they tried, but eventually conclude that the task is both necessary and impossible, concluding: “Queer pedagogy it is indeed, that, after all, in trying to make a difference we seem only able to entrench essentialist boundaries which continue both to define and to divide us.”
In 1995, Deborah Britzman wrote an article entitled “Is there a queer pedagogy– Or, stop reading straight.”
In 1998, as part of William Pinar’s anthology on Queer Theory in Education, the challenge of articulating a queer pedagogy was taken up by a doctoral student at York University, Susanne Luhmann. In “Queering/Querying Pedagogy? Or, Pedagogy is a Pretty Queer Thing” (part of a larger anthology on Queer Theory in Education), she asks questions such as, “Is a queer pedagogy about and for queer students or queer teachers? Is a queer pedagogy a question of queer curriculum? Or, is it about teaching methods adequate for queer content? Or, about queer learning and teaching– and what would that mean? Moreover, is a queer pedagogy to become the house pedagogy of queer studies or is it about the queering of pedagogical theory?” She suggests that an “inquiry into the conditions that make learning possible or prevent learning” through exploration of the teacher/student relationships and “the conditions for understanding, or refusing, knowledge.”
In 2002, Tanya Olson (who teaches Developmental English at Vance-Granville Community College) further explored the teacher/student relationship in an article in Bad Subjects, an online cultural studies journal. In this article, entitled “TA/TG: The Pedagogy of the Cross-Dressed”, Olson compared the experience of being a butch woman and not knowing which restroom and whether one was male or female to use to the experience of being a Teaching Assistant (TA) and not being fully a student or a teacher, drawing on it for inspiration towards creating a new conception of pedagogy. She concludes, “Maybe re-defining TAs in the academy will help stop the sense of masquerade that currently characterizes their work. No matter how much they challenge accepted cultural standards or straddle societal binary divisions, everyone deserves a bathroom they can call home. From there we can create a pedagogy of the cross-dressed.