Dialogic Spaces

Topics: Education, Further education, Continuing education Pages: 24 (7790 words) Published: June 11, 2012

Dialogic spaces: adult education projects and social engagement PETER RULE University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
rulep@nu.ac.za PeterRule 0 400000July–August 23 2004 & Francis Original Article 0260-1370 Francis Ltd International Journal2004 10.1080/0260137042000233476 tled23401.sgm Ltdof Lifelong Education Taylor and (print)/1464-519X (online)

This paper develops the notions of dialogue and dialogic space in relation to adult education projects with emancipatory agendas. It explores the philosophical genealogy of the notion of dialogue in order to establish a basis for the concept of dialogic space, surveying the works of seminal figures such as Plato, Buber, Bakhtin, Habermas and Freire. The literature survey identifies key themes and linkeages among theorists of dialogue. The paper goes on to discuss dialogue in relation to adult education projects and develops the concept of dialogic space. It draws on a historical case study of a South African adult education project, the Tuition Project, to illustrate the concept. It concludes by examining the conditions which make dialogue possible in adult education and discusses the broader application of the notion of dialogic space in the field.

Introduction In vol. 22(2) (March–April 2003) of this journal, Bailey explored the notions of dialectic and analogy in relation to adult education. In this paper, I present the notion of dialogic space as a useful conceptual tool for understanding adult education projects that have an emancipatory agenda. The notion of dialogue is well established within adult education, particularly within the radical tradition associated with Paulo Freire (Freire 1970, Freire and Shor 1987, Gadotti 1996). I link dialogue to the notions of space and spatialization in developing and applying a concept of dialogic space. The paper arises from a study of three adult education projects that were set up in South Africa in response to the Soweto Uprising of 1976 and which lasted through the final stages of the apartheid era and into the transition era of the 1990s. These projects fell under the auspices of the Interchurch Education Programme, an ecumenical Christian organisation committed to addressing the crisis within apartheid education. One of these projects, the Tuition Project, which I will refer to as an example of dialogic space, gave young adults from disadvantaged backgrounds the opportunity to complete their secondary schooling. The focus of this paper is not these projects per se, but the notions of dialogue and dialogic space that informed and arose from the study. Peter Rule lectures in the Centre for Adult Education, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. He has experience in various capacities with a number of adult education organizations. His research interests include the history of adult education in South Africa, adult education and disability, and education as dialogue. International Journal of Lifelong Education ISSN 0260-1370 print/ISSN 1464-519X online © 2004 Taylor & Francis Ltd http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals DOI: 10.1080/026037042000233476



This paper begins by exploring the philosophical genealogy of the notion of dialogue. It goes on to discuss dialogue in relation to adult education projects and develops the concept of dialogic space. Space and spatial metaphors have become prominent within post-modern discourses, not only within the ‘home’ disciplines of Geography and Sociology but also in education (Tuan 1977, Sack 1980, Lefebvre 1991, Benko and Strohmayer 1997, Sheared and Sissel 2001). The notion of dialogic space has generative possibilities for understanding the role of an emancipatory adult education that seeks to empower marginalised groups. Central to an understanding of dialogic space are the notions of process, context, relationship and change.

Dialogue: a genealogy Dialogue has a rich and polyvalent...
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