Reflecting on a great paper on care-ful education by @JenniferJLea ~ self-discipline, devotion and the negotiation of authority

In between the marking I’ve been (at least) trying to catch up on all of the great work by colleagues in Geography at Exeter. One paper I’ve enjoyed reading is this by Jen Lea and Louise Cadman:

“It’s a fine line between “¦ self-discipline, devotion and dedication”: negotiating authority in the teaching and learning of Ashtanga yoga.

The article is for Cultural Geographies. Using empirical work on the learning and teaching of Ashtanga yoga Jen and Louise reflect on the kinds of (non-traditional?) authority that are practised in the re-shaping of selves that takes place.

Jen and Louise use Foucault’s later lectures at the Collège de France and the History of Sexuality to position understandings of authority in a few ways (they also draw on work produced by the Authority Research Network, which is worth checking out). The folding of ‘internal’ and ‘external’ authorities, that somewhat relate to logos and tekne, in the learning and teaching of yoga is a really interesting trope. Cultivating inner authority as forms of techniques of the self is negotiated with the formal positions and gestures that are a form of discipline. This is not (or does not have to be) a relation of ‘domination’. The negotiation of different forms of authority, in a pedagogical praxis, can be a form of care [in the vein of epimeleia]. Of course, and as Jen and Louise point out, there is potential that

[t]he application here of the self on the self is a potentially problematic process, as the self is not necessarily malleable and compliant, and the possibility of  failing  to become an expert of the self, and the consequences of this failure, are interesting future questions to ask (p. 14).
I think the most striking element of the paper for me, having recently returned to reading Stiegler again, is the resonance between Jen and Louise’s interpretation of Foucault, through their empirical case study, and Stiegler’s reading of Foucault in relation to care. This comes through most forcefully in Jen and Louise’s conclusion and I think this is great:
Regardless of the expense, let’s seek out new teachers.’ (Foucault, p.151)
Towards the close of his very last lecture course, Foucault urged the value of teachers, not necessarily because of special authority lodged in the figure of any one individual teacher, but because of the external authority residing in the
logos which the (good) teacher will teach. It is a Socratic move, passing beyond ‘a teacher of tekne who can pass on his teaching to students’ (Foucault, p.152) – as in the educator who goes through the motions of transmitting ‘technical’, repeated, rote knowledge – towards the model of a teacher who communicates the logos (‘the missing teacher’) as arguably deeper truths about the care of the self. Such a teacher ‘will have to take care of himself [sic] by listening to the language of mastery (maîtrise) that comes from the logos itself’ (Foucault, p.152). In short, both teacher and taught are here positioned in relation to the external authority of a broader accumulated, guiding wisdom, and as such we vacate the more conventional (top-down) picturing of authority’s educational geographies […]. Yet, we perhaps shift even further from Heelas’s self-absorbed account of authority, with its individualistic (bottom-up) picturing of authority’s new-spiritual geographies […]. The key relation – of how educators educate, or how maybe they ought best to educate – becomes more firmly about a negotiated stance with respect to an overall ‘armature for life’ (Foucault, p.152), externally anchored and derived. (Lea & Cadman, 2016 p. 14)
Care is thus mnemotechnical, folding logos and tekne. Anyway – read the full paper! It’s good stuff.
The Foucault refs in the second extended quote are from The Courage of Truth.
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