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Tightrope walkers and solidarity sisters: critical workplace educators in the garment industry

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This article focuses on the complex negotiations of critical workplace educators positioned amongst contradictory agendas and discourses in the workplace. While philosophically aligned with critical pedagogical agendas of transformation and collective action for workplace change, these educators perform an array of pedagogic articulations in everyday practice to secure their continued presence in the workplace. What becomes evident in these seemingly opposing articulations are various strategic political positionings of educators alongside their juggling of demands, attachments and inter-identifications with both learners and managers. The pedagogy that emerges challenges conventional binaries of 'transformative' and 'reproductive' learning. Dynamics of transformation and liberation as well as reproduction and subjugation appear to be interlinked, along with expanding nets of social relations that blur power hierarchies and spatial boundaries, in a pedagogy that ultimately appears to mobilise hope and agency among workers. The workplace educator works a delicate balance of these dynamics to survive. The argument is based on a case study of a garment factory in Canada in which an adult education programme managed to thrive for 17 years: both workers and educators were interviewed in depth.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of British Columbia, Canada

Publication date: 2007-05-01

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