The research on educational approaches and stakeholder involvement in TRACES (WP3) understands itself as a movement of searching, exploring, questioning – it is more a process of groping and asking and we seek to experience it together with the colleagues in the CCPs, in museums and in heritage sites.
Our first proposal is that learning environments on conflicts need themselves to provide spaces of conflict and negotiation. In this perspective there are concepts at hand such as James Cliffort’s ‘Contact Zone’ (1), also understood as a ‘Conflict Zone’, and expanded with Chantal Mouffe’s concept of agonism as a democracy-theory approach to dealing with dissent as itself being the precondition for democracy (2). The art-mediation theoretician Nora Sternfeld suggested that this approach can be implemented for learning on history (3). But how do we actually do it?
Based on our own experiences as researchers and educators we speculate that documentations and analyses of educational micro-situations might have the capacity to reveal contradictory, multi-faceted and surprising patterns of communication: as Stuart Hall developed in his analyses of media encoding/decoding processes, there exist always a variations of hegemonic and counterhegemonic ways of how the audiences deal with offered programs (4), and these processes are never fully predictable but depend on the social, geographical, historical contexts and backgrounds of audiences and participants. In our own previous research we often observed reluctance of us, the educators, to deal with or even to recognize a conflicted or problematic situation. But this did not necessarily mean that the participants of our program followed our path of harmonization. In some of our analysed cases the conflict appears exactly in the moment where one did not expect it, and situations that one meant for conflicts to appear result entirely harmonious. This means that also methods of communication, education, mediation deal with the unforeseeable. One aim of new methods in conflict learning would be to provide spaces that are open for conflicts or dissent and at the same time accountable that lines of inequality and discrimination are not reproduced. To add to the complexity educators are themselves subjects positioned in the hierarchies and power relations in question and have therefore to act from a position of ‘not knowing’ and un-learning (5). On one hand this aspect appears as an additional task for the educators on the other it is the precondition to deal with the complexity and the contradictions embedded in communication situations and conflict learning. Failure in that context is unavoidable and indeed a very useful learning source for all involved parties. Only out of the analyses of concrete communication practices we are able to understand why we sometimes reproduce exactly that we wanted to avoid. Our idea is, in that perspective, that our methods of ‘conflict education’ might be developed themselves out of an analysis of concrete micro-situations of communication.
In the research we devised for the next three years, the development of educational programs, and the research on the communication and learning processes they trigger, are directly interlinked and feed each other.
(1) James Clifford, Routes: Travel and translation in the late twentieth century (Cambridge & London: Harvard University Press, 1997).
(2) Chantal Mouffe, “Deliberative Democracy or Agonistic Pluralism. Paper of the Institute for Advanced Studies,” Political Science Series, 72, 2000, accessed June 20, 2016, https://www.ihs.ac.at/publications/pol/pw_72.pdf
(3) Nora Sternfeld, “Memorial Sites as Contact Zones Cultures of Memory in a Shared/Divided Present,” Eipcp.net, 2011, accessed June 20, 2016, http://eipcp.net/policies/sternfeld/en
(4) Stuart Hall, “Encoding/decoding. Culture, media, language,” in Culture, media, language, ed. Stuart Hall et al. (London and New York: Routledge, 2005), 117-127, accessed June 20, 2016, https://faculty.georgetown.edu/irvinem/theory/SH-Encoding-Decoding.pdf.
(5) María do Mar Castro Varela, and Nikita Dhawan, “Breaking the Rules. Education and Post-colonialism,” in Documenta 12 education. Between Critical Praxis and Visitor Services. Results of a Research Project, ed. Carmen Mörsch et al. (Berlin, Zürich: diaphanes, 2009), 317-332.