Psychoanalytic Paradigms for Pedagogy: Reading Memoirs for Social Justice

Tapo Chimbganda

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


    In my discussion I offer a psychoanalytic understanding of empathy and explore the possibilities for forgiveness that emerge from engaging with difficult knowledge. I begin with an examination of pedagogical impressions of empathy. When educators and teachers are required to teach empathy, what exactly can they impart? I suggest that through grappling with difficult knowledge it is possible for true empathy to lead to forgiveness. Whilst the writing of a memoir is therapeutic for the oppressed, it is beneficial for the reader as a therapeutic opportunity to work through feelings of guilt, helplessness and complicity in acts of oppression against the Other. My perspective affirms the deferred action available to the writer as likewise available to a reader. Two elements of social justice underpin this psychoanalytic reading of memoir – the cry of distress and the call to glory. Social justice through reading the memoir comes about when one is positioned to stand against a repetition of the injustices of oppression experienced empathically. It is not necessarily a call to aggressive or even violent action rather it is the decision to actively acknowledge, and acquire difficult knowledge. I make a case for engaging in this exercise for social justice by reading memoirs that offer the opportunity to witness the cry of distress and respond to the call to glory of the writer. Unlike critical or clinical case studies, memoirs bridge gaps between the writer and the reader, across difference and epistemic violence to a place where necessary pain and suffering teach. This teaching and learning, this pedagogy, becomes social justice. I advocate for the reading of memoir not just as literary study, curriculum theory or historical representation. I urge the reading of memoir as psychic catharsis, as working through and as social justice.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - Apr 2015
    EventAffecting Education: Psychosocial Studies of the Human Condition - Toronto, Canada
    Duration: 9 Apr 201511 Apr 2015

    Academic conference

    Academic conferenceAffecting Education: Psychosocial Studies of the Human Condition


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