Phantoms at the Helm Nostalgic and Utopian Modes of Thought in Education

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Eleonora Joensuu


Educational institutions have held a central role in utopian projects as the vehicle for implementing utopian principles and fashioning the utopian subject. As vehicles for utopian narratives or projects, educational institutions are simultaneously shaped by utopian modes of thought. Modes of thought are not neutral tools that are used as needed, but rather, they are active in how we understand ourselves, others, and the world. This paper draws out the implications and risks of nostalgic and utopian modes of thought to suggest that their mobilization is problematic in education as it directs education’s sight to a distant, illusory past and to an imagined future. The impact of this is an inadequate account for the lived realities of the present. By drawing on feminist epistemology and the work of Jacques Rancière, the paper proposes that a radical attending to the “now,” coupled with a politics of location, offers a way for educational theory and practice to engage its relationship to past, future, and present.


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Joensuu, E. (2019). Phantoms at the Helm: Nostalgic and Utopian Modes of Thought in Education. SFU Educational Review, 12(2), 106–119.