Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Thinking of stuff

Classrooms, like many institutional settings, are full of stuff. Visit an empty classroom and there is the furniture, the instructional equipment, the stack of text books and in surroundings redolent of freshly-sharpened pencils, the janitor’s disinfectant (and much worse), are the traces of those who have inhabited that place - the abandoned writing tools, the forgotten schoolbag, the unfinished project and so on. Although we are by now accustomed to talking about classrooms as social spaces, they are constituted as much by the arrangement of things as they are by the social beings that inhabit them. And in some ways the contemporary classroom with its educational apparatus, its purpose-built teaching resources and its technological infrastructure remind me of the Marx’s notion of “frozen labour” – the labour that is embodied in objects with a global circulation that enter the increasingly commodified spaces of schooling.

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