Playful dialogue with bell hooks & a collective interview

Written by X. Gorgol & C°C

The first public event of the TTTToolbox project took place at the end of the first day of work of the newly formed group between the participants of the erg, HDK-Valand and ISBA Besançon, on Monday, January 26, 2020 in the amphitheater of the erg, Brussels.

The activity that preceded this meeting, allowed us to write six questions on different themes, resulting from the collective reading of the bell hooks's first chapter of Teaching To Transgress: Engaged Pedagogy.

We wanted to ask some questions related to what we had been going through since the beginning of the project, its writing, to someone familiar with bell hooks' work and his views. Nassira Hedjerassi, a founding member of the bell hooks institute and Paulo Freire in France was our interlocutor in this conversation. Sociologist specializing in popular education and feminisms, Nassira Hedjerassi is also a professor of education sciences at the Sorbonne University.

This public moment with Nassira Hedjerassi consisted of two parts:

A playful dialogue
During the first part, Nassira Hedjerassi engaged in a dialogue with bell hooks through an exchange of quotes from bell hooks interpreted by the computer voice.

A collective interview
The second part was a moment of exchange with Nassira, punctuated by questions that we had previously prepared together in the workshop, the protocol of which is described below.

Although the participants in the project had just met on this day, the erg team, focused on collective work and creation, wanted to propose a writing of the questions in small groups, then in collective.

How to conduct the workshop

Suggestions for framing questions

Small groups
Length of conversation: 10 minutes

Suggestions for finalizing the questions

with the larger group

The questions

The questions below initially written at the end of the protocol were transformed during the conversation with Nassira Hedjerassi, in order to adapt to the reactions and the present moment and her presentation.

If there is a whole toolkit for teachers to understand what engaged pedagogy is, shouldn’t there be a similar toolkit for the students? Active and passive?

Does the system desires a pedagogy for emancipation and why?

Courage to trangress Boundaries! How to deal with structural "boundaries" in 2020 in an edufactory? Which are these? Strict structure, timing, outcomes, grades, etc... Room for experimentation: NO! Boundaries might not be transgressed, but made be transparent..... is this enough? For example: Not pretending all is horizontal, while powerstructures are at play.

How can students be pro active, or more so want to be pro active, if they are not used to it? Raises questions of ex cathedra teaching for children, and how everything starts in early childhood. How to take different students into account when expecting a more active participation? An active participation may stigmatise students with special needs. Also some students may not be comfortable with sharing their difficulties with their teachers, it should not be assumed that you're going to have an honest answer if you ask for special needs of the student.

In what ways can a teacher support their students without creating a power imbalance and create an environment of mutural respect and empathy?

How to teach and being transparent with the power relation in the act of teaching? and what are your tools to remember that?
Whats are your tools to deliver knowledges while simultaneously giving a space to your students to empower themselves?

Suggestions for remodeling the space

To accommodate this first public moment of the program, we felt it was important to move away from the frontal configuration of an amphitheater. As the erg's bleachers are retractable, we thought we could easily act on it. This turned out to be more complex than expected, as only a few people in the institution were authorized to retract these bleachers. So we had to make do with the situation and we simply surrounded Nassira Hedjerassi by sitting all around her, even on the stage usually reserved for the speaker.

Playful dialogue with bell hooks

a tool created by Nassira Hedjerassi

Transcript of the presentation

a playful dialogue with bell hooks

Nassira Hedjerassi 00:07

Hello. So we are going to start if you agree, following bell hooks, pedagogical conception, I imagine a dialogue between her and I.

Playful conversation 00:28

How I feel honored to have this discussion with you, bell hooks, Gloria Watkins. In fact, I was, and I'm still so moved, inspired and transformed, both intellectually and personally, by your texts, your words, your life, your person. Last week, I was invited by the University of women here in Brussels, and I was questioned about my choice of bell hooks, and not another feminist intellectual. In my answer, I expressed how you resonate in me because of your social and geographical background, that is to say, a black working class in a rural Southern place. And because even if you were not a scholar in Educational Studies, you valued education very much, as you said, for you, education is the key. « Education is a political issue for exploited and oppressed people » to quote you. Now, have we to present you? Yes, unfortunately, especially for a French speaking audience. But I will be very brief.

Born in 1952, in Kentucky, from a working class family, « he had a smart student » to quote you. Educated at Stanford, at Santa Cruz, where one of your colleagues was Angela Davis, appointed at the prestigious Yale University, you left this place by political choice for the City College in New York, to approach in address less privileged students. And now you are back to your home place to refer to the title of one of your books in Kentucky, as a distinguished professor in residency, Maria University. You are the author of more than 30 books of all kinds, essays, poems, biographies, but also self help books and even books for children. Even if your academic field studies is not education, you published a trilogy on education and pedagogy, the first one titled, teaching to transgress education as the practice of freedom, to which this project refers. And you chose politically to use a pen name, bell hooks, in reference to your female ancestors, but also in rupture with the star system, more concerned by who was saying this, then what people said, to quote you, you present yourself as a dissident intellectual crossing boundaries, an insurgent intellectual, in reference to your discussion with the black intellectual Cornel West.

Playful conversation 04:00

…discussion with this point, Teaching To Transgress was published in 1994. It means 26 years ago, and yet, it was just translated into French at the end of 2019. So in the present geo socio economic political context, in the context of Trump for you in the states of Bolsonaro in Brazil, and so on. What will you say about the relevancy of this essay? Did you change your reflection with regard to any of your thoughts?

bell hooks 04:38

And I was both a bit awed by how smart …? but also deeply saddened that so much of what it talks about 20 years ago, has actually deepened, worsened, and it was hard not to feel that certain deep despair, that what did these words mean? What did these books mean? Who did they educate for critical consciousness? We're gonna open it up and talk with you. Again, I guess…

Playful conversation 05:19

…our discussion, bell hooks, I also like to share an interrogation and fear the organizers of this project had. Xavier asked, since almost all of us are white, some identify as male - Can't we talk of a form of cultural appropriation? You understand what I mean? If you allow me to use this vernacular language, but let me answer, what is it about? It's more important that Xavier, as a white male, read my work and learn from it is more important that you read my work, reflect on it, and allow it to transform your life and your thinking in some way. I find it a major triumph of my work. If my work as a worker for freedom is valuable, if my voice is heard, beyond my own boundaries. That's great! As I used to say, when I'm presented as a black, public intellectual, it's like, what a black have to say is just relevant to black people and not to everybody.

Playful conversation 06:37

You use the expression of engaged pedagogy. You refer to progressive, holistic education. Could you tell us a little more?

Playful conversation 06:51

This freedom is a way of teaching that anyone can learn. That learning process comes easiest to those of us who teach who also believe that there is an aspect of our vocation that is sacred, who believe that our work is not merely to share information, but to share in the intellectual and spiritual growth of our students. To teach in a manner that respects and cares for the souls of our students is essential if we are to provide the necessary conditions where learning can most deeply and intimately begin. Engaged pedagogy establishes a mutual relationship between teachers and students that nurtures the growth of both parties, creating an atmosphere of trust and commitment that is always present when genuine learning happens. Expanding both heart and mind engaged pedagogy makes us better learners because it asks us to embrace and explore the practice …? knowing together to see intelligence as a resource that can strengthen our common good

Playful conversation 07:57

You make the distinction between your engaged pedagogy and feminist pedagogy, critical pedagogy. Now that in the field of education, we talk about pedagogy of privileges intersectional pedagogy to refer to Kim case, for example, and queer pedagogy to refer to Kevin Kumashiro or Dennis Fernandez Nelson, how will you situate your engaged pedagogy?

Playful conversation 08:27

…? All efforts to end domination in all of its forms and to achieve social justice are more than welcome. Yet, I think that my engaged pedagogy that challenges white supremacist capitalist patriarchy is also more demanding than other teaching practices. It emphasizes well being. That means that teachers must be actively involved committed to a process of self actualization that promotes their own well being if they are to teach in a manner that empower students. In other words, I see the teacher as a kind of healer. For me, spiritual dimensions are central. As you know, the Vietnamese Buddhist Zen monk Thich That Hanh, along with the Brazilian Paulo Freire is a reference for me.

Playful conversation 09:25

You devoted a chapter of teaching to transgress, to the language issues, I quote the title, teaching New World teaching new words. As you know, nowadays, huge efforts were made to end with the binarism reproduced and produced in the language. Now that you also mentioned much more heteronormativity in your speech, we did not find trace in your first essays, that it was important for you to invite the black transgender actress Laverne Cox to a public discussion at the new school and to invite her to the inauguration of the bell hooks Institute. I'd like to hear you on these topics. What do you think of these efforts to transform the language?

Right. In my first writings, it was much more about sex, class, race. By the way, in my first essay, Ain’t I a Woman, the lesbian and gay issue was absent, and I was criticized. Now, for me, we have to challenge the heteronormativity, the model of heterosexuality that structures our society. And as we are socially shaped by the words, we have to struggle to transform the language as well. In my chapter, I insist on this point, for me, language is also a space of resistance, and a sign of radical possibilities.

Playful conversation 11:06

The Brazilian pedagogue Paulo Freire in your life, reflection and practices in your essay, Teaching To Transgress, and the others, hope and love are crucial as for Paulo Freire, could you tell us a little more. Eating is always a location, rooted in hopefulness. As teachers, we believe that learning is possible that nothing can keep an open mind from seeking after knowledge and finding a way to know. In my own life, school was the place where I could, through ideas, reinvent myself, to speak of love, in relation to teaching, is already to engage a dialogue that is to go. Emotional connections tend to be suspect, both during my student years, and throughout my career as a teacher, I have been criticized for having too much passion for being too emotional. In All About Love, new visions, I define love, as a combination of care, commitment, knowledge, responsibility, respect, and trust. When teachers work to affirm the emotional well being of students, we are doing the work of love. For me, Eros has all its place in the classroom. Understanding that Eros is a force that enhances our overall effort to be self actualizing that it can provide an epistemological grounding, informing how we know what we know, enables both professors and students to use such energy in a classroom setting in ways that invigorate discussion and excite the critical imagination.

Playful conversation 12:57

…self as a cultural worker, as an artist, and you also wrote several major essays on culture as learing, race, gender, and cultural politics, black looks, race and representation of black culture, resisting representations. One line is central in your thinking, the importance of the images in the construction of our imagination in the education process.

Me, the first pedagogical tool is popular culture. We have above all to work on images, we have to learn and teach to think critically on the images displayed by the popular culture.

Playful conversation 13:47

… I would like you to comment on transgression, transformation and liberation, keywords of USA Teaching To Transgress, and of all your work. Like for passionate interrogation, the Academy is not paradise. But learning is a place where paradise can be created. The classroom with all its limitations remains a location of possibility. in that field of possibility, we have the opportunity to labor for freedom to demand of ourselves in our comrades, an openness of mind and heart that allows us to face reality, even as we collectively imagine ways to move beyond boundaries, to transgress. This is education is the practice of freedom. We have a lot to do to truly create a culture of resistance. Understanding that liberation is an ongoing process. We must pursue all opportunities to decolonize our minds in the minds of our students. Despite several setbacks, there have been and will continue to be constructive radical shifts in the way we teach and learn. As minds state on freedom, teach to transgress and transform and your project is a step in this way.

bell hooks 15:23

Cos’ by talking about resistance. I actually had this fantasy that we would all stand up and sing We Shall Overcome.

Nassira Hedjerassi 15:35

So let us stand up and sing

Speaker 15:40

The very beautiful Joan Baez

Joan Baez (sing) 15:45

We shall overcome
We shall overcome
We shall overcome someday
Oh ho deep in my heart
I know that I do believe
We shall overcome someday

Nassira Hedjerassi 16:35


A collective interview

Nassira Hedjerassi and the participants of the first TTTToolbox public event

Nonto 2:26

Our question is, if there's a whole toolkit for teachers to understand what engaged pedagogy is, shouldn't there be a similar toolkit for students understanding the active and the passive role? And yeah, I don't know what else but yeah.

Nassira Hedjerassi 2:46

Am I supposed to answer ? Yes ! Okay ! I will start with one point. I'm not comfortable with the word : « tool ». Even if it's, it's the name of this project. Why ? Because as it was, as bell hooks said in the dialogue with me (cf. Playful conversation), the Brazilian Paulo Freire was one of her mentor. He was a philosopher of education, and in his conception of education, the main part was about questioning about praxis - praxis as the combination of combinations and articulations of thinking and practices. So what is very important both in Paulo Freire and in bell hooks is about praxis. And there is no tools. No recipe (recette in French), we have to work and to try, you know, praxis as a teachers as an educators is taking the whole life, both to transgress boundaries, and to work on liberation. So I'm used to this kind of question in my own professional university because my students, becoming teachers, they ask us how to do the best for our students, and whatever it is, there is no key, no tool. The key is the question, the process of questioning all the time, our practices. So if, for example, bell hooks accepted to write her trilogy on education, it was because she was asked again and again on any kind of meetings about her pedagogical actions. So she just wanted to share her experiences.

So we can share our experiences, and this sharing is a way to transform,… by the way, our own practice. I don't know if I answer your question but that’s the first point.

The second point for bell hooks and Paulo Freire, we have a conception of education as involving a teaching and learning community, it means that you don't have a teacher superior to the students - the main goal of education is to create a space where both educators-teachers learn from students, and students learn, of course, from the teachers. So in the process of teaching, for example, all we expect both from a teacher’s point of view is that students listen and take part of the process of learning. And we expect also from the teachers to teach something specific and so. But in teaching you should stay with both learning and teaching, the both dimensions. And if you think about, what your question can presuppose : you don't understand bell hooks’ approach. I don't know if I answered your question ?

Nassira 8:20

So no tools, no kits, just practice and reflect on your practice all the time.

Inga 8:31

Hello, my name is Inga. And I'm asking a question on the behalf of the group « panda ». Our question is « does the system desire a pedagogy for emancipation? And if so then, why? I just added that little for clarification. If you have the questions on paper.

Nassira 9:00

Yes. What do you mean by the system?

Inga 9:02

I guess the society in which we live. Education systems that maybe expect production or productivity. I hope that I'm doing this well for the group here. Okay?

Nassira 9:30

Yes. I guess you have the answer by yourself? No? If we have to struggle a lot. Partly, I don't know if you can, there was a problem with presentation, it got almost in the beginning of each sentence. But it was cut, bell hooks used, coined an expression : « Capitalist White Imperialist Patriarchy »… and I forgot, I guess I forgot some more. It's a big deal to struggle against social system. Especially in our context of globalization. And I take a short passage from a conference celebrating 20 years of Teaching To Transgress : « And we can say that 20 years after it was worse and worse »… and we can say, nowadays and 26 years later, « it's worse ». So, we can have a double discourse. I will speak from my own society, friend, I was talking about when I started working. We have a school system based on the Enlightenment philosophy (cf. XVII century). So, on the paper, we are supposed to train our students to be « emancipated ». But by the way, as all the works in sociology of education demonstrate it, and we can refer to Bourdieu, for example, we can observe how class, race or gender is impacting the social destiny of our students. So, we have an ideal written in the text, the reality. So, as teachers in reference to Paulo Freire and bell hooks, we try to work to put the light on this issue of emancipation. I didn't when I presented myself very briefly, I didn't say that I was the co-founder (with others) of the bell hooks and Paulo Freire Institute in France. So we organised two years ago, an international conference that brought together scholars, artists, teachers, educators, and amateurs. The title of our colloquium was Emancipatory pedagogies education and our goal was to join our forces, in France. And after the creation of this institute, we organised an informal training seminar outside and inside the Academy : it means that my university hosted our sessions. So inside Sorbonne University, we had workshops, and we wished that gathering our experiences — we ha d teachers in the primary level, in the secondary level and teachers in the university - we had people from all backgrounds and coming from not only Paris but from everywhere in France and it's a big issue for us and a big challenge for us, too, to struggle for emancipation. Now we noticed that in France, but not only in France, you can hear that the word « emancipation » comes back, showing the political discourse in the academic discourse. But, with a wrong use, if I can say. So it's a problem for us. And we, with the international network of Institute, Paulo Freire Institute's, we are organising the next forum to talk on the issue of education, of course, in the context of globalisation, and migration, politics, and what we can say, with the walls that are constructed all over the world. So it's a way for us to struggle, because for me, for us, it is a struggle, and we have to be involved in a collective process and movement to try to end the globalisation of neoliberalisation of our education, in all Western societies. I don't know if I answered your question, but it is the key, of all the reflection of bell hooks, especially.

If someone wants to make a comment… to react, you can, of course. I don't want to be the only one to speak. Because I’m just sharing with you my own reflections - in dialogue with other scholars or educators. I don't have the answers to all our questions, as you can imagine. So next !

Spectator 17:29

Yeah ! Yeah, just Hi. Maybe just for a small comments. I just came here, I didn't even know this was happening, and, it makes me feel really good to hear you speaking and to hear your presentation. And I’m really moved, I cried already, I'm gonna cry more. So thank you for… like, like sharing all that. And I just wanted to say that,… it's answering a lot of questions, I've always been asking myself, through all my educations, and I always felt very alone asking myself those questions. So yeah ! I'm really moved to share that with all of you tonight. So thank you so much for that.

Nassira 18:07

Thank you. Thank you.

Alex 18:14

It’s… so… we're the group « transgression ». Our third question is about « courage to transgress boundaries ». That is something that bell hooks says in her texts, how to deal with structural boundaries in 2020, in an educational factory, which are these structures, timing, outcomes, greatness, etc. and there's no room for experimentation. Boundaries might not be transgressed. But may be transparent. Is this enough? For example, not pretending always horizontal? Well, power structures are at play.

Nassira 18:52

Thank you for your question. Well, I started my playful dialogue with bell hooks in reference to my own biography, saying that when I got a chance to read bell hooks, it was greatly inspiring. Of course, and I was just about to get a position in the Academy, and when I started, I told you, when I got my academic position in Strasbourg, I was partly trained in Sorbonne University, an elitist setting, and I left this university, to go to university Paris 8 Saint Denis - which was an experimentation, which was historically an experimental center, in rupture with the academic settings, the conventional setting and so on. So I got used, I had my first experiences as a teacher at the university in Saint-Denis. So I was used in a set where there was, on the paper, maybe not in real, but on the paper, there was no hierarchy between teachers and students. We used to be on the floor - we didn't have auditorium - we didn't have to evaluate our students. So I was trained in this university, and then I got my first academic official position in Strasbourg. And in Strasbourg, it was a place using the model of Germany. So when I entered the first time in amphitheater I had an audience only girls, because I had students who wanted to become teachers. So I had only female students… And they were silent students and from my experience in Saint Denis, we were used to share the speech with our students, because there was no hierarchy… And even if, for example, I had to deal or to plan another course, at another time, and had to make sure that they can come on our lesson on a Monday, even if I just asked this kind of question, I didn’t had no answer! So for me, it was really rude, hard, and I had to figure out how to transform this kind of audience,… and it took me a lot of time. And it was for me, very important to read bell hooks books on education, and to try to… we imagine this… this kind of setting. So for me, even in this kind of context, I think and I tried to experiment. On the other hand, if I didn't try to experiment, it means that I forgot my values, I forgot the aim of the political sense of my use of my praxis as a teacher. So for me, yes, there is just the choice between trying… even in this context to transform the situation, or, leave this kind of enjoyment.

I don’t… I'm not sure that I understand what you mean by « being transparent ». I don't think that « being transparent », but I'm not sure that I understand what you meant by this, that transparent is enough? And yes, we are, as teachers, we are always intentional. It's very demanding. I just want to repeat what bell hooks said, « - It’s very demanding from us when we try to inscribe our practice in this kind of practice. But if we don't do this work, it means that we will leave, that we give up ». And I have always in mind of the fact that in France, for example, but for bell hooks, it was exactly the same, it was a big journey for me to get access to the French Academy. And I have always in mind that as a student, I’m longing for teachers looking like me. Because I just have, on the face, white male, white people. So, for me, it's important for the political work we have to do. And because of violence of this social systems, we, even if it's not enough, we have to continue, to continue the work, and a way to survive in this violence, violent system, is to try to find spaces outside also, outside this environment. And I told you that we created the Institute bell hooks Paulo Freire, because it's a way to get some air. Some energy to face afterwards, the social system that structures, of course, our universities.

Can you explain what you mean by your « being transparent »? Maybe?

Alex 27: 30

Yeah, it’s this boundaries that might not be transgressed, but may be transparent. Meaning that there's always a system or a box that will like…, it's, it was kind of ideal to think that this can be transgressed. It was more for us as a group, it was more about talking about how to make these things transparent, like the example that you made about having the students sitting on the floor, and don't have these anymore. You as a teacher, and the students on the other side, kind of this, is a way to make these old structures transparent. So for us, it was more not to transgress them, but make them more, you know, invisible as a structure.

Nassira 28:10

Yeah. But in the process of making transparent if I use the Paulo Freire’s lexic words, the first process is « critical consciousness ». So I don't know if you have this in mind. So far, also bell hooks’ educational work, especially, but not only in the university, is about working on the consciousness of all of these social systems, and it's a step in the process to transgress those boundaries.

Alex 29:02

That's why we put and wrote « is this enough »?

Nassira 29:07

… it's not enough because that's the reason why I refer to Paulo Freire and I talk of praxis. I said «- I’m not comfortable with the word tool », but here I will use the word tools …but cognitive and intellectual tools are to be learned by students. So the first step is getting conscious, get to consciousness. And then we have to critically think about the social systems, and it's a way to transgress because of the two examples that took bell hooks based on her own experience as a teacher to the university. She said that because she started to learn in white universities, and she said that it was harder for her students to accept the work she was trying to do with them. Because usually, when we ask, we ask girls, people of color, black people, Korean racialised people to work on their oppression. But this work is more difficult with oppressors with students who benefit from this system, and who took advantage of this system. And she said that it was more violent for her when she had only this, this kind of students because they didn't want to give up all their privileges. Okay?

Aroun 31:34

I have one or two questions, I'm sorry. Well, first, while preparing the interview with other people, I recall the memories of being non-white child and being in front of white teachers, like you said, but also, I could recall one exception. And so I wanted to ask you if you have this kind of memory, or not at all? And also, can you tell us about, maybe if you would like to tell us, this kind of story of you, practicing as a teacher after having studied bell hooks? And what do you feel is the results, let's say or, I mean, I'm sorry, if I'm not using the right words at all. Thank you.

Nassira 32:28

Thank you, in my own story, when I was at Sorbonne University, I was a student in philosophy. And I was at Sorbonne University.

Aroun 33:55**

Sorry, I didn't want to interrupt : even before University, like from childhood to adulthood.

Nassira 33:05

I was confronted to mixed people when I left Sorbonne university to go to Saint Denis universities. And before because, as bell hooks, I was a smart student. I was just amongst whites all the time amongst white people. And I had this memory of students in philosophy, and we were this we were discussing, and we were discussing about an animal - let’s say a dog. And each of them refer to something and when it comes to me, it was the void I couldn't say one word, because I was confronted to social differences, because all the references about dogs was philosophical, cultural, whatever. And if I have to talk about the dog, it will be about the animal itself. My grandmother was a farmer, for example. So it's just an example amongst all, that explain why bell hooks was a real inspiration for me. Can you explicit your question?

Aroun 34:59

So does it has to do with eraser? Or does this word talks to you? Or?

Nassira 35:05

Eraser, oui - invisibility, the absence of other cultural with nuances. And it's especially important in France and in elitist universities? I come to the second question I don't think that in my struggles, the point for me is to try to initiate a process, I don't have the potential to think that I'm going to transform radically, all the things or whatever, but I try by my practices to confront the students to more question settings. I know that I disturbed some of my students. And for example, last year, I got an evaluation. In French, we are not supposed to evaluate teachers, but one colleague without telling the other colleagues, she asked the students to evaluate us. Not the practice, but the people. And then she sent us by email, what the students said about me? It was a group I just had twice. The first time, it was in the amphitheater. And because I dislike this kind of setting, I always tried to engage more dialogue, dialogical practices, and question, questioning practices, and so on. And for these students, it was a little disturbing because they just arrived at school and it was only adults. So they came, they opened their computers, their smartphones and they waited the hours to end. But I questioned them. And so that was the first time. The second time, I just had a little group. And I change the space and I tried with, with two narrative practices. And this, once again, it was disturbing because it was more demanding from them. I didn't, I said no word, I let them organise and then they were supposed to talk all together. My evaluation was : « she is the worst teacher », « she should be fired ». And I had this kind of evaluation. So it's just to say that with this group, it didn't work at all… but it was just the first time with them. Most of the time, because now I’m working with future teachers, we are staying in touch. After my students have their own classrooms experiences and when they come back to exchange with me - in new workshops, we organized most of them are coming back, because they are not expecting to be involved in pedagogical routines. And for me, if we have to talk about wizards, even if I don't like this word, it’s what I'm expecting in my struggle. But there is a process and that this students are becoming teachers will continue the work, the political work. Because education is the key.

I will quote once again bell books and that's the reason why ,even if I could follow my journey on philosophy as a subject, I’m choosing education because I think that if we had a work to do it starts in the educational process. And I trust my students and I'm hopeful, that, even if, we are not enough teachers following Paulo Freire and bell hooks paths, we will continue with triggers as it is.

x. 41:45

We will try to continue to do to answers and the question, because we still have three questions to go. Maybe we can go further. And then we get the commentaries at the end, what do you think? So the next question, Lucy, Rose, or? Okay. Lucy?

Lucy 42:12

Hi. This question is on behalf of the « glitter » group. I've rearranged it a little bit. I hope it still fit the expectations, I can just read it, but I think maybe. So removing tools ; how can we remember how to be transparent with the power relations in the act of teaching? as the first question? And the second question how can we deliver knowledge as well simultaneously giving a space to students to empower themselves?

Nassira 43:00

so, once again, the question of tools

Lucy 43:05

Well, we originally were looking at what tools could we use to, but maybe if we could reframe that as how can we.

Nassira 43:20

So, if I want to be brief, I will say that I will refer once again to the conception of education and to the fact that if we really have in mind that we try to, to create learning communities. For me, if we had this aim in mind, it means that the position of each of us will change. We are not assigned as a teacher to the main place position or whatever. So I was just giving this example of my students or some of students reacting negatively to the fact that they were expecting me as a teacher, to have the main, the central place, the main place under, and to speak and to deliver knowledge. If we accept that, whereas I am a teacher, I'm also a learner, and the learner is also a teacher. For me, it's a way it's not the only way, but it's a way to avoid reproducing the power relation, and it's a way to empower ourselves and to empower our students.

One way used by bell hooks is to use narratives. Because if we reflect to the issue of invisibility, to an erasure, bla bla bla, what is important for oppressed people, especially, but not only, but especially for oppressed people is to get access and to articulate his-her own voice and their narratives. It refers to the fact that for bell hooks and for Paulo Freire, there is no hierarchy in knowledges and in our practices. We are invited not only to refer to the legitimate culture, examples, but also to refer to our own experiences, but the reason why bell hooks by choice, always refers to her own experiences : it's to make place to self experiences and various social experiences without hierarchisation. And one point, that is very important, usually when we read bell hooks, we used to think that Okay, in this kind of setting, some students who usually don't speak, are going to speak. That's not really the aim the goal of bell hooks. Each students has to find her-his own voice, and his-her own time to express or not. So it's a very important point. Because we can, it's to avoid the situation, it's to avoid a situation where you put such pressure on some students that you think it didn't work to empower them.

So the main aim is to empower themselves. So we can and we have a role in the process, but it's a co-construction. it's the main thing to do. For bell hooks, when she had to discuss about what goes on in the universities. She underlined the fact that universities based on competition, and if we want to empower ourselves and our students, we should work on cooperative-collaborative settings, much more than the competition's once… and it's also a struggle. Because we have organisations of the Academy, of the school, institutions, etc.

Emmanuelle 49:40

I'm Emmanuelle on behalf of the « gold » team. But I'm not sure it's relevant that we ask our question, because it's practically the same of the precedent one. But you tell me. So it was ; In what ways can a teacher support their students without creating a power imbalance and create an environment of mutual respect and empathy?

Nassira 50:09

So once again, in the presentation in relation with bell hooks. I question. I dialogue. I question bell hooks about the importance for her of hope and love. And love is really the main contribution of bell hooks because for her, if we, teachers, or if an educator doesn't love his-her students, the process of education will fail. So it means that's also the reason why this conception of education is really demanding. And an example given by bell hooks… I like bell hooks because she's very honest. And she's not just talking about succeed, succeed the practices that will succeed about with her practice, she also questioned her practice. And for example, she said that with some promotion, what she proposed worked. And with other promotion, it didn't work that way. We, as teachers, it means that maybe, I will get in your classroom, and for a reason I can't analyse. I will find on different level reasons to dislike you. And she said that we had to struggle to try to transcend this, this impression, but still this impression is here. So, that giving a place to each of our students means for her that she will also accept that her student has students demands, to be invited in her private place, for example. And the question is the tension between the aim of education and our own limits. And if we look at bell hooks story, she left the university because it was too hard for her because she felt alone, too much alone in the university. And because she found that her practices were more responding in other settings. For example, she was giving a lecture, in bookshops, in churches, in restaurants, then in the universities. It means that trying to do this kind of work, requires to be healthy. And it's really the point, she mentioned because she was emphasizing during a panel or workshop, the fact that a lot of camarades colleagues were sick, having cancer or whatever. So because our social system, because of the violence of the social system, we absolutely need to find at least in our environment some friends… otherwise, it's too hard.

And if I recall of bell hooks, she did this work with her colleague, Sunra (?) were both struggled to try to do this work. And when this friend left for another university, bell was alone. And, partly, within the reasons why she went away from the University and she went to New York, and to have another audience and to have her own family, her sister, and to have space over spaces where she can find energy and resources.

So I find it honest from her to acknowledge the difficulties to try to do things. To develop this type of pedagogy, made of transgressions based on aiming to transform. And to liberate.

Emmanuelle 56:56

May I just add something?

Nassira 56:57

yes, please add something.

Emmanuelle 57:00

Is this why she speaks about the vocation for being a teacher? We must be sacred? Because I found that a little bit radical and I didn't understood… understand why she said that.

Nassira 57:24

She used to be radical. And to answer the previous question, when it was about « we should be at least just transparent for her, I repeat it : it's not enough. What you call means what we want : a revolution, revolutionary movements, not just some changes. And that's the reason why it's so demanding. And why we had such a resistance. And from our students, also, from our oppressed students, I have to confess that with my white students, I know what they can think of me or whatever. But I was very disappointed by some of my students. Why, but, because they were socialized in this society. So they had this conception, misconception, and misconceptions. And when I got a position as a full professor in the university, I remember that I used to say, when someone asked me « - What is your work about? », I used to say, « - I work in the university. » And when I understood then when I, Nassira Hedjerassi, I work in the university. It meant for them that maybe I’m a cleaner person, at best, I’m in an administrative position. That I work for the administration, but never they thought about me as a full professor. And I faced also this misconception from some of my students. And it's answering partly what you asked me about - do you have others teachers in your story, you are not used to have full professors from working class, and specially not from racial background. And it was making me sad. I realised and I understood much more all what bell hooks can tell, can the narratives of bell hooks, her own experiences in the university as we almost have, with her experiences, the first black Professor appointed. And so you have all the time - not all the time - but you have to also work on this disappointment and to struggle later against and to work on this process of social critical consciousness and to transform the situation. That's the reason why I said that for me, it's important that I don't give up.

x. 1:01:33

So, now there's 10 minutes left. So, there's one question of the last group. So, do the last group want to ask this question or we can all, we can also pass the mic to the people - as you wish. So, is there another question?

Nassira 1:01:58

No, not a questions, if you want to comment, you are welcome. Because it was supposed to be a discussion between us.

Spectator 1:02:43

You talked about bell hooks and she - behind you - Hello! …she talks about the importance of solidarity representation also sisterhood and I was wondering whether you think that representation is within the same factor of practice has solidarity? Do you feel like representation and you talked a lot about representation has I want to see people who look like me giving classes for instance, do you see those two things has representation and solidarity has the same has part of the same toolbox for instance?

Nassira 1:03:11

…about solidarity and not sisterhood! Because bell hooks makes a point on this, we have to try to link politically and not have a false sisterhood framed by the hegemonic white feminism and blah blah blah… about what presentation I will agree with the word tool and I will go back to the place of critical work on images. Because, we are socialized and our socialization goes through images, social images. So we have to work on our social imagination. We have to decolonize imagination. So if I go back for example to the first essay by bell hooks. She, in her first essay, it was about all this black women in your… I’m getting tired and my English is going away… the fact that the transmission of the story of feminism tends to ignore the other voices. So for me, and as a teacher and as an educator of teachers. Yes. I think that as education is key, the work based on images is also the key.

Spectator 1:05:36

…and presentation is part of that too? Because I always feel like pulling to focus on the need for representation and solidarity kind of put, again, a responsibility to the people who are the most uncomfortable and the most oppressed and being isolated, like you said, the people of the women of color the people who are not normative in academia - really isolated - and it's very tough for them. But then how do you like trying to think about putting like, there's an importance and focus on representation and solidarity. But there must be also possibilities to have space for confrontations, I guess, for those who actually are making the spacing like, the space unwelcoming.

Nassira 1:06:21

Yes, but the work on images has not to be done only by you, or people like me. For her, for bell hooks, in this Teaching To Transgress, she referred to a colleague. A white colleague, who will transform her curriculum, and will put Toni Morrison in her curricula. So she said, but it's not enough. It's not just we felt into getting more images. If this teacher is not engaged in a critical process, and in that is to say that if my colleagues, I’m taking my example, I have to work and I introduce a teaching process around emancipatory pedagogies. And I share this teaching with other colleagues, male, white male, and so. They're keeping with their own references like Freinet, for example, Montessori or whatever. And I put bell hooks and I invited them too work with bell hooks. And, after it, going back to their own conception of story of pedagogy, pedagogues and also to have a critical lecture of the pedagogues - they used to teach to their students, so we don't need to be in conflict. My strategy in my practices, because I am not tall, I am small, I am fine, thin, people used to think that I'm not dangerous. And with my strategy, I don't at first - when I enter a new institution - I try not to be in the confrontation directly. And because I'm seen as a thin person. I managed to introduce my own issues. For example, I told you when I started in Strasbourg then after I had toughed around discrimination, racial discrimination. I invited, and the university paid radical intellectuals, to speak inside the university, and I play on their ignorance in some way. And when we organised our conference in Paris, two years after, we invited for example, radical scholars, followers of Paulo Freire, she gave a political speech, and it was all with money of university. And it was possible. Because at first when I was appointed, the direction of the colleagues, just thought that I will be in the routines and I will not disturb the social, racial, gender order, and I kept in this, in this way, I don't know if I will continue, but it worked like this.

Nassira 1:11:33

But it's a big challenge! My last words : we have to continue this struggle along the years. When I started to teach in the university, I was alone and nobody knew bell hooks, in education. Now we have a translation into French and we have a lot of discussions. And so for me - maybe it's not enough - but for me, it's a state and, we have to continue with this one. So I am hopeful.

Nassira 1:12:28

Thank you very much.