Learning in the presence of others: using the body as a resource for teaching

Neil Harrison*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Many great cultures of the world have recognised the impossibility of teaching. Governments in various colonial countries continue to spend huge sums of money on ‘closing the gap’ in Indigenous education, yet national assessment figures would support the claim that teaching is indeed an impossibility. This paper draws on some of Biesta’s recent theorisation to highlight the double impossibility of teaching in Indigenous education. While representation and miscommunication surely make teaching an impossible profession, I nevertheless return to the question, what is possible in education? I apply the more recent work of Butler to highlight how vulnerability can allow us to hear the story of others. Vulnerability allows us into the lives of others, and to recognise that they are already implicated in ours, noting that certain bonds are actually shaped through the reversibility of the story. I examine a presentation to teacher education students on the Stolen Generations as a means of understanding how the role of power in constituting body vulnerability can be leveraged in the curriculum beyond the discourse of independent and self-motivated learning.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)941-950
Number of pages10
JournalEducational Philosophy and Theory
Issue number9
Early online date23 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • vulnerability
  • body
  • narrative
  • reversibility
  • bond
  • power


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