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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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11 Subject positioning and teaching: understanding the performative teacher 269

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269 11 Subject positioning and teaching: understanding the performative teacher The intention of this study was to investigate the nexus between teacher identity and classroom practice through examining factors shaping teach- ers understanding, experience and teaching sexuality and HIV/AIDS. The previous two chapters gave evidence of how the multiplicity and com- plexity of subject positioning foregrounds the performative nature of teacher identity and teaching. The four patterns of teacherly behaviour that emerged blurred the categories of race, class, gender, and religion. Importantly, the study and the identified teacherly patterns have high- lighted the performative nature of identity and ‘being-ness’, and by im- plication teaching, particularly in the area of sexuality and HIV/AIDS. Teachers invoked positions in the moment, ever aware of the aberrant, the uninhabitable, in an attempt to come as close as possible to the ‘ideal.’ This in turn, necessitated them ‘turning on themselves’ through reitera- tive enactments (Butler, 1997). Reiterative enactments or performances are repetitive actions which assume an ‘act-like status’ in the present (Butler, 1990). Teachers dis- played sets of norms that were reified and ritualized, accumulated over time and taken for granted. Their historicity, however, was neither clear nor known and their production never clear or complete (Butler, 1990). An explanation of identity from such a perspective foregrounds the is- sues of temporality and spatial situatedness. One cannot assume, there- fore, that such enactments arise out of a ‘true’ or ‘fixed’ identity, but rather, the reverse. What appears as a ‘stable’ identity is actually that which...

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