Empowerment Through Journal Writing? Border Pedagogy at Work
Geography Laboratory, University of Sussex
Linda McDowell (1994) has recently called for styles of teaching which put into practice arguments about the 'politics of difference' which are becoming an increasingly common part of geographical research. This paper discusses a case study in which these politics have been applied to structure an undergraduate option course entitled 'Histories & cultures of the Transatlantic'. Here, week by week, students have been required to write a journal charting their own journey through the lectures, reading materials and discussons to make a sense of these materials as they are relevant to their own experiences, fascinations and concerns. In the 'border' pedagogical literature which supports such an approach, it is argued that encouraging students to write their way into such courses is 'empowering' for them. This paper thus draws on my experiences of orchestrating this course and how this 'empowerment' seems to have worked. For those teachers thinking about adopting such practices themselves. I argue that this can productively be thought of not as an 'empowerment' of students en masse, but as a means to transform existing power relations in the classroom to make them more equitable. Moreover, I argue that journal writing can not be seen simply as a teaching 'technique' which can be applied in the same way under all circumstances. Border pedagogy, journal writing and student empowerment are discussed, here, as processes which evolve within specific institutional contexts, a point which must be understood when thinking about their introduction.