Troubling Sympathy: Teaching Refugee and Child Soldier Narratives

Michael T MacDonald

Abstract


Although the choice to assign stories about refugee experience and other narratives of human suffering can help teachers cultivate a global perspective with students, there is a risk that readers will reproduce asymmetrical discourses of sympathy and pity. Such discourses reinforce the perceived distance between the self and Other, positioning the reader as one who can and should uplift the protagonists of the stories. This article applies Luc Boltanksi’s theory of “distant suffering” to excerpts of student writing in order to complicate the relationship between reader and text. By examining student written responses, this article proposes that performances of sympathy be replaced with reflections on complicity in the consumption of human suffering.

 


Keywords


pedagogy, refugees, child soldiers, global perspective, reflection, sympathy

Full Text:

MacDonald PDF



JCT: Journal of Curriculum Theorizing is an interdisciplinary journal of curriculum studies. It offers an academic forum for scholarly discussions of curriculum. Historically aligned with the "reconceptualist" movement in curriculum theorizing and oriented toward informing and affecting classroom practice, JCT presents compelling pieces within forms that challenge disciplinary, genre, and textual boundaries.

The journal is published by the Foundation for Curriculum Theory and is associated with the Bergamo Conference on Curriculum Theory and Classroom Practice, held in the autumn of each year. JCT is indexed in The Education Index.

NOTICE: As of December 2008, the Journal of Curriculum Theorizing (Volume 24, Issue 1) and all future issues
are available freely and exclusively online to all individuals and institutions. More Information...

Contributors to the Journal of Curriculum Theorizing retain copyright to their work.

All other content: Copyright © Foundation for Curriculum Theory. All rights reserved.

ISSN: 1942-2563