Educational Theory 60 (1):39-59 (2010)
The idea of emancipation plays a central role in modern educational theories and practices. The emancipatory impetus is particularly prominent in critical traditions and approaches where the aim of education is conceived as that of emancipating students from oppressive structures in the name of social justice and human freedom. What is needed to effect emancipation, so it is assumed in this tradition, is an exposition of the workings of power, as it is only when one sees and understands how power operates that it is possible to address its influence. In several of his publications the French philosopher Jacques Rancière has raised questions about the logic of this view of emancipation. Throughout his career Rancière has also worked consistently on the articulation of a different approach, an alternative way to understand and do emancipation. In this essay Gert Biesta provides a systematic reconstruction of Rancière's ideas on emancipation from three angles: political theory, political practice, and the practice of education. Biesta argues that Rancière provides us with a new and different way to understand how education might contribute to emancipation and also where and how, often in the name of emancipation and democracy, it actually hinders emancipation
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