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Building transnational solidarity: radical pedagogies from the South
Building transnational solidarity event

Blog post by Yuke Huang, RACE.ED Communications and Events Intern, University of Edinburgh

This post is a reflection piece on the RACE.ED three-day workshop held 18-20 July 2022 on ‘Building Transnational Solidarity: Radical Pedagogies from the South’.

Every time I think of the transnational solidarity workshop RACE.ED hosted this past summer, I have to recollect and reaffirm that it was not a fever dream. The sun was blazing through the conference room, steaming us like a sauna. Chairs were spread out in a vague circular position. The interchanging and overlapping medley of English and Brazilian-Portuguese filled the conference room and transcended my positionality. Summer heatwave, shoeless-ness, laughter, tears, de-hierarchised interaction, elements that seem so at odds with the academic setting has warmed up this ‘cold institutional building’ of the University where the workshop was held.

The three-day workshop was hosted by Dr Katucha Bento and Dr Gabriela Loureiro of the University of Edinburgh, with two invited speakers Dr Edineia Lopes and Dr Raimunda Machado from the Black indigenous community in Brazil. The workshop attracted participants from a wide range of cultures, backgrounds and occupations, allowing us to weave into each other’s lived experiences and situate the interpretations of ‘radical pedagogies’ and ‘transnational solidarity’ within different positionalities. One of the most refreshing and crucial aspects of the workshop embodying these themes was language. Throughout the workshop, Katucha and Gabriela were tirelessly translating between English and Brazilian Portuguese to ensure seamless communication between the two invited speakers and participants. It was gratifying and reassuring to me, a non-native English speaker who often feels insecure about my accent and language ability, to be listened to and respected during these exchanges as opposed to being ignored and dismissed. Here, presenting academic work in non-English was not seen as an exclusionary factor of one’s academic ability, but a refusal to be scrutinised and a comfort in living in one’s truth. My accent was not treated as an indication of an inferior level of English understanding but a celebration of self-expression and a relief from the imposter anxiety that I often experience in Edinburgh day-to- day. This provincialisation of the English language is an active process of supplanting the Anglo-American-centred ‘globalised’ capitalism with a de-hierarchised ‘transnational’ solidarity.

The structure and organisation of the workshop presented to us reflected an understanding of ‘radical pedagogies’ through the design of multiple interactive activities that wove an egalitarian learning environment where the participants were able to exchange, interweave and collide. At the beginning of the first day, we were split into groups to visualise what radical pedagogies mean to us. Those two words, ‘radical pedagogy’, intimidate me – perhaps  because I only encountered the word ‘pedagogy’ a year into my undergraduate degree, so I am still unclear about what it exactly entails, or because being mostly educated under the hierarchical educational model, I have seldom critically engaged with the ‘other side’ of education, the ‘mediator’ of knowledge. I started interpreting ‘radical pedagogy’ pictorially from the perspectives of how I, as a student, expect what the process of learning entails. What I envisioned was a process of revolutionising the pedagogy. Through the constant negotiation, assimilation or collision facilitated by this workshop, the embedded nature of radical pedagogy was realised: a de-hierarchised de-institutionalised mutual learning. The structure, format and activities of the workshop upended multiple forms of traditional pedagogy, initiating a sprout for the future of ‘radical pedagogy’.

Perhaps the most precious and lingering reminiscent of the workshop was how much intimacy and solidarity we cultivated with people whom we only crossed paths for three days. The diversity of different cultural backgrounds of the participants hones in the ‘transnational solidarity’ of the workshop. Departing from the identity politics promoted by the multiculturalism enforced by the institutions, the cultural diversity of the participants underpinned, rather, a community-based solidarity mapped by the local communities. Facilitated by the activities like the ‘Theatre of the Oppressed’, the visualisation of transnational solidarity through passing a ball of yarn and telling everyone’s stories, the workshop formed an unformidable bond through the sharing of vulnerability. This activation of the senses, the emotive and the spirits, are towards the decolonial agenda of re-existing through the liberation of the senses. In relation to Raimunda’s presentation on ubuntu philosophy, an insurgency to topple the supremacy of rationality through the recollection of spirituality is alarming. The calling of the self is intensified by the ubuntu philosophy of knowing oneself through integrating one into a part of nature.

I am certain that this workshop was one of many threads in weaving the ‘transnational solidarity’ through radical pedagogy. It also incited my imagination toward a decolonial pedagogy within academia where it is acceptable to be vulnerable and emotional. In this eyrie of the projection room in 40 George Square, there are only more works waiting to be done in the future.

Images credit: Photos by Gabriela Loureiro and Sandeep Bakshi; collage by Michaelagh Broadbent, 2022.

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