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  • University of Alberta (Education North) 11210 87 Avenue Northwest Edmonton, AB, T6G 2T9 Canada (map)

The Literacy Situation: Education and the Dispersal of Politics

The human subject — as a bounded corporeal and autopoietic entity — is presumed in virtually all disciplinary accounts of education, and indeed in political thought more broadly. This talk will pressure this presumption, arguing that a range of forces have articulated politics at levels “below” the subject (in affect, nonconscious perception, neurological plasticity) and “beyond” it in systems of economy and population management that take shape largely through computational practice. The individual human becomes less a phenomenological and political solidity than an after-effect of distributed processes happening at different levels.

Taking as my point of departure the role of literacy rates in Human Development Index (understood as a more “humane” approach to macro-economics than the more narrow Gross National/Domestic Product index), I argue that education today is about the distribution of resources and energies below and beyond the subject, but which have the crucial effect of exacerbating racist, colonialist, and heterosexist political ecologies – often, as Michelle Murphy notes, without recourse to any explicit language about gender, race, or geopolitics. I draw principally on feminist work on data and ahuman politics to argue for a shift in focus from persons engaged in educational events to attunement to what I call “educational situations” as diffuse sites of more-than-human political contact from which “humans” (and those marked as inhuman or less-than-human) are generated.


Nathan Snaza teaches English literature, gender studies, and educational foundations at the University of Richmond, USA. He is the author of Animate Literacies: Literature, Affect, and the Politics of Humanism (Duke UP, 2019) and co-editor of Pedagogical Matters: New Materialisms and Curriculum Studies (Peter Lang, 2016) and Posthumanism and Educational Research (Routledge, 2014).