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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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5 Subject positioning and Butler’s theory of performativity 79


79 5 Subject positioning and Butler’s theory of performativity Discussions on subject positioning are often polarized; according to Hetherington (1998: 23), subject positions are either presented as “choices associated with lifestyle, sexuality, consumption or enthusiasms” or as “subaltern positions of marginality and resistance to marginalization.” He suggests too, that choice always comes at a price and that speaking about, for example, ‘subaltern positions’ does not suggest singularity since the discursive space is constituted in competition among various groups. Non-singularity here also means that subjects themselves do not hold the same position but take up different positions depending on the situa- tion. It is, therefore, no longer possible to take for granted or clearly define the centre or the margin since either can be anything at any given time (Hetherington, 1998). Choices are thought of in a way that presup- poses multiplicity of and difference in subject positions, and that ac- knowledges there is no grand narrative from and through which people construct an identity. Understanding the multiplicity and complexity of subject positions has been the result of work by theorists such as Lacan and Althusser, and more recently, Foucault and Butler. Structuralist theorists like Lacan and Althusser argue that subjectiv- ity is not stable or essential, but rather constituted either in language or ideology (Hetherington, 1998). Althusser gives a description of the way in which the subject is produced through linguistic modes. This process he describes through his notion of interpellation, where he shows that “the subordination of the subject...

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