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Performative Praxis

Teacher Identity and Teaching in the Context of HIV/AIDS

Mary Jean Baxen

It is widely recognized that the South African government’s exemplary HIV/AIDS education policy is not making the behaviour-changing impact that it ought. Why is this? What is actually happening in the school classroom?
In this book, Jean Baxen makes an important contribution towards understanding the complex interface between the HIV/AIDS education curriculum and what and how teachers are teaching in the classroom. Bringing Judith Butler’s theory of performativity to bear in an analysis of the pedagogic practice of a number of teachers in the Western Cape and Mpumalanga, the author shows how teachers’ personal conception of their role and identity as educators plays a vitally important role in filtering and shaping the classroom transmission of key information and attitudes.

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3 Subject formation and Bourdieu’s theory of practice 55

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55 3 Subject formation and Bourdieu’s theory of practice Bourdieu (1990) finds debates on structure and agency unhelpful since they do not adequately address the complexity inherent in social rela- tions. He argues that debates polarise notions of social practice, creating an oppositional stance between subjectivism and objectivism. Instead, he suggests that social life is best understood when one considers the interrelationship between the “objective material, social and cultural struc- tures and the constituting practices and experiences of individuals and groups” (Postone, LiPuma & Calhoun, 1993: 3). Bourdieu’s theory of practice is essentially concerned with how to understand and explain the interaction between “people’s practices and the contexts in which those practices occur” (Webb, Schirato & Danaher, 2002: 21). To Bourdieu, subjects act as agents in the construction, modi- fication, and transformation of society, social practices, and institutions. It is in their activity that they construct, reproduce, modify and transform social action. In essence, one cannot understand “social activity outside the action of the subjects” (Krais, 1991: viii). Bourdieu proposes that people are constituted within and by the practices in which they partici- pate. Importantly though, they act to produce and transform the prac- tices that serve to produce their actions in the first place. These practices include discourses, institutions, rules, regulations, and values. Further, these attitudes and values are not simply understood, produced, and re- produced, but are also where those participating act to produce the prac- tice. Calhoun, et al. put it this way: “the various practical projects of different...

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