School of Education


Education Research Seminar – Thursday 9th March 2017

The Education Research Centre and School of Education presented this seminar on 9th March 2017

Educators on the edge: flight, resistance and the politics of

possibility amongst teachers in managed neoliberal regimes

 Dr. Sarah Amsler, University of Lincoln 

Educators on ‘the edge’ occupy an ambivalent position that can be understood as a site of possibility for radical thinking, politics and hope. Revitalising critical theories of possibility and reconnecting with the politics of education are important parts of this work. Drawing on research with cultural workers in the UK, US and Latin America, this paper explored why teachers and activists are sometimes unable to ‘go on’ acting as moral agents within neoliberal relations of ruling despite refusing the legitimacy of these relations. The symptoms of this frustrated subjectivity – professional subversion, institutional survivalism, affective disinvestment and flight from educational work itself – are often regarded as rational responses to what critical theorist Ernst Bloch (1959) once called a ‘world without front’; a life in which near-futures are fixed and alternatives cannot be conceived. However, as Paulo Freire (1970) suggests, once people ‘come to perceive these situations as the frontier between being and being more human, rather than the frontier between being and nothingness, they begin to direct their increasingly critical actions towards achieving the untested feasibility implicit in that perception’. This may be described in Blochian terms as a process of ‘learning hope’ in the Not-Yet, and it is has become a major feature of struggles to create non-capitalist forms of life which exist, as John Holloway (2011) argues, on the ‘edge of impossibility’. Educators working in managed neoliberal institutions, however, are often dispossessed of opportunities to learn from and participate in the social movements that are now theorising and practicing a new ‘politics of possibility’. The paper offered some epistemological and methodological tools for building this connection.

Sarah Amsler is a sociologist, critical theorist and reader in Education at the University of Lincoln. She works at the intersections of the sociology of knowledge, political economy, and social and epistemic change. Her research focuses on counter-capitalist and radical-democratic politics, and on articulating education as a site of political trans/formation that is central to overcoming dominating social relationships and rationalities.

Sarah’s slides can be accessed here:
Amsler – Educators on the edge – March 2017-23a7m43

and a recording of her talk, with slides, and with apologies for a few glitches in transitions (my fault not Sarah’s):



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