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Curriculum as Community Building

The Poetics of Difference, Emergence, and Relationality


Liesa Griffin Smith

Our contemporary historical moment is often characterized by social, political, economic, technological, and educational complexities, as well as lived experiences of estrangement, isolation, insecurity, loss, threat, and trauma. Within this difficult context, conventional understandings of community which often rely upon assimilation or exclusion are devoid of hope, and new imaginations of community and community building are needed to cultivate generative, nurturing, sustaining experiences of life together. Through a multi-threaded exploration of the curriculum as embodied and emerging in a living ecosystem, new conceptualizations of community building may emerge. Drawing upon poststructural feminism, poetics, autobiography, and metaphors of the maternal body, this book explores the complicated intersections of difference, embodiment, emergence, and relationality within the curriculum, to reimagine the possibilities of building the other community, one inclusive of difference. Facing the challenges of our time with hope, grace, and creativity, this book is uniquely positioned in a middle space between the theoretical concerns of the academic community and the needs for accessibility by the practitioner within an instructional context.
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4. The Gifts and Works of the Body


“To resignify the body as a site of knowing is to claim women as knowers.”

(Hendry, 2011, p. 66)

“In folk tales the gift is often something seemingly worthless— ashes or coals or leavesor straw —but when the puzzled recipient carries it to his doorstep, he finds it turnedto gold.

In such tales the mere motion of the gift across the boundary from the world of thedonor … to the doorsill of the recipient is sufficient to transmute it from dross to gold.”(Hyde, 1979, p. 56–57)

The first question I encountered as a student of curriculum is perhaps the most central question that curriculum seeks to answer: “what is of most worth?” If curriculum is the point of orientation for the formal and informal educative process, then the question “what is of most worth?” is undeniably a question of values, worldviews, beliefs and desires. Pinar (2012) suggests that curriculum is “what we choose to remember about our past, what we believe about the present, what we hope for the future” (p. 30). Within this temporal and ←91 | 92→value-laden context, curriculum examines our orienting beliefs and wrestles with the various answers that have developed through time and history, examining how educators and theorists have shaped the curriculum to their ideas about what it “mean[s]‌ to live a god life and how can a just society be created” (Schubert, 1986, p. 423, as cited in McKernan, 2008, p. 4).

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