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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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7 The limitations of dominant epistemological orientations and discourses in influencing the understandings of, responses to, and interpretations of HIV/AIDS 117

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117 7 The limitations of dominant epistemological orientations and discourses in influencing understandings of, responses to and interpretations of HIV/AIDS Introduction At the end of the previous chapter I stressed that teachers are central figures in any pedagogical endeavour because they are not mere deliver- ers of an uncontested body of knowledge, nor are they unquestioningly responsive. They act to produce structures and discourses in as much as they are acted upon by these. Part II emphasised the notion that teachers do not operate in a vacuum, outside the socially constructed world in which they make meaning of their lives and their work in the classroom. Structures and discourses influence actions but at the same time are pro- duced through the enactments of agents operating in particular fields of practice. Actions and their associated meanings, therefore, are integrally linked to the context in which people act. Those who interpret and act do so from a position, from a particular context that is at the same time both historically bound and instantiated through the actions of actors who operate in different fields of practice (Hall, 1990). In reviewing selected literature on researching teachers and teaching, I highlighted how dominant epistemological and methodological orientations do not offer perspectives on teachers that foreground either the situated con- texts in which they live and work or their agency thereby failing to offer insight into the complex interrelationship between teachers and their work. I proposed an alternative epistemological framework that posi- tions teachers centrally as...

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