Unveiling Hidden Epistemologies
In the current climate of uncertainty and difficulty that we live in, death is brought to the surface of our daily awareness. We live in the midst of collective grief of lives that were lost.
In the year I lost my beloved younger brother, I wrote a piece in the Journal of the Learning Sciences on friendship and learning for immigrant and refugee learners. Being so close to my brother’s death and seeing how his friends came to gather to share the pain, fear and injustice he endured but also to celebrate his life, my attention shifted to acts of caring and being together that shine light into our lives, and embrace who we are and who we want to be. Through acts of caring, love and solidarity, we collectively hold the pain of those who have suffered from violence. Such a decolonial space of intimacy and care in learning can be political and humanize dehumanized or Othered bodies.
What do such intimate relationships we build with others have to do with learning and solidarity for societal changes? We are in a field where we can take pain and fear and turn them into the impetus for reimagining our collective experiences and histories.
Facing the overwhelming number of Black lives lost from systemic anti-Black violence and in memory of those lives killed through injustice – Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade – Na’ilah Nasir poignantly said: “Even as we mourn, we must take action.” The current situation is calling for, even more than ever, our commitment to social justice and to fight against anti-Black, anti-Indigenous violence, and systemic racism and intersectional oppressions at large. In this light, I am grateful to scholars who pioneered and sustained critical voices in the field of the learning sciences. I am thankful for your activism in your scholarship, on behalf of those who follow in your footsteps.
Imagining a future that is just and equitable, it is imperative that we carry out acts of care, love, and solidarity within and beyond our scholarship to fight against systemic and historical oppression. At the core of such acts, I posit centering the experiences of those who live intersectional oppressions rooted in politics of race, class, gender, sexuality, ability, and language and centering epistemologies that are often masked and hidden. Our epistemology is inseparable from our ontology. As a queer racialized woman, the way I see disciplinary learning and schooling is fundamentally rooted in my own lived experiences. The reason why my attention goes to hidden ways of knowing and being is because of my struggles of hiding and being hidden. But such voices that deviate from the mainstream norms are often pushed back, further interrogated, pressed to straighten up, and can be hidden or ultimately vanished.
Inclusion of historically oppressed voices and bodies goes beyond representational struggles; it can evoke an epistemological shift toward societal changes. For example, I worked with a migrant woman activist, Virgie Aquino Ishihara, and we depicted how racialized migrant women who were experiencing violence countered the mainstream data that did not reveal their historically marginalized voices, toward policy changes. As another example, to counter the official space of schooling that can hide non-mainstream ways of doing mathematics, together with migrant mothers, we unveiled the richness of the history behind the hidden inter-generational embodied ways of knowing mathematics. As we envision the future of the learning sciences, I hope we can center and listen to the historically silenced and hidden epistemologies of researchers and of participants alike. The learning sciences can give a space to carry out acts of care and solidarity, together with communities, teachers, families and learners.
Continuing to mask and silence historically marginalized ways of being and knowing will perpetuate violence against Othered and dehumanized bodies. I hope, together with colleagues in the learning sciences, we can continue amplifying the design of the learning environments and the field itself, where historically hidden and erased bodies and voices can come out and come together.
My sincere appreciation goes to those who proposed and made this session possible: Kris Gutiérrez, Victoria Hand, Susan Jurow, José Lizarraga, Ananda Marin, Na’ilah Suad Nasir, Kalonji Nzinga, Pratim Sengupta, Jennifer Vadeboncoeur, Sepehr Vakil, and Shirin Vossoughi. Thank you so much for all your hard work as the ICLS 2020 co-chairs, Melissa Gresalfi and Ilana Horn.
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