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#5 Ahmed (2014) Willful Subjects

Welcome to Read SO Good! The podcast about foundational texts in language education research.

Our mid-semester podcast is on # 5 Sara Ahmed's (2014) Willful Subjects.

Sara Ahmed – Willful Subjects SHOW NOTES:

1. Overview and Contextualization of the Text's contents.

Summary of BOOK: INTRO + CONC and 4 chapters.

In Ch1 + Ch2, Ahmed goes into the historicity of WILL in philosophy and literature. Unpacks how it has been expressed, why and how this ties back to different patriarchal philosophies.

In Ch3 + Ch4, Ahmed provides a more critical discussion of the ideas and concepts raised in Ch1 + Ch2. In particular, she troubles the patriarchal understanding of WILL with feminist theory, queer theory, and disability theory.

Heba: Read Grimm's story

NOT Philosophy: practicing willfulness by deciding it’s NOT philosophy.

CH2) POISONOUS PEDAGOGY: Looks at underlying philosophies that transpire in Education:

Victorian era pathologizes the will. Idea that the will is "essential to human welfare" is prevalent since then. (P.61)

In education, translated into 4 dominant perspectives on children:

- trad Christian view: child as inherently sinful

- environmental view: child as blank slate (Locke)

- utopian view: child as innocent (Rousseau)

- biological view: child's nature determined by genetics

* Trad Christian view: Protestant trad gives education role of breaking will

For Aquinas obeying is virtue. Doing things you agree with is not virtuous. Going against your will is. (I am not virtuous!) "to obey is to go where your will would not take you." (P. 64) Reading into my own parental woes. Figuring out how to deal with children's own will and such a way that it doesn't promote poisonous pedagogy but also enables the family to have positive relationships together and work together.

* Utopian view: child is innocent

Rousseau encourages the child's self-will and preserving the sign of freedom within the child's will. by leading the child to will what the parent will, rather than using physical oppression. Seems to use mental oppression though, no? (P.74)

Although one might seem better, they are both problematic: "Although we can differentiate poisonous pedagogy that rests on breaking the will of the child from models such as Rousseau's that encourage self will, we can also know their shared investments. While poisonous pedagogy justifies force as necessary for the child's moral development, Rousseau's model shows us that freedom of the will can be forced by other means." (P.75)

In fact, shows us how intricately the will is tied up with Kantian ethics about duty and obedience.

CH 3) the distinction between the PARTS and the BODY and how those relate to the SOCIAL WILL

CH4) DIVERSITY WORK- project of transforming the will and expectations associated with it

- transforming an institution

- assists those who do not fit the norms within the institution

example of being referred to by her first name at meeting with students, while Chair refers to other profs by their title. Ouch! (p. 14X?)

Irony/Challenge: You do not need to become self-willed if your will is already accomplished by the general will.

2. Challenges while Reading the Text: let's open up the definition of "challenges”

A) APPROACH TO WRITING & ANALYSIS - drawing in seemingly disparate sources for discussion. Reason for linking these sources not always made explicit. Ahmed peppers the text with a plethora of ideas and shows the connections she forms between them. It is full of details about all the existing ideas out their - it’s not comprehensive, but it paints a particular picture of the views that have been expressed and explored in literature and critical studies. It is up to the reader to investigate these sources more deeply if they find a relevance or connection to their own work. I thinker’s another way of sharing knowledge and promoting analysis.

Refer to Nvivo Lit Review explanation of 2 ways of approaching literature: comprehensively or extensively (

* Foundation metaphor: situate study (incl. historically), justify decisions, critically examine claims (Comprehensiveness trumps ALL)

* Systems metaphor: select a group of studies/works, lots of detail, contributions of Lit Review to study, how your study will move beyond it (Artfully presenting your study - Relevance trumps ALL)

3. Critiquing or Troubling the Text: what ways would we do that?

How killjoy we want to be, affects families and friends.

Helplessness of being against everybody.

She doesn’t solve this, how do we move on

Wilfullness as audacity standing against creativity.

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