Abstract 406

Whose Canada is this that we are presenting? Deconstructing the role of nation with third grade students

Presentation:  Magdalena Vergara, Alexis Birner, Teresa Dobson

Session E | 11:05- 11:45 | Location: Room 304


This presentation offers the story of one primary teacher (Alexis) and her experience of deconstructing the stereotypical concept of Canadian nation with her third-grade students through a postcolonial framework. Alexis’ work is part of a national study that engages Canadian English language and arts teachers and their students in exploring issues of social justice through reading and responding to postcolonial texts. During her participation in an inquiry group, Alexis began to question the unitary notion of a nation that was going to be presented to her students by the books that were in the classroom and, through an action research methodology (Carr & Kemmis, 1986), she proposed a unit based in the exploration of difference that constructs Canada.
The purpose of this presentation is twofold: 1) It seeks to describe and render visible how teacher participation in an inquiry group influences their posterior praxis in the classroom; and 2) it aims to problematize how the daily practices in the classroom are coopted by colonial logics, inscribed in the material aspects that condition education’s capillary actualities in spite of the curriculum’s apparent progressiveness (i.e. the books available in the classroom). In this sense, we want to show how a unit developed through postcolonial lenses can disrupt student current understanding of Canada.
The theoretical framework used resorts on Bhabha’s concept of nation (1990) as a series of competing narratives, which challenge and put into evidence the artificiality of any univocal account predefined from a hegemonic place of enunciation.
Two main conclusions stem from this small study: First, there is an evident tension between the ideological progressive project defined through curricular policies and the practices that emerged in the classroom (i.e. the availability of materials). And second, it poses a challenge to postcolonial studies, which tend to be trapped within the dynamic of reader-narrative interpretation. The colonial condition, from our perspective, is eminently relational and requires understanding archives from their material existence and the possibilities of agency that they produce.
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