North West Branch Seminar
After an introduction to the ontological understanding of rhetoric (in Ernesto Laclau’s terms), the lecture will address the role of rhetoric in the construction of theories of education. Rather than treating rhetoric as theoretical weakness (as the lack of conceptual clarity, resorting to persuasion instead of logical argument, etc.), of which educational theory is sometimes accused, I will ask the question of the role of rhetoric in linking education to politics. The main rhetorical devices typical, as I think, of educational discourse, will be identified in the works of J.J. Rousseau. I will speak of such topics as the construction of totality, visibility/invisibility, and temporality, and discuss their role in resolving the paradoxes of education – like the simultaneous attempts at securing individual emancipation and social unity. Even though these issues will be grounded in Rousseau’s theory, they will be discussed in relation to contemporary debates on education. I will also address a more general topic of the role of vagueness and ambiguity (in Laclau’s terms, of empty signifiers) in the construction of social order.
The presentation will relate to the book prof. Szkudlarek have recently published (On the Politics of Educational Theory. Rhetoric, theoretical ambiguity, and the construction of society. Routledge: London - New York 2017).