The Pedagogical Possibilities of Witnessing and Testimonies: Through the Lens of Agamben [1st ed.] 9783030555245, 9783030555252

This book explores the pedagogical possibilities of testimony and witnessing. Drawing on the work of Giorgio Agamben, th

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The Pedagogical Possibilities of Witnessing and Testimonies: Through the Lens of Agamben [1st ed.]
 9783030555245, 9783030555252

Table of contents :
Front Matter ....Pages i-xiii
Introduction (Marie Hållander)....Pages 1-14
The Impossible Witnessing, The Pedagogical Possibilities: Theoretical Framing (Marie Hållander)....Pages 15-30
“Pull Out the Uneven Thick Threads”: On Penelope’s Web and Re-Presentation as a Way of Teaching (Marie Hållander)....Pages 31-53
On Saying We: Relational Witnessing and Empowered Subjectivity (Marie Hållander)....Pages 55-70
On the Verge of Tears: The Ambivalent Spaces of Emotions and Testimonies (Marie Hållander)....Pages 71-91
Witnessing for the Future (Marie Hållander)....Pages 93-105
Back Matter ....Pages 107-109

Citation preview

The Pedagogical Possibilities of Witnessing and Testimonies Through the Lens of Agamben

Marie Hållander

The Pedagogical Possibilities of Witnessing and Testimonies

Marie Hållander

The Pedagogical Possibilities of Witnessing and Testimonies Through the Lens of Agamben

Marie Hållander School of Culture and Education Södertörn University Stockholm, Sweden

ISBN 978-3-030-55524-5    ISBN 978-3-030-55525-2 (eBook) © The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020 This work is subject to copyright. All rights are solely and exclusively licensed by the Publisher, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, reuse of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in any other physical way, and transmission or information storage and retrieval, electronic adaptation, computer software, or by similar or dissimilar methodology now known or hereafter developed. The use of general descriptive names, registered names, trademarks, service marks, etc. in this publication does not imply, even in the absence of a specific statement, that such names are exempt from the relevant protective laws and regulations and therefore free for general use. The publisher, the authors and the editors are safe to assume that the advice and information in this book are believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication. Neither the ­publisher nor the authors or the editors give a warranty, expressed or implied, with respect to the material contained herein or for any errors or omissions that may have been made. The publisher remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and ­institutional affiliations. Cover pattern © Melisa Hasan This Palgrave Pivot imprint is published by the registered company Springer Nature Switzerland AG. The registered company address is: Gewerbestrasse 11, 6330 Cham, Switzerland

For Essi and Edith


What does it mean to testify about what has left traces within our bodies? What possibilities are there in witnessing and in the testimony? This book is about the pedagogical possibilities of making one’s voice heard from an exposed position, it is about how wounds are represented in teaching, about the feelings that may arise in the meeting with testimonies and what these voices and feelings can do and create. Throughout this book I want to discuss how witnessing is an impossibility, where words stand against words and where to give a testimony can mean an “if you win, you lose” situation. But I also want to discuss how witnessing can be subversive. How witnessing can involve other people. Through witnessing we can create movements, change things, in our schools, in our workplaces, in our streets and in our homes. The work I have now completed is a work that I have been undertaking for more than ten years, from the very start of my application to the PhD position, to these words that I am here now writing. A decade has passed, and so many testimonies, conversations and discussions have made me rethink and complete this study. As always, there are a lot of people to thank: my main supervisor Sharon Todd, who enrolled me to the position and whose work inspired me to write; The PhD program of the philosophical studies of pedagogical relations, with Erica Hagström, Eric Hjulström and Johannes Rytzler as my companions. I also send my thanks to my supervisors for the thesis Lovisa Bergdahl, Ulf Olsson and Carl Anders Säfström who made indispensable readings and contributions to this work. From 2016, when I completed the thesis, until now, the book has found readers and discussions, most of vii



all because it was published by Eskaton in 2017  in Swedish, which has made me rethink and deepen my understanding of the possibilities of testimony and witnessing. For this I thank Jacob Andersson at Eskaton. I am now looking forward to making the text meet English speakers. For this I thank the editors and publishers at Palgrave Macmillan Eleanor Christie, Rebecca Wide, Ruby Panigrahi, V. Vinodh Kumar among others. I would also like to thank Ida Stefansson who translated some of the chapters in this book, as well as Naomi Hodgson’s proof reading, as well as Simon Ceder who read some of the final chapters: for your support, thank you! Also, Janne Kontio, Essi Kontio Hållander and Edith Kontio Hållander: I would not have made it without you. When finalizing this book, the world is undergoing a pandemic era, with the corona virus Covid-19 spreading around the world, and in this I see how new testimonies are formed, but not always heard. As a former worker within elderly care my special thoughts are going to social health care workers, nurses and doctors whose voices talk about lack of security and protective equipment, and as always, I hope that the testimonies that testify to these conditions can create movements that can change injustice. Let’s start with the testimonies. Stockholm, Sweden  May 2020

Marie Hållander


Let me start with an example. In a dark and fairly quiet classroom, I sit down along with the students I teach. We are going to watch a program about Wikileaks. A short way in to the program a black and white film sequence is shown. It shows a street filmed from a helicopter hovering above. We see the street through binoculars, a cross in the middle, and hear soldiers talking over an internal phone. Noise. Come on, let us shoot! Bushmaster; Crazyhorse One-Eight. They’re taking him. Bushmaster; Crazyhorse One-Eight. This is Bushmaster Seven, go ahead. Roger. We have a black SUV-uh Bongo truck picking up the bodies. Request permission to engage. Fuck. This is Bushmaster Seven, roger. This is Bushmaster Seven, roger. Engage. One-eight, engage. Clear. Come on! Clear. Clear. We’re engaging. (Wikileaks, 2010)

Shots are fired after the last words. Multiple shots ring out. Then we see men running from a minivan, and men lie injured and murdered in the street. Children, too. In the classroom, I remember the students speaking. But their words were inaudible. Bodies were moving. I can’t remember what was said. Then I remember silence. Total silence. A rupture. A gap. A silence that I had trouble relating to. “How the hell should I go on with this?”, was all I could think. The black and white film sequence was part of the material Wikileaks released under the name Collateral Murder. It was filmed on July 12, ix



2007, when two US Apache helicopters killed a dozen people in a suburb of Baghdad. The class took place one day in January 2011 at a high school where I taught at that time. The course was about the relationship between technology, humans, and society, with a particular focus on computers, game design, and information sharing. During the same week I had seen an episode of Kobra,1 which at that time had also happened to focus on information sharing. As the course I was teaching dealt with issues related to technology and ethics, I judged, as a teacher, that there would be plenty to discuss in this episode of Kobra. After the program, when the classroom lights were back on, I remember that I uttered some regretful words, about how awful the whole thing was, that I sighed, but that the lesson then continued with questions I had prepared in advance, which touched on issues other than the brutal scene we had just seen. The students did not mention the scene or the violence into the discussion. The dead bodies were never mentioned again. The film sequence told us something: it was a testimony of brutal violence, of war, from recent history that sparked our attention. But also, it was as if the images wanted something to happen: a political change. The beginning of a revolution. The images reached out to us in the classroom, and placed us between the past and the present. They offered various opportunities for ethical, political and educational awareness. Or did they? That was perhaps what I wanted the film sequence to lead to, which is not such a strange idea. Both within the research literature and in wider society I can find accounts of how the use of testimonies in teaching can evoke feelings or emotions that are positive and that can lead to change; to a more equal society or to righting the wrongs of history. But does it work that way? What are the pedagogical possibilities in witnessing and in testimony? This book tries to answer these questions. Stockholm, Sweden

Marie Hållander

1  Kobra is a Swedish television programme produced by SVT with interviews and reportage about culture and society.


Material from Det omöjliga vittnandet: om vittnesmålets pedagogiska möjligheter, Eskaton (2017) have been translated from Swedish into English and reproduced with permission by the Publisher Eskaton and the author. The article “On the Verge of Tears: The Ambivalent Spaces of Emotions and Testimonies”, Studies in Philosophy and Education, 38, 467–480 (2019). is reproduced with the permission of Studies in Philosophy and Education and the author. Part of the article “Inhabiting a Place in the Common: Profanation and Biopolitics in Teaching”, in Studer i Pædagogisk Filosofi, 6(1), 69–82 (2018). is reproduced with permission of Studer i Pædagogisk Filosofi and the author.



1 Introduction  1 2 The Impossible Witnessing, The Pedagogical Possibilities: Theoretical Framing 15 3 “Pull Out the Uneven Thick Threads”: On Penelope’s Web and Re-Presentation as a Way of Teaching 31 4 On Saying We: Relational Witnessing and Empowered Subjectivity 55 5 On the Verge of Tears: The Ambivalent Spaces of Emotions and Testimonies 71 6 Witnessing for the Future 93 Index107




Abstract  The Pedagogical Possibilities of Witnessing and Testimonies— Through the Lens of Agamben by Marie Hållander offers an intriguing analysis of the phenomena of witnessing and testimony. In this introductory chapter the argument to be made on testimonies and the act of witnessing as a pedagogical possibility is framed within previous research and in relation to the examples of Collateral Murder (2010) and the Swedish The Living History Forum’s book Tell Ye Your Children (1998). The chapter also discusses the theoretical and methodological approach taken in the book, in relation to the work of Giorgio Agamben. More specifically, the chapter introduces the kinds of pedagogical possibilities in witnessing and testimony, in relation to school teaching as well as non-formal pedagogical contexts. Keywords  Collateral Murder • Pedagogical possibilities • Witnessing • Testimony • Agamben The Pedagogical Possibilities of Witnessing and Testimonies: Through the Lens of Agamben seeks to investigate the pedagogical possibilities in a complex phenomenon; what Giorgio Agamben calls ‘the impossible testimony’ (2008). In this book I investigate three different aspects of witnessing and testimony. First, I examine the pedagogical possibilities in relation to the problem of representation. In particular, in relation to the © The Author(s) 2020 M. Hållander, The Pedagogical Possibilities of Witnessing and Testimonies,




representations of different historical wounds that enter teaching, such as the example of the images from Collateral Murder (Wikileaks 2010) that opened this book. Second, I examine how witnessing can take place as a process of subjectivation and how witnessing can create change. Third, I examine the role that students’ and teachers’ emotions can have when exposed to testimonies within teaching. I chose to focus on these aspects based on how testimony is used in teaching and how educational philosophy has understood and examined witnessing and testimony in the context of teaching. In this introductory chapter I will situate the argument of the book within previous research, as well as discuss the theoretical and the methodological background of what follows.

The Use of Testimony in Teaching: Framing the Argument There is a great interest in testimonies currently, both in society at large and as a theoretical concept within educational research, as a way to understand and develop epistemological, political or ethical thinking. Anat Ascher writes that, if the 1900s can be understood as the century of the witness, the 2000s tend to have a similar spirit, in that “the word of the witness is to be found virtually everywhere” (Ascher 2011, p.  1). The interest in testimony is also found in the framework for teaching. Ann Chinnery (2011) writes that there has been a change in the teaching of historical traumas; there is now a tendency to move the focus away from facts about historical events towards personal stories about those events. Within the framework of this change, testimonies become the central focus in order to develop a so-called historical consciousness, an ethical approach to historical events. An example of this central use of testimony in relation to the dealing with historical trauma is the work of The Living History Forum in Stockholm. In their work they foreground testimony on historical trauma through exhibitions, movie clips, stories and books of personal narratives. Their website, under the tab “Testimony with classroom exercises”, says: Taking part in other people’s experiences can awaken feelings and lead to insights about past events and events in our history that must never happen



again. When students get together to share movie clips containing personal testimonies, a starting point is created for reflection and discussion.1

The Living History Forum describes how sharing various testimonies from, among others, communist regimes against humanity, the Holocaust, the genocide in Rwanda, minority abuses, can elicit feelings and insights about the suffering. Those emotions and insights can then be a starting point for reflection on and discussion of issues that specifically concern democracy, human rights and tolerance. The idea is that the encounter with testimony can lead not only to knowledge of historical events but also become a basis for reflection and discussion and, in the long run, prevent intolerance. Thus, at The Living History Forum there are statements about the witnesses’ ability to create change by offering insights into events that may not happen again and the lessons that can be drawn from those insights. In this context, the statements also highlight emotions as a way of dealing with historical wounds. That is, how being emotionally affected by knowledge of historical suffering may invoke students to take action for tolerance and human rights. The work of Swedish public authority The Living History Forum is an example of the use of testimonies in the teaching of traumatic historical events. It utilizes personal stories about the Holocaust and other crimes against humanity as the starting point of its objective “to work with issues on tolerance, democracy, and human rights” (The Living History Forum). To achieve their stated mission, the forum has compiled historical testimonies that can be used as teaching materials by schools. One example of this is the book, Tell ye your children … (Bruchfeld and Levine 1998), which I was handed as a pupil in secondary school during the 90’s. The book was commissioned by the Swedish government as a way of providing public information and was distributed free of charge to school children in Sweden. The forum and the book can be seen to mark the aforementioned shift of focus in education towards remembrance work in schools and beyond, based on the idea that the wounds of history have something to teach us. (For a discussion on this book, see Hållander 2015, 2017). 1  My translation, in Swedish it says: “Att ta del av andra människors upplevelser kan väcka känslor och leda till insikter om tidigare händelser och skeenden i vår historia som inte får hända igen. När eleverna gemensamt får ta del av filmklipp innehållande personliga vittnesmål skapas en utgångspunkt för reflektion och diskussion” Forum för levande historia (n.d.), “Vittnesmål med klassrumsövningar”, visited 2020-03-24, https://www.levandehistoria. se/klassrummet/vittnesmal-med-klassrumsovningar.



Therefore different pedagogical and didactical reasons can be offered to explain why teachers use testimonies to impart history lessons (Hållander 2015).

Educational Research on Testimony and Pedagogy Educational research offers a number of theories and understandings of how the use of testimony in teaching can enable students to develop positive values, such as a historical consciousness or an ethical approach to the world and other people, or how being exposed to various testimonies could bring about particular feelings and emotions—or even crises (see, for example, Simon 2005; Simon and Eppert 1997; Felman and Laub 1992). These feelings or crises can be a starting point for dealing with historical traumas, and through that be the basis for historical knowledge, including understanding of those different from oneself and/or from other parts of the world. This is also stressed by The Living History Forum. Testimonies carry the idea of being singular and of being “true” stories. Thus, to expose students and pupils to testimonies is seen to be of value when considering historical trauma and attempting to bring consciousness and personal ethical reflection to the issue. Numerous researchers have examined the use of testimony and the function of the witness in educational relationships and in teaching. Shoshana Felman and Dori Laub’s work, Testimony: Crises of Witnessing in Literature, Psychoanalysis and History (1992), is particularly influential. It elucidates the teaching potential of reading historical testimonies as a form of literature. Their work, founded in literary theory and psychoanalysis, has greatly influenced subsequent analyses of the evidence in both philosophical, literary and pedagogical research. Felman and Laub write how the encounter with literary testimonies can create a learning situation in which, by being emotionally affected, students are also taught. The book Testimony investigates the relationship between the crisis—trauma—and pedagogy, and articulates how Felman and Laub understand emotions and personal crisis as an opportunity for learning. It is by deeply engaging with the testimonies that students can learn something. Significant work on the use of testimonies in relation to teaching and learning has also been undertaken by Roger Simon. Among other things, he has studied what learning can look like in relation to memorial acts of historical trauma. Together with Claudia Eppert, Mark Clamens and Laura Beres, in “Witness as Study: The Difficult Inheritance of Testimony”



(Simon et al. 2000) he describes a pedagogical witnessing in relation to testimonies from the Vilna Ghetto in Poland: Engaging the surviving testament of Ghetto—the text, audiovisual testimony, images, and the music that speak of and attempt to convey what happened there, we argue for a public staging, a pedagogical witness, of one’s practices of reading, viewing and listening which make evident how witnessing may become an event in which an Other’s time may disrupt my own. (Simon et al. 2000, p. 289)

Simon et al. base their interpretation on Emmanuel Levinas’ ethics, and through that understand the encounter with testimony as an educational act in terms of responsibility. They do not emphasize crisis in the same way as Felman and Laub, but instead draw upon the memorial to historical wounds as a form of ethical learning—where the testimonies enable one to feel, to caress, the past in the present. Both Felman and Laub and Simon et  al. have put forward the performative and transformative features of testimony and illustrated how the encounter with different historical testimonies can have a teaching character and be a starting point for an ethical consciousness. Although these researchers come from different research traditions, from literary theory, trauma studies and psychoanalysis, they all highlight how testimonies can create a challenging encounter for readers, students and teachers, which in turn has the potential to disrupt previous beliefs and, thereby, to offer a different way to handle and approach historical traumas. Other researchers have questioned testimonies’ coherence with “reality”, however, and have criticized their use in education due to this lack of coherence (see for example David Bakhurst 2013). In line with this research, testimonies can be described as what Jonathan Adler (2015) refers to as “epistemologically fragile”. There are reasons to disbelieve the witness, these researchers write, which in turn has consequences for what kind of knowledge one can claim to get from a witness. Based on this research, which specifically examines the epistemological aspects of testimony, there are good reasons to see it as an insufficient source of knowledge (Bakhurst 2013). Some of these researchers, however, highlight the epistemological significance of testimony for an education that seeks to promote social justice. For example, Martha J. Ritter (2007) and Lorraine Code (2010) highlight how testimony can provide situated knowledge and knowledge that does not in itself perpetuate oppression.



Miranda Fricker (2007) also highlights testimonies’ epistemological vulnerability and fragility by showing how interpretation of testimonies is coloured by the prejudices of those who read or hear them. Fricker (2007) writes how not only is testimony fragile per se but also there is an epistemological injustice related to different testimonies. This epistemological injustice is not based on the witness’s inability to recount or convey through her sense and perception what has happened, but rather is based on the audience’s prejudice. Prejudice plays a role in how a testimony’s truthfulness will be assessed, Fricker writes, as listeners will trust the testimonies of some witnesses more than those of others. Hence, there is an epistemological injustice based on the different social positions that people have in society, where class, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, functionality and race play significant roles. Other researchers within psychoanalytical, hermeneutical and phenomenological traditions (for example, Felman and Laub (1992), Simon (1992, 2005), Simon et al. (2000), Simon and Eppert (1997), Chinnery (2011) and Michalinos Zembylas (2006, 2009)) have all discussed this fragility based on theoretical frameworks not directly concerned with the veracity of testimony. These researchers have used these theoretical frameworks to focus on how testimony and witnessing are performative acts and processes that stand in relation to the unconscious or the unknown. These performative acts can also have pedagogical implications for learning and teaching. For example, as mentioned earlier, Felman and Laub (1992) write how, through the encounter with literary testimonies, students may become emotionally involved and, through that, can be taught. It is by being deeply affected emotionally that testimony can bring about learning. Existing research shows clearly that the use of testimony in educational contexts is considered to be a valuable tool for teaching about historical wounds and injustice. The researchers that draw on psychoanalysis and trauma studies highlight the importance of testimony within the context of teaching to develop, for example, an ethical or historical consciousness. This research promotes theories on how the emotions—empathy and crisis—can serve as a way to develop this. Analytical philosophical research takes a more sceptical approach in relation to the value of using testimonies in teaching, due to deficiencies in testimonies’ truth claims. Based on this overview of previous research, I will now outline the purpose of the present study.



Purpose The overall aim of the book is to investigate the pedagogical possibilities of witnessing and testimony. I examine both the process and the act of witnessing and witness’ statements; that is, the testimony as a representation of an event, and its pedagogical possibility. Witnessing and sharing testimonies can take place in various educational contexts, e.g., schools or museums, but it can also take place elsewhere. Therefore, and as a way to deepen and explore different forms of witnessing and testimony, I will address their pedagogical possibilities both in the context of school and outside of school, which will be clarified throughout the study. Based on previous research on, and actual use of, testimony, I have focused the study on three particular aspects, namely representation, subjectivity and emotions. These three aspects in turn lead to three different chapters, which have different foci and issues. The first aspect concerns the problem of representation and the testimony as a referent. I investigate testimony based on what it means to encounter representations of historical wounds in educational settings, such as public schools. In particular, I ask: what pedagogical possibility does historical testimony have to change the present? Representation is a significant issue with implications for e.g. political representation, truth, history and memory. Representation is also a specific issue for pedagogy, as so much of teaching is based on representations of the world. The investigation of this aspect takes different perspectives into consideration to illustrate and problematize the pedagogical possibilities of testimony. In relation to the second aspect, I ask: how can witnessing enable the processes of subjectivation? I focus on how witnessing can influence and create possibilities for different subjects’ becomings. Through this aspect, I will move my focus away from teaching to consider the witnesses’ subjectivity, and the ability to change oneself and one’s environment through witnessing, specifically in relation to working conditions. In this chapter I do not directly address pupils’ subjectivity, but rather that of the witnesses, an investigation that has implications for the understanding of witnessing and its possibilities in relation to subjectivity in school settings and teaching. Third, the focus on emotions and emotional crisis deriving from existing research considers how emotional reactions to testimony can impact pedagogical possibility, by asking the question: what do emotions do when encountering testimonies? Here I return in part to issues related to



teaching and the emotions that testimonies can evoke, but also to a more political discussion on the role of emotions and testimonies in politics and in the globalized world.

Theoretical Framing I examine the pedagogical possibilities of testimony and witnessing based on the idea that these possibilities are situated in human deficiency and inability; that is, our knowledge is placed in an inability, in our non-­ knowledge. This theoretical framing is based on Giorgio Agamben’s philosophy, which creates a foundation on which to start thinking about testimony, the understanding of potentiality, and its possibilities. Through Agamben, the concepts of testimony and the pedagogical possibilities of the witness are articulated in relation to their impossibility. I therefore examine the pedagogical possibilities of the testimony and the witness, based on the idea that these pedagogical possibilities exist in human shortcomings and inabilities; where the knowledge itself is placed in the very impossibility, in our non-knowledge, a position I develop in the chapter “The impossible witnessing, the pedagogical possibilities—theoretical framing”. This dialectical understanding offers a different formulation than previous research, in that the encounter with testimonies is not formulated in terms of crisis, as in Felman and Laub’s formulation (1992), or in terms of hopes and dreams or an ethical consciousness, as in Simon (2005). An Agambenian approach enables a different examination of testimony and its pedagogical possibilities than has been seen in previous research, and hence it contributes an original perspective to the pedagogical-­philosophical field. Agamben’s philosophy examines testimony in relation to a specific event: the testimonies that emerge after Auschwitz. To offer a deeper, more nuanced account of the aspects I explore here—representation, subjectivity and emotions—and to relate them to a more situated context, such as school and teaching, I also draw on further philosophical work that deals with testimony, witnessing and/or historical wounds. These are, among others: Édouard Glissant (1997) and his understanding of opacity and transparency; Sara Ahmed’s analysis of emotions (2004); Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s development of pedagogy (2004, 2009, 2012); Kelly Oliver’s (2001) nuance of subjectivity and subject position in relation to the witness; and The Latina Feminist Group’s (2002) understanding of witnessing. These different philosophies also tend to approach



testimony in terms of its impossibility (in different ways), based on the idea that testimonies and the testimony are conditional. These philosophers’ perspectives also enable me to deepen and problematize Agamben’s reasoning about the impossibility of testimony.

Method: Writing with Examples My approach is philosophical; that is, I investigate educational issues by means of philosophical investigations. The book is formed of three parts. The first part is an extended review of previous research. The second sets out Giorgio Agamben’s philosophy that provides the theoretical basis of the study. The third part presents various examples of testimonies. Hence, I now want to discuss what it means to write with examples and what role these play in my argument. I take a broad definition of what counts as a testimony, and I do not need a stamp of approval to allow it to pass as such. As the examples will show, they can take many forms. I began the thesis, for example, with an event from my own teaching: being exposed to Collateral Murder. I also discussed the book Tell ye your children … published by The Living History Forum (Bruchfeld and Levine 1998), which is elaborated on later in this book. I will also discuss: Eyvind Johnson’s Penelope and her weaving in Strändernas svall from 1946 (Johnson 2004), published in English with the title Return to Ithaca: The Odyssey retold as a modern novel (Johnson 1952); the testimonies from the mine workers in Gruva (Mine) by Sara Lidman and Odd Uhrbom (1969); and pictures taken by Nilüfer Demir of Alan Kurdi in 2015 (‘Death of Alan Kurdi’ 2016). These examples differ from one another. They present singular, unique stories, but this does not mean that they are entities that are separated from the world. They are in some way representative of the world. In the lecture “What is a paradigm” Agamben (2009) deals with the function of the example, philosophically and ontologically. Paradigm is used here synonymously with examples, and he writes that “we all” use examples; in philosophy, in art, in literature and in education. In an etymological sense, paradigm derives from the Latin “paradigm” or Greek “para-deigm”, meaning that which appears next to, or that which stands next to it (prefix “para” means next to and “digm” to show). What Agamben raises in relation to this is how the example not only points inward towards itself, but also to something else: to what is next to it. In the lecture Agamben deals with the paradigm ontologically and considers



how the example shows a basic similarity between the example and the world, which Agamben formulates as a movement from the singular to the singular—and not as a movement from the particular to the general. The example is thus something that stands for itself, but that also, in its specificity, moves towards what is visible next to it. But what does this movement consist of? Aristotle argued that the example is “more knowable” (Aristotle, in Agamben 2009), which can be interpreted to mean that the paradigmatic relation takes place between the phenomenon and its knowability. What the example has in common with an object, or the world, is its knowability and through that it produces a new ontological context of a “besides being”. When I write on pedagogical possibilities of testimony and witnessing it is this that I am interested in. The examples that I write of are singular, unique stories, though this does not mean that they are separate entities. The examples are not autonomous but related; they move from the singular to another singularity and, through this movement, the examples help me to investigate the questions guiding this book, by making things become flesh and more understandable. In the book Remnants of Auschwitz (2008) Agamben writes about testimonies in relation to the archive. This becomes relevant to this study as this research on testimony and witnessing also has involved encountering an enormous number of testimonies, which together can be likened to an archive. The archive is not understood here as an actual archive, securely stored or indexed, but rather as all the testimonial stories that are recorded or that we have the opportunity to encounter. And that we do often encounter (I would almost say on a daily basis, because there are many bodies who testify through different media and forms). What kind of selection have I made from this “archive”? The selection of examples I made from this “archive” is based on how each has shown something next to it, understood here in terms of the pedagogical possibilities of witnessing and testimony. The examples have helped me to pursue the analysis of the central questions of the study, through the way they embody the problem and make it more knowable. The examples that I write about have given rise to questions about what it means to create pedagogical possibility in relation to the different aspects: representation, subjectivity and emotions. The examples that I discuss are distinct; that is, they are in different contexts and show the breadth of the impossibilities of witnessing and testimony, which was also an important factor in the selection of examples. So I have not selected examples on the basis that they might give rise to similar interpretations or that they are consistent. Rather, it is the differences that they present that were interesting and relevant to the study.



Disposition The book consists of six chapters. The first chapter, this introduction, has introduced the problem, explained the purpose and means of selection for the study and discussed what it means to write with examples. In Chap. 2, “The Impossible Witnessing, the Pedagogical Possibilities: Theoretical Framing”, I discuss the theoretical framing for the book. The chapter also begins with an etymological understanding of the witness and the testimony. I demonstrate the ambiguity of the testimony, as well as give my understanding of what education and the pedagogical means. This chapter has been translated from Swedish with the help of Ida Stefansson. Chapter 3 “Pull out the uneven thick threads”: On Penelope’s Weave and Re-presentation as a way of Teaching” deals with what kind of role testimonies from the past can have in teaching. The chapter discusses Eyvind Johnson’s book Return to Ithaca: The Odyssey retold as a modern novel (Johnson 1952) in order to discuss several different perspectives on representation as a pedagogical question, such as the paradox of history, the testimony as a remnant and voice drawing on Arendt and Agamben. In this chapter I argue for the possibilities—as well as difficulties—of the school as a special place which can be (however, not always is) a place for free time, drawing on Masschelein and Simons (2013), where stories and testimonies can be put on the table in order to understand and relate things for students. The classroom can also be this place, with Di Paolantonio’s words, where we can work with texts, stories, testimonies, who cannot speak for themself, but at the same time we must understand the pledge in doing this, and guard them “against any present condensation” (Di Paolantonio 2010, p. 132). In this pledge I discuss the ethical, political and aesthetic aspects of testimonies that do not continue to expropriate and exploit already vulnerable bodies, drawing on Spivak’s suturing pedagogy: a pedagogy that could start to heal the wounds that are produced in history and reproduced in the present. Chapter 4, “On Saying We: Relational Witnessing and Empowered Subjectivity”, discusses subjectivity in relation to the book Gruva by Sara Lidman and Odd Uhrbom (1969) and documents related to the wildcat strike in Svappavaara (1969–1970) in the northern part of Sweden. It highlights how the paradox of the witness has different expressions, including how the paradox implies a separation between the witness and the testimony, and thereby between the process and the product. This



creates testimony for someone else, which makes subjectivity difficult. The chapter therefore moves from the individual witness, framed by Derrida and Celan (Derrida 2005), to an understanding of the testimony as a relational possibility by examining how translation as a phenomenon can become processes and a possible path. Through these readings, subjectivity is formulated in relation to other bodies, which results in an argument for the pedagogical possibilities of becoming in relation to others. The chapter stresses a relational view of witnessing, which does not separate the process from the product: where the process of a relational witnessing (by saying ‘we’) can demand change and lead to empowered subjectivity. In Chap. 5, “On the Verge of Tears: The Ambivalent Spaces of Emotions and Testimonies”, I discuss the relationship between emotions and testimony by asking: What do emotions do? Are emotions possible and desirable starting points for teaching difficult and complex subjects such as injustice and historical wounds? This chapter explores the 2015 image with Alan Kurdi, photographed lying on a beach on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey, and the immense emotional response it elicited from the media. By critiquing emotions based on testimonies encountered in teaching, primarily following Ahmed (2004) and Todd (2003), this chapter argues that emotions are cultural practices, not psychological states and, thus, are relational. At this point, the argument takes two different directions: first, the effects offered by listening; second, opacity in relation to transparency, based on the thoughts of Glissant (1997). The aspects of listening and opacity in relation to testimonies in turn yield an ambivalent space in which emotions play a role (regardless of whether or not that function is desired). This chapter has been published as: Hållander, Marie (2019) “On the Verge of Tears: The Ambivalent Spaces of Emotions and Testimonies”, Studies in Philosophy and Education 38, no. 5: 467–480. The last chapter, Chap. 6, “Witnessing for the Future”, summarizes and deepens the discussion of the pedagogical implications of the foregoing analysis in relation to teaching. The chapter also reframes the argument in relation to Agamben’s idea of the possibilities of testimony, in terms of giving authority back to the witness (to acknowledge the witness as a subject), and the witness predicting and giving authority to those who are witnessing the testimony. The chapter also considers the temporal aspect of witnessing in terms of arrested time; a time wherein possibilities can become actualities. This chapter has been translated with the help of Ida Stefansson.



References Adler, J. (2015). Epistemological Problems of Testimony. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2015). Retrieved from http:// Agamben, G. (2008). Remnants of Auschwitz: The Witness and the Archive. Zone Books. Agamben, G. (2009). What Is an Apparatus? And Other Essays. Stanford University Press. Ahmed, S. (2004). The Cultural Politics of Emotion. Routledge. Ascher, A. (2011). Thinking the Unthinkable as a Form of Dissensus: The Case of the Witness. Transformation, Issue No. 19 Rancière: Politics, Art & Sense. Bakhurst, D. (2013). Learning from Others. Journal of Philosophy of Education, 47(2), 187–203. Bruchfeld, S., & Levine, P. (1998). Tell Ye Your Children ... A Book About the Holocaust in Europe, 1933–1945. Regeringskansliet. Chinnery, A. (2011). On History Education and the Moral Demands of Remembrance. In R.  Kunzman (Ed.), Philosophy of Education 2011 (pp. 127–135). Urbana-Champaign, IL: Philosophy of Education Society. Code, L. (2010). Particularity, Epistemic Responsibility, and the Ecological Imaginary. The Philosophy of Education Archive, University of Illinois, pp. 23–34. ‘Death of Alan Kurdi’. (2016). In Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved from 709932040. Derrida, J. (2005). Sovereignties in Question: The Poetics of Paul Celan. Fordham University Press. Di Paolantonio, M. (2010). Guarding and Transmitting the Vulnerability of the Historical Referent. In D.  Kerdeman (Ed.), Philosophy of Education 2009 (pp. 129–137). Urbana-Champaign, IL: Philosophy of Education Society. Felman, S., & Laub, D. (1992). Testimony: Crises of Witnessing in Literature, Psychoanalysis and History. Routledge. Forum för levande historia. (n.d.). Vittnesmål med klassrumsövningar. Retrieved March 24, 2020, from vittnesmal-med-klassrumsovningar. Fricker, M. (2007). Epistemic Injustice Power and the Ethics of Knowing. Oxford University Press. Glissant, É. (1997). Poetics of Relation. University of Michigan Press. Hållander, M. (2015). Voices from the Past: On Representations of Suffering in Education. Ethics and Education, 10(2), 175–185. Hållander, M. (2017). Det omöjliga vittnandet: Om vittnesmålets pedagogiska möjligheter. Eskaton.



Johnson, E. (1952). Return to Ithaca: The Odyssey Retold as a Modern Novel. Trans. M.A Michael. Thames & Hudson. Johnson, E. (2004). Strändernas svall. Bonnier. Lidman, S., & Uhrbom, O. (1969). Gruva. Bokförlaget Aldus/Bonniers. Masschelein, J., & Simons, M. (2013). In Defence of the School. A Public Issue. E-ducation, Culture & Society Publisher. Oliver, K. (2001). Witnessing: Beyond Recognition. University of Minnesota Press. Ritter, M. J. (2007). The Significance of Finding a Witness in Liberatory Education. Philosophy of Education Archive 2007, 359–366. Simon, R. I. (1992). Teaching against the Grain: Texts for a Pedagogy of Possibility. Bergin & Garvey. Simon, R. I. (2005). The Touch of the Past: Remembrance, Learning, and Ethics. Palgrave Macmillan. Simon, R. I., & Eppert, C. (1997). Remembering Obligation: Pedagogy and the Witnessing of Testimony of Historical Trauma. Canadian Journal of Education, 22(2), 175–191. Simon, R. I., Eppert, C., Clamen, M., & Beres, L. (2000). Witness as Study: The Difficult Inheritance of Testimony. Review of Education, Pedagogy, and Cultural Studies, 22(4), 285–322. Spivak, G.  C. (2004). Righting Wrongs. The South Atlantic Quarterly, 1 2004, 103:2/3 (Spring/Summer), 523–581. Spivak, G. C. (2009). Outside in the Teaching Machine. Routledge. Spivak, G. C. (2012). An Aesthetic Education in the Era of Globalization. Harvard University Press. The Latina Feminist Group. (2002). Telling to Live: Latina Feminist Testimonios. Duke University Press. Todd, S. (2003). Learning from the Other: Levinas, Psychoanalysis, and Ethical Possibilities in Education. State University of New York Press. Wikileaks. (2010). Collateral Murder. Retrieved from https://collateralmurder. Zembylas, M. (2006). Witnessing in the Classroom: The Ethics and Politics of Affect. Educational Theory, 56(3), 305–324. Zembylas, M. (2009). Bearing Witness to the Ethics and Politics of Suffering: J. M. Coetzee’s Disgrace, Inconsolable Mourning, and the Task of Educators. Studies in Philosophy and Education, 28(3), 223–237.


The Impossible Witnessing, The Pedagogical Possibilities: Theoretical Framing

Abstract  What characterises witnessing and testimony as phenomena? What is meant by their pedagogical possibilities? To begin to answer these questions, Hållander creates a framework in this chapter for the theoretical approach applied in the book, highlighting and contextualising central concepts. First, she explores witnessing and testimony through an etymological investigation and then focuses on their connection to the wound and injustice. This is followed by a more detailed discussion of pedagogy and, more specifically, of pedagogical possibilities, in relation to Agamben’s writings on potentiality (Potentialities: Collected Essays in Philosophy. Stanford University Press, 1999) and by putting these phenomena in a societal context. Keywords  Potentiality • Testimony • Pedagogy • Witnessing • Agamben

Introduction What characterises witnessing and testimony as a phenomenon? What is meant by pedagogical possibilities? The idea behind this chapter is to create a framework for the theoretical approach that I am applying, by emphasising important and central concepts for the book and placing them in a context. I do this firstly by shedding light on witnessing and testimony based on an etymological investigation and then by focusing on their © The Author(s) 2020 M. Hållander, The Pedagogical Possibilities of Witnessing and Testimonies,




connection to the wound and injustice. This is followed by a more detailed discussion on pedagogy, and more specifically the pedagogical possibilities, by discussing it in relation to potentiality and by putting these phenomena in a societal context.

Etymological Perspectives In the writing, I use three related concepts: the witness, to witness and testimony, concepts that are tightly interwoven but at the same time separate. In Swedish, these words are more similar; the words vittne (the witness) and vittnesmål (testimony) have the same root (Svenska akademiens ordlista över svenska språket 2006).1 However, in English language and literature, which I am here writing in, these three concepts: the witness/witnessing and testimony have different roots. In the use of these concepts (the witness/to witness and testimony) there is a distinction that emerges, which can be more or less emphasized. The differences between these three concepts, which is most often made, is that the witness who gives a testimony of something is making a statement in some way (which in turn can also be witnessed) which differs from the process of witnessing, which instead is rather referring to the act of seeing, hearing or feeling. This latter meaning thus does not have the same weight on the statement itself. One can be a witness without speaking or giving a testimony. In Latin etymology, witness (témoin) stands, firstly for testis, “the one who testifies” and means to stand for a person in terms of a third person (terstis), in a trial, for example, where a person testifies in order to prove what has happened (Derrida 2005, p. 72). The second word for a witness in Latin is superstes which can mean témoin (“the one who testifies”) but is instead referring to a person who has lived through something. The one who testifies has survived and has an experience from the beginning to the end (Agamben 2008, p. 17). The witness who stands for superstes is thus present in the event in a different way from the witness as a third person (testis): s/he lives through an event and survives it. The interesting thing about superstes is that this witness does not have to express or give voice to the event. So superstes is not only in relation to the testimony itself. She

1  “bli vittne till, bära vittne om”, ådagalägga, visa”, och vittnesmål eller vittnesbörd som “avlägga vittnesmål, vittna”. Svenska Akademiens ordlista över svenska språket (Stockholm: Svenska akademien, 2006),



can testify without giving a testimony, which I discussed earlier in relation to the difference and understandings of a witness and a testimony. It is easy to recognize the English word testimony from the Latin words témoin, testis and tersis, but it is not as easy to derive it from the Swedish word vittne (witness). However, we find the word testamente in Swedish (a will), as a last will or last wish derived from testis. This testament (will) can be linked to the word of testimonium, Derrida write, as an act of the secret and sealed—but also as an act, or promise, that stands between the dying (or the dead) and the living (Derrida 2005). It is not possible to write on testimony and witnessing without also mentioning the theological and religious historical links. In classic Greek, “martyr” (martys) has the meaning of a witness. Michael Azar writes in the book Vittnet (The Witness) that man can testify in two different ways: with blood or with words. Through her blood, she testifies with her own life as a contribution: “it is through the dead body the truth arises” (Azar 2008, p. 7).2 She testifies to her faith by becoming a witness of blood. The second way of witnessing is through the word; then the witness tries instead to “discover the truth by speaking; it is through the mouth of the witness that the past and absent are reborn in the present moment” (Azar 2008, p. 7).3 There is an understanding of the witness where the witness can testify through language and how the witness can be understood as beyond the statement itself: the martyr can testify to something, for God, through her own death. She becomes a martyr by her suffering, her torment and finally by her death. The religious connection is also in relation to various religious practices to confirm or show ones faith to God, for example by the Bible word: “You are my witnesses, says the Lord, and I am God” (Isaiah 43:12). In the context of evangelical Christian communities, it is also common to witness, which means that one tells the congregation how one came to become a Christian. Etymologically, therefore, there are many understandings of the witness, understandings that differ in relation to what context the witness is in: in religious contexts, in a trial, in relation to historical events and historical contexts. What can one say from these etymological derivations? 2  Original in Swedish: “det är genom den döda kroppen som sanningen uppstår” (Azar 2008, p. 7). My translation. 3  Original in Swedish: “uppdaga sanningen genom att ta till orda; det är genom vittnets mun som det förflutna och frånvarande återföds i det nuvarande nuet” (Azar 2008, p. 7). My translation.



And what do these understandings mean in relation to the purpose of this book, of understanding the pedagogical possibilities of testimony and witnessing? The interesting thing about the etymological derivations is how it opens up to different understandings of the witness, understandings that differ from each other, but which all highlight how the witnesses are referring to people who live, see, hear or experience something that these people can later give testimony about. It is also clear how there are traces of wounds and of the impossibility of the testimony: about the witness who speaks of suffering and injustice: of blood, and of death.

The Impossible Testimony In the book, I apply a view on testimony and witnessing where the witness has a unique position: she testifies to her own or other’s wounds. She testifies to that which is unjust. Unjust towards her or unjust towards something or someone else (Spivak 2004; see also Hållander 2017). The connection between wound and testimony is made by several authors and researchers (and can also be found within the etymological investigation), above all through the Greek word trauma. As Gilmore (2001) points out, the meaning of the Greek word “trauma” is sore; originally a wound on the body, but also later came to involve wounds that are linked to the mind or the soul. Also Mary Jo Hinsdale (2014) writes about “Witnessing across wounds”, in other words, about a witnessing that stretches across our wounds. Through wounds, my point of departure for testimonies is also made clear: it is not everyday descriptions of what people had for breakfast that I am interested in (Cf. Goldberg 2013). The book develop witnessing in relation to this kind of understanding of witnessing: Witnessing can take place in many different ways and for different purposes: for example, liberation, justification, bringing forth the truth or showing resistance. Witnessing can also take place without a specific purpose, it can be a witnessing that takes place in silence or voicelessness. In the book, I write about witnessing and testimony as an impossibility. I do so in order to capture the fragility and the lack that testimony is surrounded by and which touches upon several different aspects, such as the subject, representation and truth. I have picked up the description of testimony as an impossibility from Agamben and his reading of different testimonies from Auschwitz. To Agamben, the witness as a phenomenon is interesting in order to understand Auschwitz—or the reverse, it is in



relation to the testimonies, and above all Primo Levi’s story, about the historical wound of Auschwitz that the witness appears as a specific figure; as a survivor, a teller of the truth and as a subject, as well as a non-subject (Agamben 2008). In The drowned and the saved Primo Levi describes his own witnessing as an Auschwitz survivor and how his witnessing is related to those who did not survive, those whom he refers to as the drowned witnesses (i sommersi) (Levi 1989). In this book, following If this is a man (Levi 1991), he describes the experience of being the one who survives by posing the question, why is he alive, and not the others? How can they as survivors have the ability to understand and explain the experience they carry? How to do so in relation to the drowned witnesses? Through different analyses of shame and power, Levi describes how there were people in the camp, just like on the outside, with privileges: the grey area where prisoners were united by confirming and maintaining their privilege, and how this privilege also was a way of survival. This insight makes Levi write: I must repeat: we, the survivors, are not the true witnesses … We survivors are not only an exiguous but also an anomalous minority: we are those who by their prevarications or abilities or good luck did not touch bottom. Those who did so, those who saw the Gorgon, have not returned to tell about it or have returned mute, but they are the Muslims, the submerged, the complete witnesses, the ones whose deposition would have a general significance. They are the rule, we are the exception. (Levi 1989, pp. 83–84)

What Levi describes through his testimony is how he experiences being unable to offer a voice to everyone who was lost. His voice is not enough. He does not own their stories even if it is in relation to these that he himself testifies. It is these two witnesses who in turn carry the understanding of what Agamben later refers to as: “two impossibilities of bearing witness”, since neither of these two owns or can tell the story of what has happened (Agamben 2008, p.  39). Agamben also describes this impossibility as a paradox. The drowned witness cannot tell the story since she went under, the saved witness tells the story in her stead but cannot express the story of these drowned witnesses. Based on Levi, Agamben describes this difference between the saved and the drowned in Remnants of Auschwitz as:



The ‘true’ witnesses, ‘the complete witness’, are those who ‘touched bottom’ […] The survivors speak in their stead, by proxy, as pseudo-witnesses; they bear witness to a missing testimony. (Agamben 2008, p. 34)

Based on this understanding Agamben writes that neither of the two witnesses is the subject of the testimony—no one can carry the voice of the witness since one cannot bear testimony from the inside of death, which constitutes the paradox itself.

Pedagogy What do I mean by pedagogical possibilities? In this chapter I would like to continue discussing this. In the book I look at how witnessing and testimony can create pedagogical possibilities for students, but also for individuals and groups outside the world of education. I therefore have a double focus in the book, by both discussing the pedagogical possibilities of witnessing and testimony outside of school and teaching, as well as their possibilities within this institutional framework. When I speak of pedagogy, I am referring to processes of change. In the book, I lean against international research where the concepts “pedagogy” and “pedagogical” are used. Within the framework of this research, there are theories that try to understand what pedagogical moments of change and becoming mean. Zembylas writes in Five Pedagogies, a Thousand Possibilities: pedagogy may be defined as the relational encounter among individuals through which unpredictable possibilities of communication and action are created. Pedagogy, then, is a site of intersubjective encounters that entail transformative possibilities. (2007, p. xiii)

Through this understanding, the pedagogical means relational meetings that bring possibilities of transformation and becoming. Todd also touches on this relational transformation. Through a personal account of a meeting with a teacher, Todd writes: Such moments are pedagogical not because they are moments that occur in educational context—which they can and do—but these moments also constitute what is “educational” about human life: that through our encounters with others (human and non-human alike) we shift the borders of our self-­ understanding. That we alter and transform in this way is not merely the



hope for education, but is the pedagogical act of living par excellence. (2014, p. 232)

Here she explains how relations can be pedagogical not simply because they are placed in educational contexts but also because they are moments that change and transform our self-understanding. These becomings can take place in teaching between teachers and students, as well as outside of this institutional framework and in relation to colleagues, animals or friends (see for example Ceder 2019; Hagström 2018). Relationships differ in character and the becomings that may take place differ depending on the relationship in question. The relationships that exist in educational contexts have a special character that differs from other relationships, since teacher and student relationships, as Todd puts it, “rest upon an educational intentionality, or demand for change, that these other relationships do not” (2014, p. 232). What Todd is describing here is how the intentionality that is incorporated in teaching, which is governed by anything from education acts, steering documents and syllabuses, creates prerequisites for the becomings that may take place in teaching, and that education as such should have directions. To simply view the pedagogical in terms of becoming, as Zembylas puts it, within the framework of education is thus not enough. Here, it therefore becomes relevant to also raise the question, what is education for? This question, posed by Biesta, becomes relevant to discuss here since it can provide an understanding of what education can be and what its direction should be. Biesta describes in Good Education in the Age of Measurement how education is about qualification, which is about children, young people and adults being able to acquire knowledge, skills and values; socialisation, which is about becoming a part of existing traditions and ways of being and acting, and about subjectification: on the subjects’ becoming as an individual (Biesta 2010). These aspects, qualification, socialization and subjectification, can be said to be three legs upon which (good) education rests. This does not mean that they are always current or that they always are active within the framework of the activities of schools or in teaching. Furthermore, Biesta writes that there is one aspect that appears clearer than others, namely the latter about subjectification (an aspect which I also will look deeper into in the chapter “On saying we: subjectivity”): subjectification should be an intrinsic element of all education worthy of the name. This is not so much meant as an empirical statement referring to the



fact that education always in some way impacts upon the subjectivity of those being educated. It also means as a normative statement expressing the belief that education becomes uneducational if it only focus on socialization […] and has no interest in ways in which newcomers can, in some way, gain independence form such orders as well. (Biesta 2010, p. 75)

Good education should thus have an interest in students’ subjectivity, which is based on human freedom, Biesta argues. Within the framework of this subjectivity, “the pedagogy of interruption” functions as an important element, where the human being’s potential to appear as unique, free and responsible in relation to others comes into play (Biesta 2010). An education that only strengthens processes of change that concern pure adaptation to fruitful circumstances is thus not enough. Within the framework of education, these processes of becoming should have directions that, in the words of Biesta and Säfström, can be ethical, political and aesthetic, and concern questions of subjectivity, emancipation and freedom. “They encompass an ethics of subjectivity, a politics of emancipation and an aesthetics of freedom”, they write in “A Manifesto for Education” (2011, p. 542). Based on these understandings surrounding relationality and subjectivity, I thus consider the pedagogical as moments of transformation where existential and emancipatory (ethical, political and aesthetic) becomings can take place. Biesta and Säfström locate these becomings in the tension between “what is” and “what is not” (2011). A location that also makes the question of possibility interesting since possibility stands between that which is and that which is not, but also—according to Agamben—stands in relation to the experience of what it means to be able or unable, something that I would like to discuss further here to more fully emphasise what I mean by pedagogical possibilities.

Possibility: Control of Life, and Death In Agamben’s book Potentialities, he poses the question of what it means when someone says: “Yes, I can.” or “No, I can’t” (1999, p.  177). In other words, what does it mean to be able to do something, or to be able to step forward as a subject? This is where the question of possibility or potentiality becomes relevant to discuss, since it can problematise and deepen what it means to be able to come into being as a human or to be able to change something, that is, what it means to be able to go from possibility to realisation. Agamben argues that



Our ethical tradition has often sought to avoid the problem of potentiality by reducing it to the terms of will and necessity. Not what you can do, but what you want to do or must do is its dominant theme. […] But potentiality is not will, and impotentiality is not necessity. […] To believe that will has power over potentiality, that the passage over to actuality is a result over a decision that puts an end to ambiguity of potentiality (which is always potentiality to do and not to do)—this is the perpetual illusion of morality. (1999, p. 254)

By this, I would like to say that all intersubjective relations are ethical, but the question of being able to change, to step forward as a subject or change the condition of things, is not only about wanting to do it or that we should do it. It is also about this experience of being able to do it (Agamben 1999, p.  254). The question of potentiality therefore also becomes educational. The question of possibility, is thus about being able, but also—which is important to stress—is ultimately also about subjectivity. The question of possibility is ultimately a question of ontology, Agamben writes (1999). The concept of potentiality (possibility) has a long history within Western philosophy.4 In both Aristotle’s physics and metaphysics, a distinction is made between potentiality and actuality (dynamis from energeia), that is, the difference, or process, that exists between the possibility and the realisation. (In On the Soul, Aristotle looks at the soul as “the principle of living creatures”, and is by that interested in “observing and getting to know both its nature and its true essence”). A division and a becoming that falls back on Aristotle’s difference between matter (possibility) and form (realisation). The soul thus has an expression partly as a possibility, its matter, and partly as a realisation, its form (Aristoteles 1987, p. 15; See also: Liedman 2006). In Agamben’s reading of Aristotle’s De anima, On the Soul, he sheds light on two different potentialities, where the first is referred to as the generic potentiality and the second the existing potentiality (Agamben 1999; Aristoteles 1987). The existing potentiality, which is more interesting to Agamben and to me, means that focus is 4  In the book I have chosen to use the words possibility and impossibility instead of potentiality and impotentiality. Agamben’s choice of words is often, not always, potentialities and not possibility in the English translations. The two concepts are related, for example, former translators of Aristotle into Swedish, which I refer to in this book, use the Swedish word möjlighet instead of potentialitet (possibilities/potential) in Swedish. In the book I use these terms synonymously.



placed on the actual impossibility and non-ability, something which I will return to later in this chapter. Here, however, I want to develop what the generic potentiality means since it also problematises what education and teaching can be. Aristotle’s understanding of the generic potentiality can be explained with the oak and its acorns. The acorn holds the potential of the oak, it is telos-determined since what it will become has already been decided; an oak and not a pine. It has a predetermined goal: the possibility of the acorn lies in becoming a certain type of tree, an oak, and which through this signifies a process of realisation. This understanding of possibility can also be translated to the child or the student in an educational situation. An understanding that means that the child goes to school because he or she has the possibility to develop skills (qualification) but also to become something—something else or something more—by changing (subjectivity). The understanding surrounding the generic potentiality means an understanding of the being as “a not yet”.5 The child is not yet an adult, but will be. In relation to ability, this potentiality means that the child is not yet able, but will be in the future and that this already has a direction and a determination. The change that will take place is, so to speak, predetermined. The subjects who are going to appear are already determined. Similar to Tyson Lewis, who writes in his book On Study: Giorgio Agamben and Educational Potentiality based on Agamben, the generic potentiality means a normative approach: the child is going to go through a transformation from that which is not yet to the normative has to become (Lewis 2013). In the generic potentiality there is, thus, a determinism that predicts what the student though education will become as an adult, with everything that might entail: such as a citizen, employee, lover, etc. Aristotle, in turn, even speaks of this possibility in terms of “a form of destruction” (Aristoteles 1987, p. 72). Agamben and Lewis argue that this “destruction” of what does not yet exist (of the child, of the childish) can be understood in terms of a desubjectification: reducing the subject to a commodity or an abstract figure, or a machine in the capitalist system (Lewis 2013, p. 6ff).

5  Roger Simon also writes on the possibilities. His theoretical framing of education in Teaching Against the Grain: text for a pedagogy of possibility is partly ethical, partly as an understanding of the possibility as something “that which is not yet”. This understanding is related to dreams and hopes about a better future for ourselves, for the children and the coming generation (1992).



Just like Lewis, I would like to place the understanding of the possibility in a context; in a societal, capitalist system where “[t]he subject is captured as a resource of the world; his or her choices become nothing more than reflexes of the needs of the world to replicate itself” (2013, p.  7). What we are dealing with here is a central understanding within Agamben’s philosophy, namely biopolitics; the understanding of the state’s power to determine people’s life and death (1998). Biopolitics is something which Agamben develops based on different philosophers, such as Hannah Arendt, Carl Schmitt and Walter Benjamin but above all Michel Foucault. In, for example, Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, he emphasises and problematises the fundamental relationship between the political sovereignty and the bare life (la nuda vita) and how this relationship is fundamental to how the subjects in the different nations have the possibility to appear. According to Agamben, states become sovereign by controlling both zoe and bios, both the “living life” and the “qualified life”, which means that states own possibility and become sovereign through these acts of placing subjects within as well as outside the law. Agamben finds an extreme form of biopolitics in Nazi Germany with its extermination of human beings in different concentration camps, but the control can also be applied to other states’ (Sweden’s) ways of governing: forced sterilisation of groups, class and racial policy decisions on certain children’s schooling (or rather non-schooling), classifying non-normative sexualities as diseases, etc. States—but also other power practitioners, such as owners of capital—control the lived life (zoe) through different directed decisions, which means that the different subjects have different possibilities to enter into the qualified life, and thus appear as subjects. (See also my article on Agamben, profanation and biopolitics: Hållander 2017). This is why this control also produces subjects that are not given the opportunity to come forward (Agamben 2010). Agamben writes in: What is an apparatus? What defines the apparatuses that we have to deal with in the current phase of capitalism is that they no longer act as much through the production of a subject, as through the processes of what can be called desubjectification. (Agamben 2009, p. 20)

Agamben connects desubjectivity with several different historical and contemporary subjects, such as the historical figure of homo sacer within Roman law, with Muselmänner in Auschwitz, with refugees who do not



have access and legal rights in the contexts in which they find themselves because they stand outside states and laws (Agamben 1998, 2005b). In a further reading, desubjectivity can also be put in relation to those who lack a voice or who do not have the possibility to influence their lives, whose choices only mean, in the words of Stig Sjödin in Sotfragment: Dikter: “den stora favören att få välja / där val ej fanns.” (“the great favour of being allowed to choose / where there were no choices to be found” (Sjödin and Öhrnell 1996, p.  34). What Agamben examines through these figures (homo sacer, the bare life, the qualified life, etc.) is how political power becomes sovereign by excluding and including, and controlling people’s lives into its bare flesh. It is through these exclusions and inclusions that states also become sovereign: they are the ones who have the possibility to suspend the law and declare a state of emergency (Agamben 2005a). The connection between state and education looks different depending on which state and which school we are talking about. The pedagogy and education can be based on the idea of freedom, and on the idea of, as Bergstedt writes, “befria sig från gamla föreställningar och därmed se världen på ett nytt sätt” (“liberating oneself from old beliefs and thus seeing the world in a new way” (Bergstedt and Herbert 2011, p. 6). But as Bergstedt continues to write, the pedagogy can equally be used by leaders and states to implement their own versions of society, which have not always included free thinking. Pedagogical models can equally be perceived as coercive and as a means of power to control the free human being’s view of the world. The coercion has also been very tangible, with corporal punishments and exclusions (Bergstedt and Herbert 2011). Pedagogy thus does not fall outside the biopolitical, but constitutes a part of it (Cf. Lewis 2013). To return to the generic potentiality from the perspective of biopolitics, the possibility lies, according to Agamben, in the ability to create changes and to become another, for example through learning, but this otherness already is predetermined. There is a direction which is predetermined. Agamben writes: “The child, Aristotle says, is potential in the sense that he must suffer an alteration (a becoming other) through learning” (Agamben 1999, p. 179). Translated into the world of education, the student should become someone else, separate from what she is there and then, and enter into a predetermined role. What distinguishes this understanding of the generic potentiality is an understanding of change (or transformation) as well as of subject creation (in terms of becoming other), but that these changes, becomings, are already



predestined and hold tendencies of desubjectivity (such as a figure, a body or a function in the capitalist system) (Lewis 2013). The generic potentiality therefore does not interest either Agamben or Lewis since this understanding implies a predestination, a determinism, of the possibilities that exist. Instead, Agamben formulates another understanding of the possibility, called existing potentiality. Within the framework of this understanding, the possibility is placed with he or she who has knowledge or already is able, but also in the actual lack and privation (Agamben 1999, p. 179). This existing potentiality also becomes more interesting in relation to witnessing and testimony since the impossibility (and the lack or privation) is at the centre. Here, therefore, I want to move on by explaining what Agamben includes in the impossibility.

Every Possibility Is an Impossibility Often, we tend to categorise knowledge in terms of an either or, either we know something, or we do not. This creates an understanding that potentiality and impotentiality are counterparts, or that the potentiality is subordinate to actuality (from what is yet to be, to what already is). What Agamben argues is rather that there is a tension between them, that potentiality, impotentiality and actuality are intertwined and how this in turn is relevant to the understanding of what it means to know or not know something. Based on Aristotle’s analysis of light and darkness, Agamben writes about this existing potentiality as not simply the potential to do this or that thing, but potential to not-do: not to pass into actuality, not to see light, not to hear (otherwise we would not be able to know something, do something; see darkness or hear silence (Agamben 1999). What Agamben means by this is that knowledge is as much about being able to do something as not being able to do it, by not realising it: The following essential point should be noted: if potentiality were, for example, only the potential for vision and if it existed only as such in the actuality of light, we could never experience darkness (nor hear silence, in case of the potentiality to hear). But the human beings can instead, see shadows (to skotos), they can experience darkness: they have the potential not to see, the possibility of privation. (1999, p. 181)

What Agamben expresses is that if potentiality always appeared as being able to do something, it would not appear as the potential, but rather as



an actuality. Instead, it is the possibility of not being able and the actual privation that illustrate the actual knowing. Should knowledge always appear as that which has already taken form or place in the present it would not appear as a possibility. He also writes: To be potential means: to be one’s lack, to be in relation to one’s own incapacity. Beings that exist in the mode of potentiality are capable of their own impotentiality; and only in this way do they become potential. They can be because they are in relation to their own non-Being. In potentiality, sensation is in relation to anesthesia, knowledge to ignorance, vision to darkness. (1999, p. 182)

What I find relevant in Agamben’s reasoning on the existing potentiality, is his way of placing our inability and the lack at the centre of this possibility. Or, as he writes, how every possibility is an impossibility (Agamben 1999, p. 181). This means that the pedagogical possibilities for the child at school are not placed in the future, in adult life, but rather in the here and now, and that this possibility does not include a determination or a direction, nor does it always enter into a realisation. Biesta and Säfström are thinking along similar lines when they write: To stay in the tension between ‘what is’ and ‘what is not’ thus means to take history seriously and to take education as fundamentally historical, that is, open to events, to the new and the unforeseen, rather than as an endless repetition of what already is or as a march towards a predetermined future that may never arrive. (Biesta and Säfström 2011, p. 542)

The pedagogical possibilities, the actual possibilities for transformation and becoming are, thus, related to what has not been realised, to the impossible. Translated to teaching and to the student, these pedagogical possibilities are thus related to that which the student or the child cannot do, and it is from there that the actual pedagogical possibility has its origin. It is based on the above discussion about the testimony, pedagogy and the (im)possibility that I pose my question: what pedagogical possibilities do witnessing and testimony hold?

References Agamben, G. (1998). Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life (1st ed.). Stanford University Press. Agamben, G. (1999). Potentialities: Collected Essays in Philosophy. Stanford University Press.



Agamben, G. (2005a). Undantagstillståndet (S.-O. Wallenstein, Trans.). Propexus. Agamben, G. (2005b). State of Exception (1st ed.). University of Chicago Press. Agamben, G. (2008). Remnants of Auschwitz: The Witness and the Archive. Zone Books. Agamben, G. (2009). ‘What Is an Apparatus?’ And Other Essays. Stanford University Press. Agamben, G. (2010). Homo sacer: Den suveräna makten och det nakna livet. Daidalos. Aristoteles. (1987). Om själen. Daidalos. Azar, M. (2008). Vittnet. Glänta produktion. Bergstedt, B., & Herbert, A. (2011). Pedagogik för förändring: Frihet, jämlikhet, demokrati. Studentlitteratur. Biesta, G. (2010). Good Education in an Age of Measurement: Ethics, Politics, Democracy. Paradigm Publishers. Biesta, G., & Säfström, C. A. (2011). A Manifesto for Education. Policy Futures in Education, 9(5), 540. Ceder, S. (2019). Towards a posthuman theory of educational relationality, Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2019. Derrida, J. (2005). Sovereignties in Question: The Poetics of Paul Celan. Fordham University Press. Gilmore, L. (2001). The Limits of Autobiography: Trauma and Testimony. Cornell University Press. Goldberg, S. (2013). Epistemic Dependence in Testimonial Belief, in the Classroom and Beyond. Journal of Philosophy of Education, 47(2), 168–186. Hagström, E. (2018). Mellan människa och häst Djur-blivande i den pedagogiska relationens mellanrum, Luleå: Luleå University of Technology. Hållander, M. (2017). Inhabiting a Place in the Common: Profanation and Biopolitics in Teaching. Studier i Pædagogisk Filosofi, 6(1), 69–82. https://doi. org/10.7146/spf.v6i1.102661. Hinsdale, M. J. (2014). Witnessing Across Wounds: Toward a Relational Ethic of Healing. In C. Mayo (Ed.), Philosophy of Education Yearbook, 2013 (pp. 81–89). Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press. Levi, P. (1989). The Drowned and the Saved, trans. Raymond Rosenthal. New York: Random House. Levi, P. (1991). If This Is a Man/The Truce (S. Woolf, Trans.). Abacus. Lewis, T.  E. (2013). On Study: Giorgio Agamben and Educational Potentiality. Routledge. Liedman, S.-E. (2006). Stenarna i själen: Form och materia från antiken till idag. Bonnier. Simon, R. I. (1992). Teaching Against the Grain: Texts for a Pedagogy of Possibility. Bergin & Garvey. Sjödin, S., & Öhrnell, E. (1996). Sotfragment: Dikter. Lindelöw.



Spivak, G C. (2004). Righting Wrongs The South Atlantic Quarterly, Volume 103, Number 2/3, Spring/Summer 2004, pp. 523–581. Svenska akademiens ordlista över svenska språket. (2006). Svenska Akademien. Retrieved from Todd, S. (2014). Between Body and Spirit: The Liminality of Pedagogical Relationships. Journal of Philosophy of Education, 48(2), 231–245. Zembylas, M. (2007). Five Pedagogies, a Thousand Possibilities. Sense Publishers.


“Pull Out the Uneven Thick Threads”: On Penelope’s Web and Re-Presentation as a Way of Teaching

Abstract  In this chapter Hållander offers and develops the account of testimony in relation to the problem of representation within teaching. Drawing on Arendt (Between Past and Future: Eight Exercises in Political Thought. New York: Penguin Books, 2006) and Agamben (Remnants of Auschwitz: The Witness and the Archive. New York: Zone Books, 2008) in order to highlight how testimonies stand between the past and the present in ways that can have ethical, political and aesthetic dimensions, Hållander argues that testimonies from the past urge us not only to read, to listen and to act on them, but also to guard against making them into means for something else. Hållander draws on Eyvind Johnson’s Return to Ithaca (1952), and specifically Penelope’s weaving a web as a metaphor for teaching to argue that testimonies in education do not stand outside of history and the political but are integral to them. Hence, drawing on Spivak (2004, 2008), Hållander shows how testimonies used within teaching can become forms of re-­ presentation, redoings, that are multiple and multi-layered. Keywords  Representation • Eyvind Johnson’s • Spivak • Arendt • Agamben

© The Author(s) 2020 M. Hållander, The Pedagogical Possibilities of Witnessing and Testimonies,




Introduction: Penelope, Eurycleia and the Web I thought that I was standing beside the Web. And I, stupid donkey, croaking old raven, thought that the Web was coarse and uneven. I told myself that it was a mistake and that when I could see again I should see the Web was as even and smooth and fine as a web can be. Then Helius altered his light, I don’t know how, and my wretched eyes became quite sharp, I was able to look at the Web. But—forgive me the stupid dream—the Web was still coarse and uneven. (Johnson 1952, pp. 141–42)

When thinking of representation within teaching, I come to think of Penelope and her weaving in Homer’s Odyssey. I encountered her many years ago in the Swedish author Eyvind Johnson’s Strändernas Svall, in English Return to Ithaca.1 Penelope made a promise to weave a winding-­ sheet for Laertes and, when it was finished, to marry one of her admirers. In the story Penelope is told of a dream by Eurycleia, in which the Web includes some thick threads, some uneven threads, and so Penelope should weave during the day but unravel the weave each night and start over again in the morning, but always differently. She is told to do this to delay its completion, as Penelope does not want to marry one of the admirers, but to wait for the return of Odysseus, her husband. Why did I think of her when thinking of representations within teaching? I think I see how the threads and the Web that Penelope creates somehow resonates with teaching. Every morning the teacher starts to weave, again and again. The letters are formed in language studies, the numbers are counted in maths classes, and stories from the past are narrated in the history lesson. It might look the same. The same web—the same lessons—takes place. Day after day, year after year. The same threads—textbooks, examples, images—are brought into teaching. But, just like Penelope’s Web, it always turns out differently. In relation to this I ask, what kinds of threads come to enter teaching and how do teachers deal with them? And in relation to the aims of this book on the pedagogical possibilities of witnessing and testimony, what kinds of testimonial voices enter teaching and how do “we” (teachers and students) read and listen to them? In line with what I have developed and written in the article “Voices from the Past” (2015), here I am interested in the question of the pedagogical possibilities of the use of testimonies—that are 1  Eyvind Johnson (1900–1976) was a Swedish working class author, who received the Nobel Prize for Literature together with Harry Martinsson in 1974.



representations of suffering—within teaching. Something has happened, and then it can be represented within teaching, as an image or a voice from the past. In this chapter I will therefore give an answer to these questions by theorizing what possibilities testimonies from the past can have in teaching. In my answer I will develop the problem of representation in relation to different concepts, such as referent, profantion and separation, drawing on Arendt, Agamben and Spivak, respectively, in order to highlight how testimonies stand between the past and the present in ways that can have ethical, political and aesthetic dimensions that urge us to read, to listen and to act on them, but at the same time to guard against making them into means for something else. To do this, first I will draw on Arendt to discuss the testimony as a referent and the possibilities of reading testimonies from the past. Second, I will draw on Agamben’s, but also on Masschelein and Simons (2013), understanding of profanation and of the school as free time to discuss the particular role education can have in doing this. Third, I will discuss the ethical, aesthetic and political dimensions of testimony, with reference in particular to Agamben and Spivak, to explore how teachers can regard the historical, material, discursive and embodied injustices that testimonies undergo and at the same time make room for them in teaching by, in Agamben’s words, placing “oneself in one’s own language in the position of those who have lost it…” (2008, p. 161). I then return to Eyvind Johnson’s Return to Ithaca and Penelope’s weaving a web as a metaphor for teaching. To conclude, I summarise my argument that testimonies in education do not stand outside of history and the political but are an integral part of it and, hence, we cannot regard the use of testimony in teaching as one-dimensional. Rather, testimonies in teaching can become forms of re-presentation that are multiple and multi-layered.

The Paradox of History As stated in previous chapters, the testimony enters into being as a phenomenon between history and the present. References that can live on, become representations of the past in the present and, through that, be remembered, or otherwise they will be forgotten. Hannah Arendt writes in Between Past and Future (Arendt 2006) about the relationship between the past, present and future, and how factual truths are always about human things:



Factual truth, on the contrary, is always related to other people: it concerns events and circumstances in which many are involved; it is established by witnesses and depends upon testimony. (2006, pp. 233–34)

Arendt believes that as soon as the historical referent is gone, there is no rational force that can ever take it back. For Arendt, this is one of many problems inherent in historical sciences. As such, this is not to argue whether or not events actually happened or that facts exist. Nor can it justify blurring the boundaries between facts, opinion and interpretation, or permit the historians to manipulate facts at will. Rather, she claims the opposite. Arendt writes: Even if we admit that every generation has the right to write its own history, we admit no more than that it has the right to rearrange facts in accordance with its own perspective; we don’t admit the right to touch the factual matter itself. (2006, p. 234)

Society’s interpreters, philosophers and historians, etc., have been found to respect “the double bond” in their discovery and interpretation of history, which implies a paradox, according to Mario Di Paolantonio: Historical work is thus entangled within a particular paradox. While the past cannot live in the present without circulating and being digested as an image or a story that will resonate in the present, the past—in order to face us as the past—must retain an unpalatable particularity that exceeds our present modes of reception. (2010, p. 131)

There is a paradoxical act of allowing history—determined by the testimonies—to stand for itself and at the same time to let the testimonies stand as history without directly relating to something in the present: because the historian works with texts of an other who cannot speak for herself, the historian must pledge that she will, in a gesture of pure fidelity, restore the past in its own terms, guarding it against any present condensation. (Di Paolantonio 2010, p. 132)

Historians are in this double bond: to let history stand in its own actuality and at the same time be its interpreter. The paradox faced by historians can be related to how to read testimonies. Historical testimonies stand between past, present and future. They cannot live without the present being



engaged in them. There is something sad in this fact, or perhaps something that strikes panic: what happens if these people are lost from memory? What happens if these life-wasting events disappear? Who will then speak about them? One can, for example, read Tell ye you children…, the book published by The Living History Forum (Bruchfeld and Levine 1998) that I also wrote about in the introduction, in relation to this. The Holocaust survivors, the witnesses, are getting fewer and fewer and, as the book’s title, especially in its Swedish version, states: Om detta må ni berätta: Of this you must speak! There is a call to speak even if those who were there, who lived through the event, are no longer here to speak about it (Bruchfeld and Levine 1998; see also Hållander 2015). For Arendt, there are two public institutions that have greater opportunities to operate and faithfully preserve the truth, the juridical and all institutions of higher learning: ...certain public institutions, established and supported by the powers that be, in which, contrary to all political rules, truth and truthfulness have always constituted the highest criteria of speech and endeavour. Among these we find notably the judiciary, which either as a branch of government or as direct administration of justice is carefully protected against social and political power, as well as all institutions of higher learning, to which the state entrusts the education of its future citizens. (2006, pp. 255–56)

Arendt’s statement opens up to a further analysis of what the school and teaching have to offer in terms of educational possibilities for the representation of history and testimony. I will now consider, therefore, the public school as a space and place that offers the possibility to deal with history and its different representations. I will do so by drawing on Agamben and on Masschelein and Simons’ understanding of education as free time. Their work is interesting for two reasons: first, because it contextualizes what the school can be, as a possibility; and second, as it also has implications for how school subjects represent the world, in terms of profanation and separation, which I will discuss in the coming sections.

Education as Free Time The school is a special place. The pedagogue Klaus Mollenhauer writes in Forgotten Connections: On Culture and Upbringing on presenation and representation as an educational question. The child is presented to the



world as an infant and a young child by the parents, but the world is represented to the child through teaching and schooling. Mollenhauer writes of how education can be understood as a huge montage of pictures and representations that are not the things themselves but that point out things and phenomena. In The Unspeakable Girl. Agamben also mentions, shortly, teaching, and draws on Aristotle’s distinction between” that which is proper to teaching (to didaktikon) and that which is proper to initiation (to telestikon)” (Agamben and Ferrando 2014, p.  16). Agamben cites further with how” The first comes through listening, and the second comes when the intellect itself is illuminated” (Agamben and Ferrando 2014, p. 16). Perhaps we could regard these two differences of teaching and initiation related to representation and presentation? The family presents and initiates the child to the world, and teaching manages to give a place for representation and listening. However, for Mollenhauer, representation as pointing to things and phenomena can have a democratic function in education as it opens up different kinds of ways of life (Mollenhauer 2014; see also Hållander 2015). Students can see different aspects through different representations of the world; aspects that are different from their home environment and close family. Education can, with its ways of representing life, open different ways of living that differ from the child’s nearest family: you do not have to become like your father, mother or aunt. You can become something completely different, Mollenhauer writes (2014). Agamben ends The Unspeakable Girl with: “We are to live our life as an initiation. But, to what? Not the doctrine but to life itself […]” (Agamben and Ferrando 2014, p. 47). This is the question: to what? Following Mollenhauer, teaching can be the place where different ways of life become represented and potential for students. In Masschelein and Simons’ In Defence of the School (2013), they begin in antiquity and from there they try to pinpoint what the public school can be as an ideal. They write that the idea of the school is based on the idea of free time, which is the most common translation of the word Scholé; namely, free time to study and to practise: In other words, the school provided free time, that is, non-productive time, to those who by their birth and their place in society (their ‘position’) had no right to claim it. Or, put differently still, what the school did was to establish a time and space that was in a sense detached from the time and space of both society (Greek: polis) and the household (Greek: oikos). It was



also an egalitarian time and therefore the invention of the school can be described as the democratization of free time. (Masschelein and Simons 2013, p. 28)

The idea of free time was that the school could be a place that offered knowledge and experience to the public. The students who attended the school were able to leave behind the roles, identities and work associated with their life outside the school; in other words, they could be suspended from their other life. Life, in Mollenhauer’s terms, was presented to them. Masschelein and Simons write: The school is the time and space where students can let go of all kinds of sociological, economic, familial and culture-related rules and expectations. In other words, giving form to the school—making school—has to do with a kind of suspension of the weight of these rules. A suspension, for instance, of the rules that dictate or explain why someone—and his or her whole family or group—falls on a certain rung of the social ladder. (2013, p. 35)

As part of the suspension from the second—other, family and social—life, people inhabited the school as students. It is a category that has certain connotations—as a subject created and open to transformation. But also, as argued by Masschelein and Simon as well as by Tyson Lewis, the student is in school to study (2013; Lewis 2013). The suspension means that the roles that exist in other areas, such as in the home, are no longer valid. Students do not attend school as daughters or sons, or as carriers of class, gender or specific origins (which of course can be questioned and is something that I will come back to). This suspension is limited in time (during school time) and is something students come in and out of during the day and during the year. In relation to this free, separated time the act of profanation also has a function (which I will discuss further in the next section). In this separated time students, through the act of profanation, make objects and things available and public. In relation to educational theory, Masschelein and Simons write that the idea of profanation stands in relation to what it means to make something available, to make it a public or matter of concern in teaching. They discuss it in relation to play (which goes back to the Latin word for school, ludus, which also means “game” or “play”), and to what is put on the table in front of the students. They write:



…something (a text, an action) is being offered up and simultaneously becomes separated from its function and significance in the social order; something that appears in and of itself, as an object of study or practice, regardless of its appropriate use (in the home, or in society, outside the school). When something becomes an object of study or practice, it means that it demands our attention; it invites us to explore it and engage it, regardless of how it can be put to use. (Masschelein and Simons 2013, p. 40)

The idea of profanation and the understanding of use stand in relation to Masschelein and Simons’ idea of the public school, and also to the idea of teaching. That is, how “to put something on the table”, in front of our gaze, our hearing and our hands, can be regarded as something central to teaching. That which is being represented in teaching can also be profaned; be used and be looked upon from different angles and where its ordinary use suspended. Masschelein and Simons, also drawing on Agamben, regard this act of profanation as a way to create free time (for study).

To Profane In order to understand the implications and the pedagogical possibilities of education as free time, and the act of profaning things within teaching, I want to further elaborate on the notion of profanation. Here, profanation, and the act of profaning things, offers an understanding of what students and teachers (can) do with representations of the world within teaching. For Agamben (2007), this concept has religious implications, but it also has implications for how to understand politics, capitalism and consumption. And, as Masschelein and Simons (2013) show, it also has something to say in relation to education, in the way it, as I read it, frames an argument of what the school could be as an ideal. The term profanation comes from religious language, in which one can be said to profane that which is sacred. Profanation means to treat something (or someone) as worldly and as something that can be played with, t is an act that separates the thing from its context and makes it free (Agamben 2007). Agamben writes: “Sacred and religious were the things that in some way belonged to the gods. As such, they were removed from the free use and the commerce of men…” (Agamben 2007, p.  75). Through the act of profanation that which is sacred becomes useable. For example, in the act of sacrifice there will be a part of the flesh that becomes



free: free to use and free to eat. There is a line between using and profaning, Agamben writes. For example, one can regard a profane time or a profane thing as decoupled from its otherwise normal use (Agamben 2007, p. 74). It is made available to those who would otherwise not usually have access to it. As an example, Agamben relates the term “profanation” to play and how a child who plays with ancient or old things does not care about their former use or that they are sacred, but finds a new use for them: Children, who play with whatever old thing falls into their hands, make toys out of things that also belong to the spheres of economics, war, law, and other activities that we are used to thinking of as serious. All of a sudden, a car, a firearm, or a legal contract becomes a toy. (Agamben 2007, p. 76)

Another example Agamben uses is the cat that plays with yarn: the yarn, for the cat, has a meaning other than its original one. To profane things is to treat them as a total means. They become useable outside of their original sphere. The same goes for museums (which can be rooms, buildings, or whole cities), which are, as Agamben writes, “separate dimensions to which what was once—but is no longer” (Agamben 2007, p.  74). The things in a museum are not there to be used anymore, but to be observed or looked at. They have been separated from their ordinary area and use. Profanation has a function in religious life but, as Agamben shows, it also has meaning in relation to such diverse topics as play, museums, and— Agamben’s area of interest—to (bio)politics. The connection is made by how profanation should be understood in relation to the common, to the public: Profanation, however, neutralizes what it profanes. Once profaned, that which was unavailable and separate loses its aura and is returned to use. Both are political operations: the first guarantees the exercise of power by carrying it back to a sacred model; the second deactivates the apparatuses of power and returns to common use the spaces that power had seized. (Agamben 2007, p. 77)

Agamben reminds us how it was through the act of profanation that the “free man” in the ancient Greek and Roman worlds gained access to that which was considered sacred. It was made free and available to be played with. Here, profanation and the common intersect, and this is where



education also has a role, as it is the very place where these acts of profanation can occur. I will discuss this further below.

Free Time, for Whom? When considering time in education, we have to, as Marianna Papastephanou so thoughtfully discusses, differentiate between different understandings of time in teaching and take into account chronos (the chronological time) and kairos (the interruption, the “occasion”) and how the “lived experience that is woven consists of both chronos and kairos” (Papastephanou 2014, 720; see also: Agamben 2005). Or with Agamben’s word, quoting Corpus Hippocratium, which reads: “chronos is that in which there is kairos, and kairos is that in which there is little chronos” (Agamben 2005, p. 69). In this understandig the different aspects of time are not opposed to each other but interrelated and placed within each other. But in the globalized, capitalist world, priority is largely given to measurable time, to chronos, but as Papastephanou argues, “we should keep constantly in view the significance of kairos being divine and of the learner/passer-by being human” (Papastephanou 2014, p. 725). In this, kairosophy could be a lesson of time where “we realize that kairos opens up the semantic possibilities of free time as ‘un-destined time’ ‘where the act of appropriating or intending for a purpose or end is delayed or suspended’” (Papastephanou 2014, p. 726, my emphasis). When arguing for the free time in school, the different aspects of time are important to consider, and something that I will come back to in the very last chapter Witnessing for the future, but for now and in relation to testimonies that witness historical injustice, I will discuss the idea of the possibility of entering school independent of talent, ability and income. The act of profanation, to put something on the table, as well as the separation, contributes to the possibility of free time, Masschelein and Simons argue. As the book’s title, In Defence of the School: A Public Issue, clearly states, they want to defend the public school. It is a defence of a public school that in recent years has undergone some serious changes and faced increased demands related to marketization, alienation and corruption, as well as faced criticism for reproducing the class system or for failing to produce graduates that are employable and effective in other areas of life (Masschelein and Simons 2013, pp. 15–16). The idea of education as a separate time, a free time that separates students from their other life (outside school), can be related to Agamben’s argument concerning how



profanation works in relation to the common. Through actions of profanation, the things at hand become available, free to use, and they become public goods. What we can see from Masschelein and Simons’ argument is that the ideas of profanation and suspension have a bearing on a theory of what education can be, as an ideal, of what to think and strive for. There is something important in this, especially when relating it to an otherwise productive life, for example, jobs that I have had: my work as a chef or as a factory worker, or as a care assistant for the elderly, where free time was non-existent. Rather, it was the opposite; every moment and every movement was clocked and counted. Even if this is an important aspect to highlight (the aspect of the possibility of free time), entering the school is not done beyond our bodies (with our social class, gender, sexuality, abilities, emotions and affects) but rather through them. We are embodied beings, our very different bodies are always present, and both discursive and material aspects of life form our bodies and reproduce social injustice, both in the unfree productive work life and in the free school time. Masschelein and Simons also refer to this reproduction of social injustice, but argue that: From its inception in the Greek city states, school time has been time in which ‘capital’ (knowledge, skills, culture) is expropriated, released as a common good for public use, thus existing independent of talent, ability and income. (2013, p. 16)

The school has the potential to exist independently of the social on their view, but I argue it does not (see for example Reay 2017 for an analysis of the school as a reproducer of social class). As I have discussed earlier in this book, and will discuss further in the chapters that follow, testimonies can be regarded as something impossible, which include different aspects such as language, embodied, material, political and economic situations that the different testimonies undergo. Testimonies are stories that speak of that which is difficult, and they present ethical, political and epistemological challenges. One therefore has to ask, can everything that is put on the table, that is represented, be used and profaned in whatever way one likes? And in relation to testimony, can testimonies be explored and involved in whatever way they can be used? I want to problematize this idea of the possibility of going beyond or being independent of our talent, ability and income by asking, free time for who?



In relation to these questions, I draw here on Ken Chen’s article “Authenticity Obsession, or Conceptualism as Minstrel Show” (2015), in which he discusses various poetic performances that deal with colonial and racist violence and how they balance a poetic testimony, on the one hand, and an exposure on the other. For example, Chen discusses conceptual poetry in the US and Kenneth Goldsmith’s poetry in particular. Goldsmith is a poet who performed a reading of Michael Brown’s autopsy report. The shooting of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old black man, occurred on August 9, 2014, in Ferguson, Missouri, a northern suburb of St. Louis. In relation to this poetic act, Chen asks whether there is a line that separates a “poetic testimony” from one that expropriates and exploits already vulnerable bodies: What is the ethically responsible way to show the occult photographs of lynchings […]? How can one present such images of sublime horror without either simple-mindedly reenacting their violence or disenchanting them into clichés? How can one gaze on the memento mori of colonial horror without staring with the gaze of Medusa? What is the line separating one writer as a poet of witness and another as a poet of expropriation […]? (Chen 2015, no pagination)

In terms similar to Chen’s, I ask where the line is between a teaching built on witnessing, on the one hand, and an education that expropriates the bodies of others, on the other hand. As I see it, it is in relation to these questions that Masschelein and Simons’ development of Agamben’s notion of profanation must be problematized. Can testimonies, the material that is represented and placed on the table, be profaned, and can we “explore it and engage it, regardless of how it can be put to use”? (Masschelein and Simons 2013, p.  35). When dealing with testimonies within teaching, teachers also have to ask, where is the line between use and abuse? As I will argue in the next chapter “On saying we”, testimonies also deal with historical, material, racial and economic differences, and are not something that is vaguely. Rather, they create ethical, political and aesthetic attention. In what follows, therefore, I will discuss two alternative ways to understand testimonies as representations from the past, first by referring to Agamben and his work on testimony, and second by drawing on Spivak’s idea of re-presentation. In the last section on Spivak, I will also go back to where I started this chapter, to Penelope, Eurycleia and the Web.



The Testimony as Remnants As Jacques Derrida pointed out there has been a naïve view of representation that supposed “that representation would follow a first presentation and restore a final presence” (Derrida 1998, p. 296). But is that the case? Does one ask how much of presence and how much of representation are found within presence? We could, instead, say that representation is a loss of presence, by making it an accident or a means. But representation seen as loss of presence loses its potentiality. It becomes empty. Agamben offers another answer to this, where testimonies from the past can still become ethically, politically and aesthetically acute. As I have stated before, the testimony places itself between the past and the present. It is from this location that I turn to Agamben here. As stated earlier, Agamben’s book Remnants of Auschwitz is an ethical and political analysis of the phenomenon of witnessing and the archive of testimonies that today exists from Auschwitz and the Holocaust (Hållander 2015). Agamben’s formulations move me away from the idea that the testimonies can be extracted from an archive, used or reused, and then put back again. Rather, it is a remnant, or a scar, that is reborn in the present. Or, perhaps rather, is left with us in the present, as a remnant. To understand the testimony as a remnant, I will go back to the understanding that I started to develop in Chap. 2, “Theoretical framing”, and the epistemological understanding of the testimony. In Remnants of Auschwitz Agamben is interested in the witness as a survivior, as superstes, who has lived through something and thereafter can speak of what has happened. Drawing on, among others, Primo Levi and the book Is This a Man? (1991) Agamben writes on the two different impossibilities of testimony. The lost ones, who have reached the bottom, crossed the border and seen one of the sisters of Gorgon—who in Greek literature have hair of snakes and can turn those who look at them to stone—and cannot speak of what has happened. These are bodies that are described as figures: they are no longer living humans. They are the lost witnesses who did not survive Auschwitz, but went into the gas chamber, who died. I quote Levi again: I must repeat: we, the survivors, are not the true witnesses … We survivors are not only an exiguous but also an anomalous minority: we are those who by their prevarications or abilities or good luck did not touch bottom. Those who did so, those who saw the Gorgon, have not returned to tell about it or



have returned mute, but they are the Muslims, the submerged, the complete witnesses, the ones whose deposition would have a general significance. They are the rule, we are the exception. (Levi 1989, pp. 83–84)

For Levi and for Agamben, it is this figure who died at the point of starvation, ill-treatment, illness or other (un)conceivable events who are the lost witnesses, who own the story of the event, but their own death means they cannot tell what happened. It is the survivors who speak instead of the many millions of murdered people. But they do not have the true story, do not own it, and therefore speak as a pseudo-witness, Agamben writes. This act of speaking instead of, makes no sense because the lost have nothing to say, because they have no “story”, no “face” or, even, no “thought”. This means that neither of the two witnesses, the one who went under nor the one who speaks instead, can tell what happened. We are left with two impossible testimonies. Neither one can tell what happened. Through this understanding, the testimony does not function as a story; a story is usually understood in terms of language, as in a series of logical and causal relationships. Something happens and another thing follows, with a clear beginning and a clear end. This is not the case here. For Agamben, it is what lies between the two witnesses that becomes important: This means that testimony is the disjunction between two impossibilities of bearing witness; it means that language, in order to bear witness, must give way to a non-language in order to show the impossibility of bearing witness. (Agamben 2008, p. 39)

The gap, which he also calls a lacuna, is a gap between what has happened and what later can be told. This gap between the two witnesses can also be understood as a remnant. But what does this remnant consist of? And how can the pedagogical possibilities be formulated on the basis of these two impossible testimonies? To develop this, I offer an account of Agamben’s linguistic analysis of the testimony. As I have developed in the article “Voices from the Past” (Hållander 2015) Agamben turns to Beneviste and Foucault to understand how the testimony is not an archive in the narrow sense, but rather stands between what is said and the saying, between the inside and outside of the language, between what is possible and impossible to say, in every language. It is this part of philosophy that leads to the more recent understanding of the testimony in terms of enunciation (and not as language).



In Remnants of Auschwitz, Agamben offers a reading of Levi’s description of a boy called Hurbinek; a boy who did not survive, who lived alongside the other prisoners and whom Levi describes as follows: Hurbinek was a nobody, a child of death, a child of Auschwitz. He looked about three years old, no one knew anything of him, he could not speak and had no name; that curious name Hurbinek, had been given to him by us, perhaps by one of the women who had interpreted with those syllables one of the articulated sounds that the baby let out now and again. […] The speech he lacked, which no one had bothered to teach him, the need of speech charged his stare with explosive urgency. (Levi 1986, p. 191 cited in Agamben 2008, p. 37)

Hurbinek’s non-language, his voice (his utterance of words that no one understands, transcribed by Levi as m-a-s-s-k-l-o, m-a-t-i-s-k-l-o) becomes, for Agamben, a way of expressing an understanding of testimony that is not based on comprehension itself. Instead, the understanding of the testimony must open up to that which has no language, to show the very impossibility in the testimony, Agamben writes. In the introduction to Remnants of Auschwitz Agamben writes that the purpose of the book, with its ethical and political intentions, is the hope of listening to what is unspoken. As I have argued in “Voices from the Past” (Hållander 2015), the understanding Agamben offers can also open up to an understanding of the pedagogical possibilities of testimony. As Agamben writes in the very last chapter of Remnants of Auschwitz “Testimony and Archive”: “testimony is a potential that becomes actual through an impotential of speech; it is moreover, an impossibility that gives existence through a possibility of speaking” (Agamben 2008, p. 146). In my reading this can be interpreted in terms of leaving certain words behind and opening up so that others words can be understood in other, or even perhaps in new, ways (Hållander 2015). Similar to his formulation of potentiality as between potentiality and impotentiality, where knowledge as such is placed in the very deficiency and in man’s non-knowledge (which I developed in Chap. 2), Agamben places the witness’s potential between the two impossible testimonies: between the lost and the rescued. To testify, therefore, is to leave room for a non-language within the language itself to demonstrate the impossibility of testifying. Agamben writes that:



to bear witness is to place oneself in one’s own language in the position of those who have lost it, to establish oneself in a living language as if it were dead, or in a dead language as if it were living—in any case, outside both the archive and the corpus of what has already been said. (2008, p. 161)2

The possibility is impossible. At the same time it is in our own language that this possibility exists, which in turn enables actuality. It is in this movement, Agamben suggests, that despite their impossibility, one can see the potency in the witness and in the testimony: testimony is a potentiality that becomes actual through an impotentiality of speech; it is, moreover, an impossibility that gives existence through a possibility of speaking. (2008, p. 146)

Here, Agamben presents a different understanding than in found in Felman and Laub’s Testimony (1992), which I wrote about in the introduction. In their understanding there is a subject who makes herself a medium for the event and subsequently passes it on. One could even say that their wording of the crisis in the meeting of other people’s testimonies indicates that it is possible to repeat the experiences the witness speaks of. This allows the “secondary witness” to make herself a medium between what has happened and what can later be represented. Agamben criticizes Felman and argues that she is building a possibility based on an initially impossible thing. His view differs from theirs in that he chooses not to see it as a discursive practice or an ongoing process as the witnessing is based on an initially impossible thing. However, despite this difference, I would still like to argue that it is in the ethical and political possibility of the testimony that Agamben ends up with. But this possibility is formulated in a different way. The possibility we land in, that is, a possibility in the impossibility, is found in the voice (and not in the language), in the rest, in the gap between the one who went under and the one who survived. Agamben’s expression of the possibility of the witness is similar to that of potentiality, which I discussed in the second chapter: the possibility is situated in the very impossibility.

2  In the ensuing sections of the chapter Agamben discusses this in relation to the potentiality of poetic language, and specifically Hölderlin. Although the sensibility of this poetic language may of course be relevant, but as I have written before, the poetic language is not a zone free from violence.



Taking into account that the testimony is an initially impossible thing (no one owns the story of what happened), and to understand it instead as a remnant that exists between the two witnesses, opens up to the importance of leaving room for the impossible within the language itself. It is when the rescued witness enters, acts and testifies instead of those who have become “de-subjectivized” (as in the case of the lost witnesses) that there are ethical and political possibilities. The two cannot be separated from each other, according to Agamben. Because the witness gives voice to what cannot but that must be said, she can change herself, twist and renew the language, the worldview, and maybe even the world. This is an understanding that leads back to teaching: what does it mean to adopt this understanding of testimony when teaching? In the following sections I will develop this in relation to Spivak and the understanding of representation as waiting and weaving.

Re-Presentation as Waiting and Weaving Testimonies can come in many forms: they can be from majority groups, as well as minority groups in society; they can enter the present from history or come from the near past. In line with Chen (2015), but also with Fricker (2007), referred to in the introduction, there is also a difference in how different testimonies are regarded and read and the violence within certain readings. In relation to this, Spivak offers fruitful insights, which I draw on here to further develop the pedagogical possibilities of testimonies. According to Spivak in her essay “Can the subaltern speak?” (1988), we have to differentiate between two kinds of representation. The first she finds in politics, state formation and law, in the form of a speaking for (as in speaking for the workers, for women, for the multicultural society etc.). The second is a re-presentation, as in how art and philosophy understands the subject (Spivak 1988, p. 275). The two senses of representation are related, but, as she writes, also “irreducible discontinuous” (Spivak 1988, p.  275). The problem is that these two are being run together within theory and philosophy, which also again reflects the privilege position of philosophers trying to understand the subaltern position. The difference between these two lies in categorization. If we understand testimony as representation of something—of a place or a situation from where a person speaks—we have to ask the question: of what? There must be an intertwined critique in the way we enter and read testimonies. As Spivak puts it: from what place was she (the witness) speaking and what



did the audience (the listener) expect to hear that day, here, in this context? These questions come from the book Outside in the Teaching Machine, specifically the chapter “Marginality in the teaching machine” (Spivak 2008). In that book, Spivak speaks of how ‘marginal’ groups are represented in teaching (which I correlate to how testimonies are represented in teaching), and how such representations of presumed cultural identities often depend on a name. She asks the question: what sells today? Are you a representative for that group that you are supposed to represent? The stories from marginal groups, the testimonies, here become used in an instrumental, positivistic way. The witnesses become representative for “their own groups” and are supposed to deliver and stand up for certain stories of marginality. For example, at school, children can learn about marginal groups in society, in comparative religion they read about different cultural and religious groups, but according to what can be best parcelled out into a fourteen- or ten-week format or what happens to be the best available textbook. Spivak writes that, today, marginality is a subject matter: ‘Marginality’, as it is becoming part of the disciplinary-cultural parlance, is in fact the name of a certain constantly changing set of representations that is the condition and effect of it. It is coded in the currency of the equivalencies of knowledge. (Spivak 2008, p. 69)

Spivak uses the term subaltern studies to indicate how these themes have their own arena and courses, and hence are being coded under the concept of knowledge, as in: “if I know the way you are I also know how to face and meet you.” For Spivak such “speaking for” (where the other, the working classes, the subaltern, cannot speak for themselves, and someone is called to “speak for”) is forms of “epistemic violence” (Spivak 1988, p. 277; in relation to epistemic violence see also Todd 2003). There is a fixing and a categorization of testimonies, which not only uses but also abuses. Testimonies will be presented in terms of pre-given understandings and historical narratives that are already put forward. They are conceptualized and framed according to a certain pre-given understanding; there will be no transformative act. The same stories are told, the same stories (prejudices) reinforced and no translation takes place. I will also come back to this in relation to emotions in Chap. 5, “On the Verge of Tears”.



In her essay “Righting Wrongs” Spivak offers another answer to the question of testimony and re-presentation as a pedagogical possibility. She speaks of a pedagogy of the subaltern,3 one that is bottom-up and in which the social and human sciences play a major role (Spivak 2004, p.  531). What is interesting in relation to re-presentation and testimony is her understanding of literary reading as poiesis or teleo-poiesis (to make or to bring forth). A training in literary reading is a training to learn from the singular and the unverifiable. Although literature cannot speak, this species of patient reading, miming an effort to make the text respond, as it were, is a training not only in poiesis, accessing the other so well that probable action can be prefigured, but teleo-poiesis, striving for a response from the distant other, without guarantees. (Spivak 2004, p. 532)

Facing a testimony is not seen in terms of facing a pre-given representation of a fixed story, but instead is something that happens, that faces you. The same could be said about literary reading as a teleo-poiesis without guarantees. Further on in the text Spivak calls this pedagogy suturing, as in healing or weaving, which brings me back to the metaphor of weaving that I started this chapter with: To suture thus the torn and weak responsibility-based system into a conception of human dignity as the enjoyment of rights one enters ritual practice transgressively, alas, as a hacker enters software. The description of ritual-­ hacking below may seem silly, perhaps. But […] Insofar as this hacking is like a weaving, this, too, is an exercise in texere, textil-ity, text-ing, textuality. I must continue to repeat that my emphasis is on the difficulties of this texting, the practical pedagogy of it, not in devising the most foolproof theory of it for you, my peers. Without the iterative text of doing and devising in silence, the description seems either murky or banal. (Spivak 2004, p. 559, my italics)

In this differentiated view there is another understanding of representation that we find it in connection to her view on text and to “[t]he unrecognized contradiction within a position that valorizes the concrete experience of the oppressed” (Spivak 1988, p. 69). This representation is 3  With subaltern Spivak is referring to those who have been removed from the line of social mobility.



something other than speaking for (a category), and is closer to that of a pedagogy of literary reading and writing, as in re-presentation. It is also this idea of teaching suturing and weaving that makes me think of Penelope and her weaving, and how she unravels the fabric again and again, and weaves it again, always differently. In Eurycleia’s dream, the loyal, wise and old but also ignorant and semi-slave Minister of Home Affairs, who also made Penelope start to unravel the weave during the night, says: It was quite crazy. It let me dream that I sat down at the loom and began to pull out the uneven thick threads, that is to say, the threads which the dream lyingly made out to be thick and uneven, the untrue and crazy and impertinent dream-threads. (Johnson 1952, p. 143)

As Eurycleia tells Penelope there seems to be nothing wrong with the Web, she is quite certain with it, she says: “But if the Web turns out bad and coarse and uneven, then of course I am obliged to unravel it so as to give better quality, to make it a shroud that will be worthy […]” (Johnson 1952, p. 144). The Web, as a metaphor for the lesson, might look as if there is nothing wrong with it, but still, when it turns out that there is, we are obliged to revise it. Revise it so that it becomes better. Some threads are left out, some threads might be same, but the web comes out differently each time it is redone. In relation to Eurycleia’s dream, and the pedagogical possibilities of testimony, I argue that there is a call for, first, to let testimonies from the past be a part of education and, second, to unravel the testimonies when needed. The metaphor of weaving, and especially Penelope’s weaving, does not take the stories to a fixed end. Instead they become fluid, and possible to unravel. They can be woven one day, and become unravelled and rewoven the next. Again and again, but differently. It also means to pull out the rough, coarse and “untrue threads” from history, but also from these ambiguous testimonies. To transgress and to hack into text, into different testimonies is a way, as I see it, to let the testimonies from the past have a political, ethical and aesthetical potential in education.



Conclusion: On the Ethical, Political and Aesthetical Dimensions of Testimonies and the Teacher as an Activist Penelope responds to Eurycleia’s ideas of unravelling and pulling out the crazy threads, by putting her in her place. She says: “That was a exceedingly strange dream” […] That’s a very stupid idea, you old bitch! Off with you now! And I won’t have my hair combed yet. I will send someone if I need help” (Johnson 1952, p. 145). Later, however, Penelope calls Eurycleia to her room, saying: I had a look at the Web today […] and there’s one bit with which I am not altogether pleased, just a couple of feet, no, perhaps three, perhaps between two and three. And I have had an idea. Come up to my room tonight when everybody’s asleep. And bring some torch-wood with you. (Johnson 1952, p. 145)

What does this story teach us? And what does it teach us in relation to the pedagogical possibilities of witnessing and testimony? In this chapter I have developed the understanding of representation, profanation and the metaphor of weaving in relation to testimonies, by asking: what kinds of testimonial voices enter teaching and how do “we” (teachers and students) read or listen to them? The story of Penelope’s web shows not only that there is a possibility of remaking and changing lessons—that is something teachers do, always, more or less anyway—but also how this re-­ making, this waiting, hacking, pulling out the course threads, this re-presenting, also can be activist; it can have political, aesthetic and ethical dimensions. However, in doing this, we must also recall Arendt’s ethical and political concerns regarding historical referents and not making them into a means for something else. In this chapter I have argued for this by drawing on the possibilities—as well as elaborating on the difficulties—of the school as a special place that can be (though isn’t always) a place for free time, where stories and testimonies can be put on the table in order for students to understand and relate to things. The classroom can also be the place, to use Di Paolantonio’s words, where we can work with texts, stories, testimonies, who cannot speak for themselves, but at the same time we must understand the pledge in doing this, and guard them “against any present condensation” (Di Paolantonio 2010, p.  132). In this pledge I have discussed the ethical,



political and aesthetic aspects of testimonies that do not continue to expropriate and exploit already vulnerable bodies, by referring to Chen’s poetic witnessing, Agamben’s philosophy of the testimony as a remnant, though impossible, that exists within our own language, as well as Spivak’s suturing pedagogy of hacking and weaving. In doing this I have argued for acts and aspects that could be potentialities of starting to heal the wounds that are produced in history and reproduced in the present. I give the last words in this chapter to Eurycleia’s call to action: I tore up the Web […] I remember that I dreamed that it was night-time and that someone held a torch to light me, and I remember that I was a little ashamed, though it was a wonderful sense of shame […]. I dreamed that it was a horrid thing to prolong the work, but I must. (Johnson 1952, p. 144)

References Agamben, G. (2005). The Time that Remains: A Commentary on the Letter to the Romans. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Agamben, G. (2007). Profanations. New York: Zone Books. Agamben, G. (2008). Remnants of Auschwitz: The Witness and the Archive. New York: Zone Books. Agamben, G., & Ferrando, M.  L. (2014). The Unspeakable Girl: The Myth and Mystery of Kore (L. de la Durantaye & A.  J. Wyman, Trans.). London: Seagull Books. Arendt, H. (2006). Between Past and Future: Eight Exercises in Political Thought. New York: Penguin Books. Bruchfeld, S., & Levine, P. (1998). Tell Ye Your Children ... A Book About the Holocaust in Europe, 1933–1945. Stockholm: Regeringskansliet. Chen, K. (2015). Authenticity Obsession, or Conceptualism as Minstrel Show. Asian American Writers’ Workshop, 2015. Retrieved from authenticity-obsession/. Derrida, J. (1998). Of Grammatology (G.  C. Spivak, Trans.). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. Di Paolantonio, M. (2010). Guarding and Transmitting the Vulnerability of the Historical Referent. In D.  Kerdeman (Ed.), Philosophy of Education 2009 (pp. 129–137). Urbana, IL: Philosophy of Education Society. Felman, S., & Laub, D. (1992). Testimony: Crises of Witnessing in Literature, Psychoanalysis and History. New York: Routledge. Fricker, M. (2007). Epistemic Injustice Power and the Ethics of Knowing. Oxford: Oxford University Press.



Hållander, M. (2015). Voices from the Past: On Representations of Suffering in Education. Ethics and Education, 10(2), 175–185. Johnson, E. (1952). Return to Ithaca: The Odyssey Retold as a Modern Novel (M. A. Michael, Trans.). London: Thames & Hudson. Levi, P. (1986). Survival in Auschwitz and The Reawakening: Two Memoirs, trans. Stuart Woolf. New York: Summit Books. Levi, P. (1989). The Drowned and the Saved, trans. Raymond Rosenthal. New York: Random House. Levi, P. (1991). If This Is a Man/The Truce (S. Woolf, Trans.). Birmingham: Abacus. Lewis, T. E. (2013). On Study: Giorgio Agamben and Educational Potentiality. Routledge. Masschelein, J., & Simons, M. (2013). In Defence of the School: A Public Issue. Leuven: E-ducation, Culture & Society Publisher. Mollenhauer, K. (2014). Forgotten Connections: On Culture and Upbringing (N. Friesen, Trans.). London: Routledge. Papastephanou, M. (2014). Philosophy, Kairosophy and the Lesson of Time. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 46(7), 718–734. 0/00131857.2013.784860. Reay, D. (2017). Miseducation: Inequality, Education and the Working Classes. Bristol: Policy Press. Spivak, G.  C. (1988). Can the Subaltern Speak? In C.  Nelson & L.  Grossman (Eds.), Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture (pp. 271–313). Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press. Spivak, G. C. (2004). Righting Wrongs. The South Atlantic Quarterly, 1 2004, nr 103:2/3 (Spring/Summer), 523–81. Spivak, G. C. (2008). Outside in the Teaching Machine. London: Routledge. Todd, S. (2003). Learning from the Other: Levinas, Psychoanalysis, and Ethical Possibilities in Education. State University of New York Press.


On Saying We: Relational Witnessing and Empowered Subjectivity

Abstract  This chapter examines witnessing in relation to subjectivity and the collective. Testimonies are often seen as a form of speaking that comes out of oppression, in which a person who bears witness tells the story to someone else, who then publishes the text elsewhere, and hence as an act that separates the process and the product, that separates the witness from the testimony. Through a discussion of the testimonies in Sara Lidman and Odd Uhrboms’s book Gruva (Mine, 1967) and documents related to the wildcat strike in Svappavaara in the northern part of Sweden (1969–1970), Hållander discusses subjectivity in relation to witnessing and translation, and stresses a relational view of witnessing that does not separate the process from the product. Rather, the process of a relational witnessing can demand change and lead to empowered subjectivity. Keywords  Subjectivity • Strike • Sara Lidman • Relational witnessing • Gert Biesta

Introduction: Gruva (Mine) And even though I have now been there for over a year they still give me the same sense of smallness. It is those grinders that mill the ore to fine sand. Such a grinder would never notice if a piece of man slipped in. Sometimes the machine sighs so loud that you actually come to believe that it is people that are pulverised and not ore. Especially during the night shift. Between © The Author(s) 2020 M. Hållander, The Pedagogical Possibilities of Witnessing and Testimonies,




three and four AM. At some moments, you doubt whether you are in this world or not. Or rather, you fear that the world has run out of people … that you yourself are a forgotten remnant … that the grinders will come off the floor, roll up and devour you. Then you have to run to another floor and ensure that at least one friend is left. The hour between three and four in the night shift is a difficult hour. It is at this point that the grinders are at the height of their powers. Next to getting some sleep you long the most for people. Just to see them. (Signed: Just before thirty. Lidman & Uhrbom, 1969, p. 72)1

This quote is a voice from one of the mine workers in Svappavaara, in the northern parts of Sweden from 1968–1989. It is a voice that speaks of the night shift, the machines’ power and how it is to work in the mine. It is a testimony of how the solitary work during the night shift can get a man to fear that all people have run out: the machines have devoured them and that he, the miner, is the only survivor. In this chapter, I want to address testimonies like this, testimonies that speak of different aspects of life that are difficult. I will do so by asking the questions: what is the relation between witnessing and subjectivity? How can the processes of witnessing lead to subjectivity? I am in this chapter interested in the phenomenon of witnessing as a way of speaking or acting—and more so; how translation can function as a way to witness (together), and what possibilities that can lead to. In this chapter I will take a different approach towards the aspect of witnessing, then the previous one on representation; an approach which educational theoretical research of testimony and witnessing have not to great extent taken into account: fetishisation and the separation between the process of witnessing and the testimony, a separation that neglects the relational role of witnessing. By exploring the phenomenon of witnessing 1  Original in Swedish: “Och fastän jag nu varit där över ett år så inger de mig fortfarande samma känsla av litenhet. Det är dom där kvarnarna som mal ner malmen så där fin som sand. En sådan där kvarn skulle aldrig märka om ett stycke människa kom in. Ibland suckar maskinen så väldigt att man tror att det faktiskt är människor som finfördelas därinne och inte malm. Särskilt vid nattskiftet. Mellan tre och fyra. Vissa ögonblick tvivlar man på att det är i världen man är. Eller rättare sagt man fruktar att alla människor tagit slut… att man själv är en kvarglömd rest… att kvarnarna ska lossna från golvet, rulla fram och sluka en. Då måste man springa till en annan våning och försäkra sig om att åtminstone en kompis finns kvar. Mellan tre och fyra på nattskiftet är en svår timme. Då är kvarnarna på höjden av sin makt. Näst efter att få sova längtar man mest efter folk. Bara att få se dom.” (Signerat: Strax före tretti) Lidman and Uhrbom, Gruva, 72, my translation.



and subjectivity in relation to the specific testimonies; testimonies that were collected by the writer Sara Lidman and Odd Uhrbom in Gruva (Mine Lidman & Uhrbom, 1969), from where the voice which I started this chapter came from, I want to discuss this separation and what it leads to in terms of subjectivity. In the chapter, I also use documents on the wildcat strike that followed one year after Gruva was published, during the winter of December 1969 to February 1970 (Berg, 2014; Ewert, Westman, & Malmfältens strejkkommitté (1969–1970), 1970; Horgby, 1997; Johansson, 2013; Nilsson, 2010). This chapter focuses on how witnessing can be understood in relation to subjectivity, which concerns pedagogical as well as political and ethical possibilities (which I will return to later in the chapter). The chapter is divided into three parts, the first part will introduce the impossibility and the separation of testimony and witnessing, the second part will deal with the possibilities of translation in relation to witnessing and testimony and the third part will relate this to subjectivity. Throughout the chapter I will come back to the voices from Gruva.

The Impossibility of Testimony As I have developed in previous chapters, the witness holds a unique position: the witness’ testify about their or others’ wounds. They testify to what is wrong, injustice against them or injustice to something or someone else. Witnessing can be done in different ways and for different purposes: for liberation, for justification, to bring out the truth or to resist. Witnessing can also be done without a specific purpose; it may be an event that takes place in silence. As stated in previous chapters, testimonies are a complex phenomenon and different philosophers have taken different approaches to it, which deals with history, ethics, epistemological and psychological questions (compare with: Adler, 2015; Felman & Laub, 1992; Ricoeur, 2004). Within Giorgio Agamben’s writing the understanding of testimony is an impossibility; an impossibility which concerns philosophical problems of what is being represented, what is truth, and how one can witness, testify to what is wrong and through that become a human being in the world (Agamben, 2008, see also my previous work on Hållander, 2015). In Agamben’s work and reading of Primo Levi and on the testimonies from the Holocaust, the question of subjectivity becomes acute: “no one can bear witness from the inside of death, and there is no voice for the



disappearance of voice […] since the “outsider” is by definition excluded from the event.” (Agamben, 2008, p. 35). The impossibility of witnessing concerns, in a very high degree, the subject: so how can acts of witnessing lead to subjectivity? To give an answer to this I would like to continue with the impossibility of testimony in relation to a more feminist approach, which deals with the separation and the fetishisation of the wounds in society.

The Separation and the Double Bind Let me turn to The Latina Feminist Group’s (2001) understanding of testimony, of testimonio, as they have an understanding of testimony that relates to the impossibility of testimony, but from a different angle. They write in Telling to Live how testimonies tend to be regarded as dependent products, where the process and the product are separated: Testimonio is often seen as a form of expression that comes out of intense repression or struggle, where the person bearing witness tells the story to someone else, who then transcribes it, edits, translates, and publishes the text elsewhere. Thus, scholars often see testimonies as dependent products, an effort by the disenfranchised to assert themselves as political subjects through others, often outsiders, and in the process to emphasize particular aspects of their collective identity. (The Latina Feminist Group, 2001, p. 13)

The Latina Feminist group describes a separation, which separates the process of being a witness from the testimony—the testimony becomes a product for someone else. The underlying premises for this situation of the witness is that the dominant discourse in society tends to determine the conditions that witnesses speak in; they determine how and in what manner the witnesses have the opportunity to come forward and be listened to. I have discussed in the first chapter, testimonies do not stand outside the political, and in Western society, more specifically, the capitalist system. The separation that The Latina Feminist Group speaks of is a part of this system, where testimonies are a part of the fetishisation of the wounds in politics (Ahmed, 2004). When I put the question of witnessing in relation to subjectivity, I do it in relation to this kind of analysis of the society. These conditions that witnessing and testimonies are surrounded by, make it that witnessing can be perceived both as a poetic testimony and as an



exploitation or expropriation of already vulnerable people. This boundary between exploitation and a poetic testimony, expressed by Chen, (Chen, 2015) can be considered fragile, but it is not, rather is it a limit that is drawn with a sharp black line called class and material conditions. The impossibility that I earlier discussed in relation to Agamben takes here another form, but is related by how the act of witnessing can lead to the possibility of being objectified, which annihilate subjectivity, i.e. making oneself into an object. And as Kelly Oliver writes: “Objects do not act. Objects are not subjects or agents of their own lives” (Oliver, 2001, p. 95). The paradoxical situation of witnessing that The Latina Feminist Group as well as Oliver speaks of describes a lack of authority, which leads to difficulties—impossibilities—of both to speak and to act. The paradox of the testimony can be described as a double bind. Literary scholar Henry Louise Gates Jr.’s expression “If you win, you lose” captures this double bind well (Gates, 2010). It is a double bind that prevents the possibility of transformations, and thus on the basis of this reading, also prevents the process of the subject’s becoming.

Who Benefits? Let us go back to the voices in Gruva. The book Gruva tells different stories, like that voice in the introduction of this chapter, the voices of the worker’s lives, choices, working conditions, political and union struggle, dreams and wishes. On the book cover it says that Lidman bears a testimony from those who felt: “as a pointless waste and powerless against the corporate-powers” (“meningslöst förbrukade och vanmäktiga mot bolags-­ överheten” Lidman & Uhrbom, 1969, p. 72, My translation). I would, however, like to add that there is more to that in the reading of the testimonies; feelings of joy, pride and sorrow. I am occupied with the question: did their testimonies, through Lidman in Gruva, transform anything? Was their testimony a witnessing together that could lead to a change for the community and/or the individual? Was it, with The Latina Feminist Group’s words, empowering, nurturing and giving? One of the workers says: But what if there was a pub or something around here! To be able to buy a bottle—not to get drunk but to get to chatter and talk. About politics and everything. There is no time for this at work. And I cannot do it at the lunch break, because I eat in the machine. One needs to break out at some point.



You cannot keep yourself secret forever. (Signed: One needs to break out at some point. Lidman & Uhrbom, 1969, p. 96, my translation.)2

During the period of Lidman’s interviews, they had, it seems, limited possibilities of a witnessing together, or to translate themselves for each other. In Gruva, the mineworkers are given voice through Lidman’s pen. They are all presented without a name and are through that anonymized. In an issue of Ord & Bild from 1970, both Lidman and some of the miners complained about the expensive price of the book and, as such, the book was not available to those who were affected by the event (Thorell, 1970). In Lidman’s book the testimonies seem to be separated from the process of witnessing, in a similar way as The Latina Feminist Group describes how testimonies tend to appear in the public domain. In the reading of the testimonies in Gruva, I have asked the question, whose voices are heard? In the book, all men and women appear without a name, and are given voice through Lidman’s pen and Uhrbom’s images. Annika Olsson’s asks the same question: “Whose voice is it that we hear— the miners or Lidman’s?” (Olsson, 2004). Olsson describes how the book Gruva was discussed in newspapers and reviews, and she shows the distrust of the testimonies. Reviewers write that the book Gruva “was not at all representative” and that the sample had “resulted in a significantly more negative portrayal than you would get at an objective investigation” (Aftonbladet, and Upsala Nya Tidning in: Olsson, 2004, pp. 171–172).3 What is interesting with Olsson’s work is that she not only makes matter whose voice is heard in the book Gruva, but that she also compares the actual text from Gruva with the audio files that are preserved from the interviews Lidman made with the miners. What emerges through this is partly how the workers’ words are found in text and partly re-written by Lidman. Olsson writes that (in relation to the interview with the miner which I cited in the beginning of this chapter, underlined as “You have to break out sometime”): “the whole interview is preserved” (Olsson, 2004, 2  Original in Swedish: “Men tänk om här fanns en ölbar eller någoting! Köpa en flaska— inte för att supa sig full men för att få snacka där och prata. Om politik och allting. På jobbet hinner man inte. Och på matrasten kan det heller inte bli, för jag äter i kuren. Man måste få bryta sig ut någon gång. Man kan inte hålla sig hemlig alltid.” Signerat: Man måste få bryta sig ut någon gång.” 3   Original in Swedish: “Skribenter skriver att Gruva inte alls var representativt” (Aftonbladet) och att urvalet hade “resulterat i en betydligt mer negativ skildring än man skulle få vid en objektiv undersökning” (Upsala Nya Tidning).



p. 178). But she also writes that when the interviewer speak in text, they also become highly compressed and paraphrasing to function as text, and that it had its meaning that, especially Lidman was a famous author in Sweden (Uhrbom was unlike Lidman and was a relatively unknown photographer) and through that shows that the author of a report book not only fulfils a function as an interviewer but also as the possibility to attract attention to the testimonies, create opinion and get readers to listen to the voices that are reproduced. What do I want to say about this? Considering the expensive price of the book and Olsson’s descriptions of Gruva one can find that Gruva also falls into the description The Latina Feminist group made, where the process and the product is separated. The testimonies that were published were in this sense not available to those who were actually touched by it. Based on this, it may also be relevant to ask another question, namely, who benefits to testify? The question, highlights how the witness genre is affected by a logic where the subaltern give voice to their oppression, to those who are less oppressed, and how this form of witnessing does not tend to lead to subjectivity or benefit those who it actually touches. Although there is a possibility that personal stories can come through (in education, in the media, in the public discourse), it can also through this lead to, as The Latina Feminist Group concludes, more political violence on the specified group in the society (The Latina Feminist Group, 2001). It is a situation of If you win, you lose (Gates, 2010, p. 78). What is in the centre here is how witnessing cannot fail to be related to the experience of power relations. The impossibility of testimony does not only here take place as a lack of giving “the truth” as an epistemological problem over the testimony (as in Levi’s experience), but also as an impossibility of making one’s voice heard in the public domain of class and patriarchal injustice.4

To Witness, to Translate Ourselves for Each Other The interesting thing with The Latina Feminist Group’s work is how they are aware of the impossibility of testimony—they describe an if we win, we lose situation, but at the same time they use it. The logic that surrounds the testimony is instead something The Latin Feminist Group opposes through their own book Telling to Live, where they instead create a 4  Related to this is also Miranda Fricker’s argument of the testimonies epistemic injustice (Fricker, 2007).



witnessing together. They work from within the paradox and it is also in relation to this kind of witnessing the phenomenon of translation enters. The Latina Feminist Group is inspired by Freire’s practice of concientización (awareness), where communities construct self-reflective political consciousness and empowerment efforts through literacy, and by giving themselves voice through documenting silenced histories. The book Telling to Live can be regarded as a testimony in itself. Testimonio becomes a feminist method of autobiographical narratives that unite a political and pedagogical view on how knowledge and theory are constructed, through their own experience (The Latina Feminist Group, 2001, p.  8). “We reclaimed testimonio as a tool for Latinas to theorize oppression, resistance, and subjectivity” (The Latina Feminist Group, 2001, p. 19). The hidden stories were poems, notes and short stories that they did not, at first, dare or want to share. Shame, sorrow or guilt could have been the cause for keeping them hidden, concealed. Their testimonies are not singular, but something they bring forward in a relational manner. They write: “we are not speaking from the voice of the singular ‘I’. Rather we are exploring the ways in which our individuals express the complexities of our communities as a whole.” (The Latina Feminist Group, 2001, p. 20). In their use of testimonio the process and the product become inseparable, and are understood as self-constructions and contestations of power within a relational framework: “Through testimonio we learned to translate ourselves for each other”, they write (The Latina Feminist Group, 2001, p. 11). As has been stated by The Latina Feminist Group, testimonio, for them, works as a way to translate. Translation as phenomenon is therefore significant to their understanding of, not only testimonio as a concept, but also in how translation as such contains aspects that are important for understanding relationality itself. Felman and Laub also address the concept of translation in their understanding of testimony, but it has in their understanding a historical dimension. That is, how one should read historical voices: Translation is thus necessarily a critical activity, a mode of deconstruction, that is, the undoing of an illusory historical perception or understanding by bearing witness to what the “perception” or the “understanding” precisely fails to see or fails to witness. (Felman & Laub, 1992, p. 160)

Within Felman’ and Laub’s writing on testimony, translation has similar processes as the phenomenon of witnessing. Translation works as a critical



activity, a deconstruction, which also includes a failure and a failed witnessing. What Felman addresses is thus the lack, or the gap, reading always holds—which in this case is a representational problem. In relation to subjectivity, however, this is also relevant, in the way it has performative aspects. To develop this, I would like to address how translation has transformative aspects through its deconstruction, but also in how we fail in our seeing, listening, and in our understanding (of the other).

Translation and Fusion (of Bodies) The Latina Feminist Group’s work is based on a kind of reciprocity, where the group so to speak both gives and takes in order to build stories that lead to transformations: a kind of joint strength and to empowering acts. But is it always like that? What more can be said about translation in relation to transformation? One can ask if it does not tend to be the other way around; that the act of translation as a way of communication is not built on reciprocity. Some translate more than others, in the public conversation, in the classroom, in close relationships. Translation is not an easy thing, or a problem free area. It is tiring and frustrating and tends to demand of some people to translate, to build a bridge between understandings, more than others. Translation tends not to be built on reciprocity but on one-sidedness and has, as Lovisa Bergdahl writes, a price. For instance in how: “the language of the majority tends to exclude the language of the minority…” (Bergdahl, 2009). However, going back to the possibilities of translation, by drawing on Benjamin; translation can never be complete without reserving something, an element—an experience—which is not translatable, it “can never be total and that there is always a nucleus, a ‘kernel’ or element of meaning ‘that does not lend itself to translation’” (Bergdahl, 2009, p. 34–35). In the act of translation, in the encounter with an alien text—and in my reading also with the other (near and dear)—there is a possibility of allowing the thing to get into a tone change, “to the point where work, image, and tone converge.” (Benjamin, 1969, p. 81, my italics). It is this convergence, this fusion, of that which is not translatable what interests me. Relating this to a relational understanding, translation has, even if it is not reciprocal, an element, which is transformative. This fusion becomes relevant in relation to the understanding of testimony that I



argue for. That is, in relation to Gruva and more specifically the strike, translation can be a fusion of bodies, as well as a fusion of voices. Translation as a fusion, expressed in The Latina Feminist Group’s book but also within Benjamin’s understanding, could mean a shift of the double bind, a shift of the paradox: if you win, you lose. Or put differently, the impossibility of testimony will not be dissolved, but by a relational witnessing there are possibilities to, so to speak, not stand alone (in that loss). Understanding yourself through other people’s experiences by getting close to them, through other people’s experiences, translation can as The Latina Feminist Group frames it, not just be a way to testify, but also to make the report into a lively opportunity.

To Begin, in Relation to Others Here I would like to turn to the aspect of subjectivity, by a discussion with Biesta and Oliver. Our subjectivity is always in relation to others; it is with Biesta’s words, in relation to other beginners (Biesta, 2006). The possibilities of becoming, of subjectivity, in the act of witnessing therefore takes place in relation to others. Biesta writes how our becoming stands in relations with others who are not like us. Coming onto presence, writes Biesta (drawing on Arendt), “implies coming into a world populated by other beginners, a world of plurality and difference” (Biesta, 2006, p. 49). To act in the world is something more than just placing oneselves in the world and impose one’s beginnings. This intersubjective understanding of subjectivity shows that becoming is not something that you yourself can do. You can bring something new into the world, but you need a world—a world made up of other ‘beginners’ to break into this world. You need others to take up the initiatives, always in new and unpredictable ways. This room, which one steps into, is a “disturbing room” which also means, for Biesta, that the disturbance is necessary for the process of becoming. Yes, one can even say that it is this interruption which enables us to step into the room. For Biesta this interruption is not shaped by different identities and different sets of attributes; rather it is an ethical interruption, where the self, so to speak, is liable to others because of the responsibility. The intersubjective room is a becoming in relation to difference, and located to the radically Other (Levinas, 1969). This understanding of subjectivity is important since it stresses the ethical relations that we all have to each other, but for the understanding of subjectivity in relation to the possibilities of witnessing and more specific in relation to Gruva but



also The Latina Feminist Groups’s testimonies, I would also like to discuss what Kelly Oliver names as our subject positions. The subject position is characterized by a more political position and surrounded by various social factors such as gender, class, ethnicity, race, geography and so on. These positions are mobile but determined by history and by various circumstances: Our experience of ourselves as subjects is maintained in the tension between our subject positions and our subjectivity. Subject positions, although mobile, are constituted in our social interactions and our positions within our culture and context. They are determined by history and circumstance. Subject positions are our relations to the finite world of human history and relations—what we might call politics. Subjectivity, on the other hand, is experienced as the sense of agency and response-ability that are constituted in the infinite encounter with otherness, which is fundamentally ethical. (Oliver, 2008, p. 2)

What Oliver stresses, is how these two different positions, subjectivity and subject positions, are not mutually exclusive. She suggests not these two (subjectivity and subject positions) opposed to one another, but rather how our experience of ourselves is based on this tension between these two, between our political subject position and our ethical becoming. How should one understand witnessing in relation to these understandings of subjectivity? A starting point is to understand that witnessing always takes place in relation to others, but our relations to each other take different forms in various ways and through that, the act of witnessing takes different meanings. In Oliver’s book about witnessing, Witnessing, Beyond Recognition, she discusses the dialogic aspect of witnessing, and illustrates how witnessing implies both a responsibility and a response (response-ability and address-ability) in relation to subjectivity. Oliver writes, and this in relation to the respons-ability: “I can say I only by supposing that there is an addressee, the one to whom I address myself. Without an addressee, without a witness, I cannot exist.” (Oliver, 2001, p. 88). By formulating addressability and responsibility as two moments in the process of witnessing, Oliver develops an understanding of how subjectivity enters as a result of witnessing: Subjectivity is the result of the process of witnessing. Witnessing is not only the basis for othered subjectivity; witnessing is also the basis for all subjectivity. (Oliver, 2001, p. 7)



Yes, Oliver takes this to the extreme, by writing that this not only applies to the testimony of otherness, but for all subjectivity. Oliver speaks in her book about witnessing in relation to racial, gendered and class injustices and how witnessing can function as a way to overcome and work against these injustices. An important distinction that is essential to emphasize is that Oliver makes a difference between witnessing as a process and witnessing of trauma. It is the first aspect Oliver refers to when she writes that witnessing leads to subjectivity, but that “testimony of trauma” does not. If trauma undermines subjectivity—similar to Agamben—there is in witnessing something that builds up subjectivity again. Subjectivity does not depend, which is important to emphasize, on trauma or the wound. This is not what I am arguing for either. Rather, Oliver’s understanding of responsibility and response is an argument that tries to get beyond the Hegelian dialectics of recognition. In the Hegelian understanding the subject’s subjectivity lies in the act of recognition by others. Something that is problematic because recognition assumes that someone else will recognize the self, which could also lead to—based on a power relationship—be admitted by the elite, the middle or upper class, the dominant culture, as well as being ignored. Moreover, the act of recognition depends on that which is to be recognized must have been identified or familiar to the one who recognize, which again highlights the unequal power relations. That which is new or different from the dominant culture might not even be seen or heard at all (Oliver, 2001). Further, and as an extension of this issue of recognition, the act of screaming is interesting to take into account. The aspect of screaming is especially important in relation to testimony—as of testimonies also can appear as a cry—a cry for help, a cry that expresses suffering, or a cry expressing grief and loss. If the dominant discourse only recognizes certain groups in society when they scream in pain—this could also lead to that listening to marginalized bodies only appearing when they scream in pain, and not when they speak of things that do not fit into the dominant voice of pain. Or, conversely, others understand or read everything as a personal testimony (and not as poetry, art, music, philosophy, which refers to various art traditions)—it means a listening as well as imposing on other groups (that of power, whiteness, gender and class has been othered) to scream. For it is only then, in rage or sorrow, where one can make one’s voice heard. To be recognized in or by a cry—because it is the only way to be recognized—would not imply any possibility of being able to be in relation



to others. Neither as subjects in a political sense (subject position), or as a process of ethical conception (subjectivity). Rather the opposite: it would mean a locking of identities and of a situation that can best be described as: a you win, you lose situation.5 In my reading of The Latina Feminist Group’s work, I see how they are aware of the impossibility of the testimony, and recognition is not something that they treat. Witnessing takes place beyond that. Rather, their testimonio is a way to take the matters into their own hands, to testify together, and through the formulation regain power and to start from there. This approach to witnessing, I want to discuss in more detail in relation to Gruva and more specific in relation to the strike that took place during the winter of 1969–1970.

We Are Not Machines Witnessing, as expressed in The Latina Feminist Group and Oliver, could mean a shift of the double bind, a shift of the paradox: If you win, you lose. The paradox of witnessing may exist therein, but by a witnessing together, there is a possible way to not stand alone (in that loss). Through such a lens, witnessing would not only be a way to testify, but also a way to make witnessing into something lively and fruitful. Through the discussion on translation in relation to witnessing I want to highlight how translation is not an easy thing, but how this process of translation also could provide an opportunity to create something different: a process which is performative. There are in witnessing, as The Latina Feminist Group framed it, possibilities to “translate ourselves for each other” (The Latina Feminist Group, 2001). Translation based on an asymmetrical relationship, but also as a way to understand each other through other people’s experiences, is relevant in relation to Gruva, or more specific the wildcat strike that took place in 1969–1970. For Lidman’s writing is one part of history. As I have written earlier there is more to history: the strike is interesting to take into account in regard to subjectivity. The strike began as a sit-in on the morning shift at Leveäniemi Mine by a group of 35 men and came to include several thousand mine workers. The underlying reasons were several, which the testimonies in Gruva also spoke of. Through the strike, the workers managed to get different 5  Of course, the scream can sometimes be necessary, as well as powerful for creating change—but for a theory on subjectivity it is not enough.



requirements and afterwards series of reforms were made within the Swedish labour market, including legal perspectives and changes from a workers environmental point of view (Berg, 2014). However, one of the most important aspects of these events might be what one of the workers, Ove Haarala, says in relation to what kind of changes the strike led to, which I relate to what Benjamin reserves for the element—the experience—which is not translatable: “First of all, the human dignity.” (Berg, 2014). For Haarala the strike means that one will discover that one has power, and a human. The strike brought dignity back. These words differ from those that appear in Gruva. They speak of something different. Regarding them as testimonies, but also as a way to witness (sitting, discussing and sharing experience of life and working conditions), the strike as well as the testimonies from this event can provide a possibility to regain one’s voice, through a joint “we”. The aspect of resistance, and the fusion of bodies as well as the power of sitting, and saying no, for one’s own right, through a “we”, one can start from a different, more forceful, position. The strike can also be related to Biesta’s understanding of subjectivity. One of the miners said: “You cannot keep yourself secret forever. One needs to break out at some point” (Lidman & Urhbom 1969, p. 96, my translation). He says this in relation to the solitary work which I previously quoted, and can be regarded as a voice reaching out for other people. A voice that wants to break into a world populated by other beginners, a world of plurality and difference. One need as Biesta (2006) points out, other people who take up one’s initiatives in new and unpredictable ways, in order to break into the world. These actions can also be regarded as witnessing. That is, a witnessing which makes one encounter others and through that shift the borders of our self-understanding and our sense of what is possible to change.

Conclusion In this chapter I have argued for a witnessing as a phenomena of empowerment for the subject. It is a relational witnessing that I would not want to characterize as standing beyond the impossibility and paradox of testimony—but does not lead to a dead end either. Rather, I have tried to clarify how relational witnessing could be understood as a reading of possibilities; possibilities which can create moments of new beginnings and



empowered subjectivity. In the following chapter I will continue by discussing the (im)possibilities of emotions.

References Adler, J. (2015). Epistemological Problems of Testimony. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Spring. archives/spr2015/entriesestimony-episprob/. Agamben, G. (2008). Remnants of Auschwitz: The Witness and the Archive. Zone Books. Ahmed, S. (2004). The Cultural Politics of Emotion. Routledge. Benjamin, W. (1969). Illuminations: Essays and Reflections. Schocken. Berg, A. (2014). Den stora gruvstrejken, P3 Dokumentär | Sveriges Radio. Retrieved from Bergdahl, L. (2009). Lost in Translation: On the Untranslatable and Its Ethical Implications for Religious Pluralism. Journal of Philosophy of Education, 43(1), 31–44. Biesta, G. (2006). Beyond Learning: Democratic Education for a Human Future. Paradigm Publishers. Chen, K. (2015). Authenticity Obsession, or Conceptualism as Minstrel Show. Asian American Writers’ Workshop. Retrieved from authenticity-obsession/. Ewert, L., Westman, L., & Malmfältens strejkkommitté (1969–1970). (1970, December 11). Kamrater, motståndaren är välorganiserad. Lena och Lasse Film AB, Stockholm. Retrieved from FBQtRuIwo&feature=youtube_gdata_player Felman, S., & Laub, D. (1992). Testimony: Crises of Witnessing in Literature, Psychoanalysis and History. Routledge. Fricker, M. (2007). Epistemic Injustice Power and the Ethics of Knowing. Oxford University Press. Gates, H.  L. (2010). Tradition and the Black Atlantic: Critical Theory in the African Diaspora. Basic Civitas Books. Hållander, M. (2005) “Voices from the past: on representations of suffering in education”. Ethics and Education 10, nr 2 (2015): 175–85. Horgby, B. (1997). Med dynamit och argument: Gruvarbetarna och deras fackliga kamp under ett sekel. [Svenska metallindustriarbetareförb.]. Johansson, I. (2013). Strejkkonsten: Röster om kulturellt och politiskt arbete under och efter gruvstrejken 1969–70. Glänta Produktion. Levinas, E. (1969). Totality and Infinity: An Essay on Exteriority. Duquesne University Press. Lidman, S., & Uhrbom, O. (1969). Gruva. Bokförlaget Aldus/Bonniers.



Nilsson, M. (2010). Litteratur och klass: Sara Lidman, Gruva. Retrieved December 4, 2014, from Oliver, K. (2001). Witnessing: Beyond Recognition. University of Minnesota Press. Oliver, K. (2008). The Colonization of Psychic Space: Response to Critics. Symposia on Gender, Race and Philosophy, 4(1) Retrieved from https://www. Response_to_Critics. Olsson, A. (2004). Att ge den andra sidan röst. Atlas. Ricoeur, P. (2004). Memory, History, Forgetting. University of Chicago Press. The Latina Feminist Group. (2001). Telling to Live: Latina Feminist Testimonios. Duke University Press Books. Thorell, G. (1970). Samtal med Sara Lidman (före gruvstrejken). Ord & Bild, 1(79), 36–39.


On the Verge of Tears: The Ambivalent Spaces of Emotions and Testimonies

Abstract  What do emotions do? Are emotions possible and desirable starting points for teaching difficult and complex subjects such as injustice and historical wounds? This chapter explores the 2015 image and testimony of Alan Kurdi, pictured lying on a beach of the Mediterranean Sea, and the immense emotional response it elicited from the media. By critiquing emotions based on testimonies in teaching, by primarily following Ahmed (The Cultural Politics of Emotion, 2004) and Todd (Learning from the Other: Levinas, Psychoanalysis, and Ethical Possibilities in Education, 2003), Hållander argues that emotions are cultural practices, not psychological states, and, thus, are relational. On this point, the argument is developed in two different directions: first, the effects offered by listening; second, opacity in relation to transparency, based on the thoughts of Glissant (Poetics of Relation, 1997). Keywords  Alan Kurdi • Feelings • Emotions • Sara Ahmed • Édouard Glissant

Introduction: Alan Kurdi Some testimonies get more publicity than others. One example of this is the image with Alan Kurdi on a Turkish beach from September 2015, taken by the photographer Nilüfer Demir. This image of the child, as if he

© The Author(s) 2020 M. Hållander, The Pedagogical Possibilities of Witnessing and Testimonies,




were sleeping curled on his side, in his blue shorts and shoes, where the ocean touched the shore, spread like wildfire across the world. This visual testified to the war in Syria and the condition of the refugees at the Mediterranean Sea. This image became an event in itself. There were many articles written about it, about the tragic event that occurred with Alan Kurdi, the tragic events taking place in Syria or life of the Syrian immigrants at the Mediterranean Sea and other places. But there were also articles about how the image might begin a change in a war torn Syria and about the manner in which the image moved people to tears were published. This single image has also been credited with causing a surge in donations to charities that were engaged in helping Syrian migrants and refugees.1 I myself cried when I saw the image. I remember browsing for the visual when I first saw it on my phone. The second instant I saw the image, I stopped reading and found myself crying. In this article, I address the question of what emotions can do, in relation to testimonies like the one of Alan Kurdi.2 What are the pedagogical possibilities  of emotions? Is it possible and desirable for emotions to become starting points for teaching complex subjects, such as injustice and historical wounds? Listening and opacity create the path of this article. It is here argued that they create a way to understand emotions and testimony as ambivalent spaces in teaching. In order to argue for this, the paper is divided into three parts. The first part will examine the way in which emotions in relation to testimony and complex subjects have been understood in educational research, particularly those emotions related to crises and empathy. Subsequently, I discuss the notion of testimony and the use of testimonies 1  Some of these responses in media were collected from a Wikipedia page that was created after the event, see: “Death of Alan Kurdi” (2016). 2  I have chosen to use the word emotions in the text. The literature I am dealing with explores the concepts of emotions, affect, and feelings. The three notions are similar to each other but are used differently by the researcher. As Margaret Wetherell (2012) writes, sometimes affect includes every emotion, and sometimes, an affect only refers to physical and bodily expressions (such as crying, laughing), in contrast to feelings that represent a more subjective expression. Here I will use the word “emotions” mainly because the chapter does not investigate what emotions are or what they may consist of (and how these concepts are understood), but rather what this phenomenon, as formulated by Sara Ahmed, creates in relation to other people (2004). I focus, in fact, on what emotions can do in relation to educational possibilities.



for the purpose of teaching. The second part will deepen the understanding of the relational aspects of emotions and testimony, drawing on Ahmed (2004) and Todd’s (2003) relational ideas to indicate the limitations of emotions and testimony in educational situations. The third part shifts the focus and investigates the ways in which pedagogical possibilities of emotions can be formulated differently as ambivalent spaces. This response of ambivalent spaces involves (a) listening to testimony in relation to emotions, drawing on Ahmed (2004) and Todd (2003), and (b) an understanding of emotions in relation to the concepts of opacity and transparency, drawing on Glissant (1997). By way of conclusion, I sum up my argument, returning to the main contributions of the chapter.

Emotions’ Pedagogical Possibilities: Crises and Empathy What are the pedagogical possibilities of emotions? There has been a lot of research theorizing the role of emotions in teaching complex subjects and testimony. Within educational research on testimony, one can observe the manner in which crisis becomes a pedagogical idea; for example, in discussions regarding the difference between “safe” teaching and teaching that causes “discomfort,” which is a discourse that also originates with emotions (Hållander, 2017). On the one hand, researchers, such as Felman and Laub in their classical work on testimony, Testimony: Crises of witnessing in literature, psychoanalysis and history, demonstrate the manner in which crisis when encountering literary testimonies contains the potential to actually end past beliefs and that “a real learning” occurs through a student’s engagement with a challenging or crisis situation (Felman & Laub, 1992). Felman and Laub examine the relationship between testimony, students’ crises, and pedagogy, and considers the emotions and personal crisis as an opportunity for learning (Felman & Laub, 1992). Kumashiro (2002) follows Felman and Laub’s argument and write how entering crises is not just a required part but also a desired part of learning in anti-oppressive ways. It is by being deeply affected by testimonies or contentious subjects that students can learn something. Others, such as Kishimoto & Mwangi (Kishimoto & Mwangi, 2009), argue that “safe education” leads to the continuance of current norms and social injustices and that teachers should allow challenging encounters for their students.



On the other hand, other scholars, such as Zembylas (2015) or Carniel (2018) problematize the demand of crises or discomfort in teaching. For example, Zembylas argue that students who face such challenging education that includes being exposed to difficult stories, presupposes equality. Zembylas problematizes the demand for an emotional response and writes that it can lead to or imply a violent act: …if students are essentially ‘forced’ to experience discomfort, pain, or suffering as a result of being exposed to ‘difficult’ testimonies, and if they are ‘pushed’ into particular directions in their transformation, do such acts risk doing violence to students? 2015, p. 170.

Zembylas questions whether compelling interfaces with “difficult” testimonies can result in the perpetration of (language) violence in students. The article, from which the quote is taken, discusses this discomfort in terms of the ethical violence that can be created when emotions (and, more specifically, in Zembylas’ text; of discomfort) become the origin of teaching. Carniel (2018) discuss emotions in relation to a teacher who, as an activist, want to make the students feel but at the same time manage to, as Carniel writes, “effectively seeking to exploit my students’ emotions to my own political ends, and perhaps more problematically, to exploit the grief of a child.” (Carniel, 2018, p. 149). Carniel both problematize the students’ emotions as well as the images, as such, and how displaying the image of Alan Kurdi can also become exploitive (something I will review further in the article). Apart from crises or discomfort, another emotion discussed by educational philosophers is empathy. Empathy has a special status among the emotions sought to be elicited in teaching, as it also holds an ethical legitimacy that other emotions usually do not enjoy (compared, for example, to hatred or jealousy). Todd (2003) writes in Learning from the Other that empathy has been raised in democratic work to bridge between differences. By critiquing the call for empathy as the starting point for education in social justice, Todd believes that the requirement for empathy in pedagogy is not only a requirement for a certain emotion but also that the emotion of empathy requires a certain relational form. Todd’s investigation, based on psychoanalysis and Levinas, posits varied aspects of empathy: “feeling for the other” in the sense of sympathy; “putting yourself into the other’s shoes” or attributing the other to one’s inner life



(projection); or “putting the other into oneself,” which refers to identification and imitation (Todd, 2003, pp. 43–63). The different empathetic facets all have diverse limitations in the way that they determine how the relation is to take place, partly because these points of origin imply assumptions that the other is similar to oneself. This complexity does not imply that one should refrain from developing empathy, that would be, as Todd states, a request as equally impossible as the need for such a feeling. A similar criticism of empathy is presented by Gubkin (2015). Regarding the use of testimonies in teaching, she insists there are ethical as well as epistemological reasons why teaching should not strive to elicit empathy in the first place. Similar to Todd, she writes about the difficulties in engage with someone else’s position, but adds that empathy requires an understanding of the testimonies per se, that they are objective and that language is able to represent extreme events objectively. Gubkin argues that teaching must instead take into account the insecurity inherent in traumatic experiences and that is found in language itself. The ethical risks of using emotions as the source of learning have been discussed above with reference to Zembylas (2015); however, as Gubkin (2015) elucidates in her article, there are also epistemological reasons to such an application. When students are asked to experience a historical trauma through a testimony, that very experience requires them to have acquired some prior understanding of the event. The personal narrative is regarded as special knowledge that performs the purpose of extracting a particular type of emotion. My focus in this chapter is not to give a critique on wanting to create change to different injustices or structural discriminations, but rather to problematize the role of emotions (of discomfort, crises or even empathy) as ways of doing this. Todd, Zembylas, Carniel or Gubkin do not reject emotions for the purpose of teaching, but they criticize the employment of emotions as a central point to impart the knowledge of past events that are traumatic and the use of emotions as the starting point of instructional discussions of difficult subjects. They indicate the pitfalls of such teaching methodologies that do not consider the uniqueness of the student, the teacher or the historical testimony. This is something that I wish to develop further, by drawing on Zembylas, who on the one hand believes that educational initiatives beginning with emotion may miss the opacity required of students, and on the other hand, asserts in Five Pedagogies, a Thousand Possibilities that relational emotions, through their positive economy, can



be a means of teaching and a way “… to connect with others in more creative ways” (Zembylas, 2007, p. 114). He clarifies how emotions can open an educational space that can provide critical hope. This understanding of critical hope is retrieved from Freire’s Pedagogy of Hope and implies a relational understanding in which both the emotions and the critical observation of the distribution of power can take place (Zembylas, 2007). In accordance with Ahmed’s understanding of the economies of the emotions (which I will develop in this  chapter) and how they also create boundaries, Zembylas asserts, “Emotions in the classroom, more specifically, are not only private matters but also political spaces in which students and teachers interact with implications in major political and cultural struggles” (2007, p. xiii). Emotions are not just private; they can enter into political contexts. When students react with tears or with anger, hate or love, it is not done solely for private reasons. It is possible to combine these emotions with the political. For Zembylas, this confusion is not necessarily negative: thinking about these theories about the politicization of emotions in education has challenged me to sharpen my argument in suggesting that the politicization of emotions is not inevitable but also desirable. (Zembylas, 2007, p. xiii)

Therefore, there is pedagogical possibility in the so-called “spaces” that emotions can create and emotions can be made a “positive and dynamic source of personal and political insight into educational settings.” (Zembylas, 2007, p. xxi), In line with these positions, I want to develop these understandings in this chapter further by introducing the role of listening as well as the role of opacity and argue that these emotional spaces also are ambivalent spaces. I will do so by firstly giving a deeper understanding of emotions as relational and secondly through a discussion on the phenomenon of listening, which is a development of both Ahmed (2004) and Todd (2003) as well as by developing the role of opacity, drawing on Glissant (1997), as ways to understand possible emotions when encountering testimonies within teaching. Before doing this, I will, however, first discuss my view on testimony and the role of testimony within teaching.



The Image as Testimony There are different ways of regarding a testimony and a witness. As I have written in previous chapter in this book, Agamben (2008, p. 17) regard different positions of a witness; in Latin, one could find the connection to testis, the third person who in a court can testify to what had happened, or superstes as a survivor who had lived through an event and who can, through that, testify to what had happened. In this later view, the witness as superstes does not have to give a testimony. One can be a witness without complete a testimony. In this chapter, however, I regard testimonies which speak of what has happened, as representations or images, and through this, I place testimonies between the past and the present that speak of trauma or injustice (see also Hållander, 2015). Drawing on Agamben (2008), I regard testimonies as remnants, which give voice to what has happened and through this, the testimony can enter into the present and the future. This speaking can take the form of a voice, but it can also be that of (moving) images. Through this understanding of testimony as a remnant, the image of Alan Kurdi is regarded as a testimony, that speaks of what has happened. Testimonial images are, in that sense, representations which can re-enter into the present (see also, Hållander, 2015) again and again. It is also this re-entering into the present images, such as the one of Alan Kurdi, which does not become a single event but also (can) bear witness and become new events. Also, “images can bear witness without, against, and in spite of any given intention” as Katz Thor writes (Katz Thor, 2018, p. 145). As Katz Thor (2018) states, posing the question of the image as a testimony involves a dislocation beyond the witness (as a subject) and the understanding of a testimony based on individual stories. Images do not speak for themselves, but are to be interpreted—by us (Katz Thor, 2018). This witnessing can take place not only outside but also within teaching, as Carniel (2018) so clearly points out (by also discussing the image with Alan Kurdi). Society is greatly interested in testimonies, and it is also felt within media, in law, and in teaching, which forms the subject of this chapter. As Ascher write, “If the twentieth century was declared, time and again, as ‘the century of the witness’, it seems that the twenty-first century is heading in a similar direction” (Ascher, 2011, p. 1). This statement is also valid for teaching and learning. For example, Chinnery traces the process of transformation in the teaching of historical traumas from the recounting of facts about the past to the use of personal narratives and testimonies (Chinnery, 2013). The work of Swedish public authority The Living



History Forum is an example of the use of testimonies in the teaching of traumatic moment of the past. The Living History Forum is an authority that utilizes personal stories about the Holocaust and other crimes against humanity as the starting point of its objective to work with issues on tolerance, democracy, and human rights. To achieve their stated mission, the forum has compiled historical testimonies that are meant for schools for the purpose of teaching (“Forum för levande historia”, n.d.). Different pedagogical and didactical reasons can be offered to explain why teachers use testimonies to impart history lessons (see Hållander, 2017). Testimonies are regarded as being singular and represent “true” stories. Thus, students exposed to these testimonies also consider them to be of value when learning about historical trauma and attempting to bring their own consciousness and/or personal ethical reflection to those events (ibid.). Therefore, one didactic reason to support the use of testimonies in teaching is the different narratives from the past that can create opportunities for students to build positive values, such as a historical consciousness or an ethical approach to the world and toward other people (compare with: Felman & Laub, 1992; Simon, 2005). The emotions of students play a pivotal role in this methodology. These emotions of love, fear, hate, sorrow or even crises can become the foundation for dealing with the damage caused by historical pain, and subsequently, become the basis for their individual knowledge of a history that includes the histories of those different from themselves or belonging to other parts of the world. This is something that I will continue to develop through a discussion on the relational aspects of emotions.

The Relational Aspect of Emotions As I discussed by drawing on Zembylas (2015), there are ethical risks of considering emotions as a starting point, but as Gubkin (2015) raises in her article, there are also epistemological reasons. When students are asked to experience a historical trauma, it, requires some understanding of this historical trauma, as such. The testimony is determined to consist of some special knowledge. Again, what do emotions do? Ahmed asserts in The Cultural Politics of Emotions that the first thought about emotions is the assumption that they are inside the body; that they emanate from our individual, singular mass and that emotions move from “the inside to the outside.” A similar but



distinctive understanding reveals that emotions can be understood as a movement from the “outside to our inside” (Ahmed, 2004, p. 33). When one suffers from the source of a different voice, as I did in the case of the image of Alan Kurdi, we tend to believe that emotions reach us from the outside world, to our own inside: the image of the child stretched from the remoteness of the outside world to my own inside. This movement is distinct from the “inside out” but it carries the same progression and a similar understanding of emotions as interior phenomena. Ahmed elucidates that both these conceptions of emotion are problematic because they pretend to create objectivity between the outside and the inside. This construct of the outside and inside can also be felt in terms of “me,” “we,” “one,” and “the other,” and is, fundamentally, a notion rooted in binary thinking: “Indeed the outside-in model is problematic precisely because it assumes that emotions are something that ‘we have’” (Ahmed, 2004, p. 10). Emotions are, in this perception, understood as something we own, and thus, the ones we “have” are separate from the ones felt by others; this separation also tends to build boundaries (Ahmed, 2004). Through a Marxist analysis of the words wound and suffering, Ahmed explains that wounds are a part of the global market. Sensational stories and testimonies can turn pain into a media spectacle that, while giving voice to expressions of sorrow or anger and similar emotions, can also be met with laughter. Ahmed further states that when testimonies become global (for example, testimonies used by different aid organizations), they become part of a global capitalist economy where testimonies can be honored and “fetished.” Commodity fetishism transforms the subjective, abstract aspects of economic value into objective, real things that people believe have intrinsic value. According to Ahmed, this fetishism is also a central aspect of the testimony culture where aid organization can use personal stories to raise money. Eventually, this fetishism related to how power is distributed: “the differentiation between forms of pain and suffering in stories that are told, and between those that are told and those that are not told, is a crucial mechanism for the distribution of power” (Ahmed, 2004, p. 32). These boundaries and the fetishing, also mean that testimonies are relational: the witnesses stand in relation to different nations, movements, and subjects. As an example, Ahmed mentions the instance of an aid organization’s story from a war. This story of empowerment was not aimed at those who actually suffered from the mine blasts but were rather projected



onto those who heard or read the testimony or those who were asked to donate money to the aiding organization. The “value” of testimony and the human response to it are created through the circulation of the global economy. Based on this analysis, Ahmed believes that emotions are not something we “have”; they are, rather, something that creates boundaries of an inside and an outside and, through this construct, establishes those same boundaries: So emotions are not simply something ‘I’ or ‘we’ have. Rather, it is through emotions, or how we respond to objects and others, that surfaces or boundaries are made: the ‘I’ and ‘we’ are shaped by, even taken shape of, contact with others. (Ahmed, 2004, p. 10)

Ahmed relates the experience of different emotions, such as love, hate, pain, and shame and clarifies how these emotions create boundaries, for example, in the love of one’s nation and the consequent hate of “the other.” Todd formulated the notion of empathy and its function of determining the relational form that takes place. Ahmed similarly treats other emotions such as hatred and love. The feelings are aimed at someone, or against something, and thus, they determine how and in what way the relationship will take place. Ahmed formulates the social aspect of the emotions, but what can be said more specifically in relation to the response of the image of Alan Kurdi? To say that there was a common emotion in relation to Alan Kurdi is, of course, not reasonable. As I have stated earlier, an immense media outpour generated varied responses from tears to suspicion to satire (“Death of Alan Kurdi”, 2016). Certain emotions could be linked with empathy; it could have been “one of my own children who lay there” (the process of being in the situation of the other, and thus, feeling sympathy). However, there were also (far-right) reports that expressed suspicion (“fooling the whole world”), and these elicited other expressions than crying. The image was also used to incite political opinion across the world, and it was said to have created an impact on the 2015 Canadian federal election (“Death of Alan Kurdi”, 2016). In addition, I would like to highlight that what I have mentioned earlier in relation to Ahmed, that although perceived emotion may be common, does not necessarily imply that we have the same relation to that emotion. Then, is there another way we can go?



Having discussed the relational aspects of emotions and testimony, I will now move to the two different movements that relate to testimony and emotions which also formulates my argument in this chapter. The first movement is about the possibility of listening and the other relates to a more visual progression, namely opacity and transparency. Through these two movements, I highlight ambivalence as an pedagogical opportunity. It is an ambivalence that does not move away from emotions as a possible way of dealing with testimonies. Rather, I regard them as means to work with the relational aspects of testimonies as well as with emotions. These movements of listening and opacity, I argue, can become a productive power in relation to testimonies.

Listening: Breaking Its Hold The first movement that I will develop here in relation to emotions and testimony involves the other side of language, namely listening. The listener is treated by Todd in Learning from the Other (2003) as an educational possibility. Todd states that listening belongs to the very essence of language. It forms the other side of language and makes up an important but neglected component. The same is applicable for narratives, or in my case, testimonies. They would not exist if a certain form of listening was not taking place. Thus, listening is important to the manner in which testimonies appear and are produced. The listener plays a role in both the aspects of whether the testimonials are given the opportunity to emerge and of the manner in which they are expressed. Todd (2003) suggests that we often approach listening through understanding. We try to make sense of another’s life story by translating it into something we can understand. Based on an analysis of the act of listening in the documentary film Jupiter’s Wife, by Michel Negroponte, Todd indicates that listening can also be grounded in something other than comprehension or understanding as a basis of response. She lists three different dimensions that the practice of listening may include. First, listening is an inherent and implied role of language and not a temporary aspect. Second, speech is a creative and unconscious creation process and listening, in this context, performs the function of making sense of the other. Third, based on Levinas’ ethics, an opportunity for ethical response is provided through listening that draws attention to the alterity of the Other. Inherent in these different dimensions of listening is a risk that is both in the context of



speaking and of listening: the ability to share what is new or different (Todd, 2003). There is a possibility in listening: the potential to hear what one has not thought, assumed, or experienced before. Therefore, listening could involve the introduction of something radical and new. Thus, the relationships or emotions that may arise through and in listening are not assured in advance. Hence, listening to a testimony could mean listening to the impossible (Todd, 2003). Ahmed also develops the idea of listening in relation to reading testimonies from the past. She specifies how reading includes listening to the impossible: Our task instead is to learn to hear what is impossible. Such an impossible hearing is only possible if we respond to a pain that we cannot claim as our own (Ahmed, 2004, p.  35). Here, listening shall not be understood as in embroidering oneself into someone else’s emotions or into someone else’s pain. It is not about living someone else’s experience or suffering, but rather, about responding to a pain and an admission that it does not have to be one’s own. Thus, for Ahmed, listening is not about identification or sympathy and this notion can be related to Todd’s criticism and understanding of empathy (Todd, 2003). In Ahmed’s criticism of emotions, she discusses the manner in which pain and wounds can work in politics. She writes that if we are to bring pain and wounds into politics, we must also give up the fetish surrounding the wounds of different testimonies. It is an action of historical remembrance; silence or forgetfulness would imply the possibility of a repetition of violence. However, the memory that Ahmed instead argues for should include an assignment to break its hold: Our task might instead be to ‘remember’ how the surface of bodies (including the bodies of communities […]) came to be wounded in the first place. Reading testimonies of injury involves rethinking the relations between the present and the past: an emphasis on the past does not necessarily mean a conservation or entrenchment of the past […]. Following bell hooks our task would be ‘not to forget the past but to break its hold’. (Ahmed, 2004, p. 33)

Here, Ahmed is, through her citation of bell hooks and her biographical writing in Talking Back, (hooks, 1989, s. 155) referring to breaking the grip of history, which partly includes being conscious of the discourse of testimonies in the global economy, and in the capitalist system. This understanding is about reformulating our thoughts about the historical



testimonies that testify to wounds and at the same time, introducing them into politics. In order to break the seal of the past, in order to move away from attachments that are hurtful, we must first bring them into the action of political action. (Ahmed, 2004, p. 33)

Ahmed writes that these voices and testimonies that are hurtful should be brought into politics. The past is alive rather than dead. The past lives on in every wound that is open in the present, and it owns an opportunity to be politically powerful. In her reading of the testimony in Bringing Them Home, Ahmed visualizes herself and her emotions: how she becomes part of history, but at the same time stands outside it. Ahmed write how her reading, which can also be described as a listening, include herself as well as the insight of what is not about herself: It is not just me facing this, and it is certainly not about me. And yet, I am ‘in it’, which means I am not ‘not in it’. Here I am, already placed and located in worlds, already shaped by my proximity to some bodies and not to others. If I am here, then I am there: the stories of the document are shaped by the land I had been thought to think of as my own. (Ahmed, 2004, p. 36)

The self is a part of history, but is at the same time standing outside: “I’m in it, which means I’m not in it” (ibid.). Thus, focusing on listening could shift the locus from the idea that the emotions of the students—or the non-emotions—are at stake. It would shift the spotlight from the idea that the students should feel, or be like the other, and instead contribute to the belief that the testimonies used for teaching purposes can stand for themselves and accrue the ability to speak for and express themselves. I will develop this thought further in the next section, through the concepts of opacity and transparency.

Opacity and Transparency In the beginning of this chapter, I discussed the ambivalence of emotions and the way in which Zembylas (2015) formulated a defense of a student’s opacity. He writes how the requirement that the student shall feel



empathy or express sympathy toward others, can avoid recognizing the opacity of the students. In addition, Zembylas (2015) asserts that our own response to the other is based on the opacity of the individual. Drawing on Judith Butler’s understanding of the self and the self’s understanding of itself as partial, he explains that the self is haunted by what the self may think, although it does not possess the totality of history. The self cannot always explain why it appears in a certain way, and its efforts to recreate this story are always undergoing a continuous review. What, then, does opacity mean, and what does it mean in relation to testimonies? Glissant has written on opacity, and his philosophy is based on a movement and a double entity that allows for the painful wounds— the sunken slave ships, the silenced origins—to enter the present without seeking reconciliation or overlooking them. Instead, Glissant believes historical wounds can become points of origin from where the future can be entered (Glissant, 1997, 2012). Glissant’s work is congruent with Frantz Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks (Fanon, 1967); however, he initiates a fresh relational understanding of the subject in post-colonial society. Unlike Fanon (or the writing of other dialectics like Marx, Hegel, and Agamben), Glissant’s relationality is not dialectical. Instead, he posits that relationality can be understood in terms of the multiple that works between the different. The relationality that occurs between differences can be described by the concept of creolization: a constant process in which differences meet and go, in and out of each other. In addition, it can be described by the archipelago thinking: a cognition that takes its source from borders, seas, and islands. The relation-making between humans as well as the land and sea, is Glissant’s starting point: the subject relates and is related. Glissant’s philosophy works between the transparent on one side and opacity on the other. It is a philosophy that can simultaneously be read as poetry: “What is relational philosophy? An impossibility if it is not poetry” (Glissant, 2012, p.  68, my translation). Poetry and philosophy do not exclude each other in Glissant’s texts; they support each other. Poetry, or poetics, can be many things that I will not discuss  in this chapter. In Glissant’s texts, however, poetry has a different movement than the movement of philosophy: one that allows the insecure and the vague to take its place. It is a movement that does not strive for wisdom, knowledge, or clarity, which are regarded as the ideal of the philosophical movement. Instead, it leaves room for the fog—for opacity. This dual movement of Glissant embraces both clarity and density where the lucidity of



philosophy (comprehension) goes hand in hand with opacity, a notion that represents the incomprehensible, the impenetrable, and the origin that is unknown. In the introduction to the Swedish translation of Glissant’s writing, Christina Kullberg clarifies what opacity means to texts, and humans: the active resistance to being interpreted on the other’s conditions (Christina Kullberg, In: Glissant, 2012). Everyone has the right to be incomprehensible, which also means that one can relate to another without necessarily understanding that other. This resistance, the opacity, can be related to both the text, as well as, to the reader or the author: Literary text plays the contradictory role of producer of opacity. Literary textual practice, thus, represent an opposition between two opacities: the irreducible opacity of the text, even when it is a matter of the almost harmless sonnet, and the always evolving opacity of the author or a reader. (Glissant, 1997, p. 115)

It is not only the text that executes this opacity but also the actual reader. The opacity is in the text (it can also lead the reader to perceive the text as difficult) as well as within the reader. However, this opacity has no effect without transparency. It is through transparency, both for the author and the reader, that the text becomes comprehensible, as a bridge between these oppositions of transparency and opacity. In my interpretation, it is in the transparency where an understanding can be communicated. When Glissant asks (and answers), “What is relational philosophy? An impossibility if it is not poetry” (Glissant, 2012, p. 68, my translation), this is the duality he refers to: that “Opacities must be preserved. […] the framework is not made of transparency” (Glissant, 1997, p.  120). Transparency is not the actual ground, the base belongs to opacity, and it should be nurtured in its fashion of offering active resistance.

Opacity and Transparency as Ambivalent Spaces Glissant’s philosophy represents a movement that does not try to freeze and position, but rather tries to relate and be related. This philosophy enables some researchers to see the wounds in historical testimonials, and also to see what the wounds could generate in terms of hope. For example, Walcott articulates, with reference to the historical traumas of slavery, the



way in which Glissant formulates a doublet through his understanding of the relational: embeds it in a universality from the underside, or universality seen through the eyes of the subaltern, one that demands we read pain alongside “pleasure.” By this I mean that we do not only bear witness to the pain of enslavement, but we also bear witness to the way in which the struggle to survive has forged the pleasure of cultural sharing and reinvention. (Walcott, 2000, p. 138)

Walcott elevates Glissant’s ability to formulate a testimony that includes both the pain slavery carries and the (cultural) resistance against slavery that was created. For Walcott and his students, it represents a provocative idea because they are forced to think about how injustice and exploitation also contributed to expressing and formulating culture and literature that have been beautiful and significant (Walcott, 2000). Based on this understanding of opacity, I think that emotions can contain pedagogical possibilities because emotions, whether we want them or not, can do something. The movements that I am suggesting of listening and opacity, where the ambivalence takes place, can be a form of working with emotions within educational settings. The performativity in listening and in understanding testimonies is as follows: the self relates and is related, with the body, with the memory, and through the emotions. Through Glissant’s direction, I formulate a constructing of both/and where both the sorrow, the pain, the guilt, and the responsibility occur; a both/and where the opposite movements of clarity and fog happen (Hållander, 2017). Both/and could create an ambivalent space where the witness’s voice, which may not be understood, stands next to the mechanisms and structures that can be understood in the teaching. This both/ and could imply performative actions: pedagogical possibilities can be created, hopefully, within these two different movements of listening and opacity. Thus, emotions, through opacity and listening, could embody pedagogical possibilities of, which I have quoted previously from Zembylas: a way of “learning to connect with others in more creative ways” (Zembylas, 2007, p. 114).



Dignified Images and Teaching How does this view on emotions and testimony impact relationships in the educational environment, namely, between teacher and students as well as between students and testimonies? When invited as a guest teacher at different higher education courses in fine arts and visual communication, to discuss aspects of testimony and witnessing, I had the option to display or not to display the image of Alan Kurdi to the students when giving a talk on the possibility of testimony. In line with what Carniel write (2018), on the use of the image of Alan Kurdi in relation to teaching, and how she at first thought of using the image but on second thoughts decided not to, I did not show it either. Why so? The choice on my part, as well as for Carniel, I read, was more about Alan Kurdi himself than the students’ emotions or thoughts. Rather it was grounded in the idea that everyone has the right to be imaged in a dignified way. Having taking on board the idea of how Alan Kurdi’s father responded to the image of his son, it was not difficult to do so. He had responded by showing another image of his son, where he seemed happy and was smiling joyfully. Every person owns the right to be captured in a respectful and dignified fashion. This image of a smiling boy became my starting point for the lectures. It became my selection. However, teaching adults within higher education is different from teaching young children, the impact one has on adults within higher education is not the same as teaching young children. The difference between teaching young children and adults also involves ethical dimensions, which both involves the material used and the relations that teacher have to students. Also, as Carniel discusses (2018) in relation to trigger warnings, there are ethical as well as political dimensions in the relationships between students and teachers as well as between students and images that portray traumatic events: “No teacher seeks to traumatize their students, but similarly no teacher wishes to miss out on an enriching, albeit challenging, educational experience because of personal distaste” (Carniel, 2018, p. 145). One can, as a teacher, want to do something, and as an activist, to create something within teaching that can have an impact on the student’s life. However, teachers should consider how this is done, and for what reasons, by, for example, also being conscious of the discourse of testimonies in the global economy and in the capitalist system or how we as students and teachers additionally stand in relation to different events. They should take in into account not only how we are a part of it (the history,



the events) but also how we are, at the same time, standing outside of it—referring back to the previous discussion on Ahmed (2004). Having reflected on my own experience of different testimonies in my teaching (Hållander, 2017), I also know that the selection that we teachers do is not always thoroughly planned. One does not always know what images are brought in, sometimes because you yourself have not made the selection—a colleague, a student has done it—or how images shown within a classroom are brought into teaching because of acute events in the world. Images which can become events in teaching which teachers have to deal with even if it is outside the curriculum (Hållander, 2017). In relation to teaching, however, and as Carniel writes, many images become materials on an ad hoc basis as lecture slides or tutorial materials, with little attention to what they actually do or contribute to. As such, many images become unexpected (Carniel, 2018, p. 141f; see also Hållander, 2017). Something that does not have to be wrong, per se, rather it is a part of the beautiful risk of teaching and something to maintain. Nevertheless, at the same time, it is something teachers should be aware of: how testimonial images are unique, opaque but also how they—and this is important to stress—can become events of remembrance and an ethical learning (Simon, 2005). Events where emotions have a place, which, hopefully, can create ambivalent spaces that can become fruitful for teaching.

What Did Change? The possibility of transforming something through testimony is complex (Hållander, 2017). The educational question that I pose in this chapter— what are the pedagogical possibilites of emotions?—can also be a question posed to what change they create in terms of changes in the world? The image of Alan Kurdi was widely spread, and its dissemination was met with varied responses, including tears and a myriad other emotions. The outpour of emotions was largely linked to empathy; however, they were also (far-right) reported in the form of suspicion (“fooling the whole world”), and thus, they elicited expressions other than crying, sorrow or anger. Regarding the question this chapter set out to answer: what do emotions do?, it is perhaps cogent to consider what Alan Kurdi’s father, Abdullah Kurdi, said in an interview with the The Telegraph one year after the event:



Everyone claimed they wanted to do something because of the photo that touched them so much. But what is happening now? People are still dying and nobody is doing anything about it. (Ensor, 13:40)

Alan Kurdi’s death was only one of the cases among the thousands of mortality in the Mediterranean Sea over the recent years (UNHCR, 2016). In fact, twelve others, including eight children also died in the same boat as Alan Kurdi. Two of the deceased were Alan’s brother and his mother. However, they did not receive the same media coverage, and thus, did not elicit the same emotional response (“Death of Alan Kurdi”, 2016). The emotions that people described they sensed, or even showed, did not change the situation in Syria or the situation at the Mediterranean Sea.

Conclusion What are the pedagogical possibilities of emotions? Is it possible and desirable for emotions to become starting points for a teaching of complex subjects such as injustice and historical wounds? Through the analyses of testimony and emotions, I have developed the manner in which testimonies can serve as a means of controlling the emotions and perceptions of learners and can influence the perception of the society within which the students live. It could mean that testimonies reproduce stereotypes of suffering of different people and can thus consolidate existing power structures and identities. Through cautions against of the use of emotions mainly from Ahmed (2004) and Todd (2003), I have argued that emotions are cultural practices, not psychological states, and thus, are relational. Regarding encounters with testimonies for the purpose of teaching, these emotional and relational practices can also function to create borders (as between “us and them”). Based on this point, I developed the argument into two different movements. The first movement pertains to the act of listening and what it can offer in relation to emotions and testimony. The other concerns opacity in relation to transparency based on the texts of Glissant (1997) and I have argued that the opacity of students as well as of the testimonies from the past, must be preserved if teaching is not exploitative. Through these movements, I view educational possibility in the so-called ambivalent spaces that emotions and testimony can create. Nonetheless, I have observed the value of bringing into teaching testimonies that testify suffering. Testimonies stand between the past and the future, and if testimonies



are not heard in teaching, there is a possibility of silencing and forgetting the wounds created history.

References Agamben, Giorgio. 2008. Remnants of Auschwitz: The witness and the archive. New York: Zone Books. Ahmed, Sara. 2004. The cultural politics of emotion. New  York: Routledge. Ascher, A. (2011). Thinking the Unthinkable as a Form of Dissensus: The Case of the Witness. Transformation, Issue No. 19 Rancière: Politics, Art & Sense. Carniel, Jessica. 2018. [Insert image here]: A reflection on the ethics of imagery in a critical pedagogy for the humanities. Pedagogy, Culture and Society 26(1): 141–155. Chinnery, A. (2013). Caring for the Past: On Relationality and Historical Consciousness. Ethics and Education, 8(3), 253–262. Death of Alan Kurdi. (2016). I Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved from 709932040 Ensor, J. (13:40). “Photo of My Dead Son Has Changed Nothing”, says Father of Drowned Syrian Refugee Boy Alan Kurdi. The Telegraph. Retrieved from. h t t p : / / w w w. t e l e g r a p h . c o . u k / n e w s / 2 0 1 6 / 0 9 / 0 1 / photo-of-my-dead-son-has-changed-nothing-says-father-of-drowned/ Fanon, F. (1967). Black Skin. White Masks. Pluto Press. Felman, S., & Laub, D. (1992). Testimony: Crises of Witnessing in Literature, Psychoanalysis and History. Routledge. Forum för levande historia. (n.d.). Vittnesmål med klassrumsövningar. Retrieved September 14, 2020, from vittnesmal-med-klassrumsovningar Glissant, É. (1997). Poetics of Relation. University of Michigan Press. Glissant, É. (2012). Relationens filosofi. Omfångets poesi. Trans. Kullberg, C. and Sehlberg, J. Glänta. Gubkin, L. (2015). From Empathetic Understanding to Engaged Witnessing: Encountering Trauma in the Holocaust Classroom. Teaching Theology & Religion, 18(2), 103–120. Hållander, M. (2015). Voices from the Past: On Representations of Suffering in Education. Ethics and Education, 10(2), 175–185. Hållander, M. 2017. Det omöjliga vittnandet: Om vittnesmålets pedagogiska möjligheter. Malmö: Eskaton. hooks, b. (1989). Talking Back: Thinking Feminist, Thinking Black. South End Press.



Katz Thor, Rebecka. 2018. Beyond the witness: Holocaust representation and the testimony of images. Three films by Yael Hersonski, Harun Farocki and Eyal Sivan. Stockholm: Art and Theory Publishing. Kishimoto, K., & Mwangi, M. (2009). Critiquing the Rhetoric of “Safety” in Feminist Pedagogy: Women of Color Offering an Account of Ourselves. Feminist Teacher, 19(2), 87–102. Kumashiro, Kevin. 2002. Against repetition: Addressing resistance to anti-­ oppressive change in the practices of learning, teaching, supervising, and researching. Harvard Educational Review 72(1): 67–93. Simon, R. I. (2005). The Touch of the Past: Remembrance, Learning, and Ethics. Palgrave Macmillan. Todd, S. (2003). Learning from the Other: Levinas, Psychoanalysis, and Ethical Possibilities in Education. State University of New York Press. UNHCR. (2016). Mediterranean Death Toll Soars, 2016 Is Deadliest Year Yet. Retrieved from mediterranean-death-toll-soars-2016-deadliest-year.html Walcott, R. (2000). Pedagogy and Trauma: The Middle Passage, Slavery, and the Problem of Creolization. In R. I. Simon, S. Rosenberg, & C. Eppert (Eds.), Between Hope and Despair. Pedagogy and the Remembrance of Historical Trauma. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Wetherell, Margaret. 2012. Affect and emotion: A new social science understanding. London: SAGE. Zembylas, M. (2007). Five Pedagogies, a Thousand Possibilities. Sense Publishers. Zembylas, M. (2015). ‘Pedagogy of Discomfort’ and Its Ethical Implications: The Tensions of Ethical Violence in Social Justice Education. Ethics and Education, 10(2), 163–174.


Witnessing for the Future

Abstract  In this final chapter Hållander concludes the argument of the book by highlighting how testimonies stand between the past and the future and have important things to speak of. If testimonies are not heard in teaching there is a possibility that the wounds of history will be silenced and forgotten. With reference to Agamben’s (Remnants of Auschwitz: The Witness and the Archive, 2008) understanding of how testimony stands between subjects, where one acts as auctor on behalf of the other, Hållander concludes how the pedagogical possibilities of testimony are based on a relational understanding, one that does not separate the different impossible testimonies from each other, as they are, in one sense, inseparable. Hållander further discuss the arrested time in teaching, wherein testimony from the past can interrupt and become a potential time of reflection, and of righting wrongs. Keywords  Auctor • Agamben • Relational witnessing • Pedagogical possibilities

© The Author(s) 2020 M. Hållander, The Pedagogical Possibilities of Witnessing and Testimonies,




Introduction Here, I would like to conclude by returning to the classroom, the students and the meeting with the video clip of Collateral Murder that I mentioned at the start of the book. Bearing this example in mind, how can the pedagogical possibilities of the testimony be formulated? I would like to focus on this question by, in this chapter, summarising and deepening the purpose of the study to look at the pedagogical possibilities of witnessing and testimony, something which I do by focusing on what happens with teaching when one applies a problematised view of witnessing and testimony. On the basis of a theoretical framework based mainly on Agamben’s philosophy, and on the basis of previous research, I have posed three questions to be able to narrow down the study of the book: what are the pedagogical possibilities of the use of testimonies—that are representations of suffering—within teaching? In what way can witnessing enable processes of subjectivity? What can emotions do in the encounter with testimonies? I answer these questions by examining three different aspects of the pedagogical possibilities of witnessing and testimony. First, by examining testimonies as represenations of the past. Secondly,  by examining how witnessing can lead to subjectivity.  Thirdly, by examining the emotions one may experience in meeting with testimonies. These three aspects have problematised the idea of what it means to use testimonies in teaching, something which I would like to delve deeper into here. I will do so, partly, by returning to and expanding various parts of the book, as well as by looking ahead: by posing the question of what it means to enter into the future through witnessing and testimony, a question that I, above all, ask in relation to educational contexts.

Pedagogical Possibility and Biopolitics The pedagogical problematisation of witnessing and testimony has been based on a reading of Agamben’s approach to the concept of possibility (Agamben, 1999). This understanding of possibility has created a theoretical understanding of what it means to be able to do something or to be able to act as an individual or group, and to be able to act as a subject. Based on the existing possibility, unlike the generic possibility, possibility and impossibility are not set against each other, but rather I understand these two phenomena as intertwined (see also chapter 1: Introduction). Impossibility is part of the possibility. Inability is part of the ability. It is from this place of not being able that one can begin the work. The



possibility of (not) being able can have several meanings; from the feeling of (not) being able to act or (not) being able to change one’s own state, or from the feeling of, in an educational situation, (not) being able to count, read, write, etc. Based on Agamben, the question of possibility has also made the question of the subject relevant, since the possibility of being able ultimately is about the question of being—the question of possibility is thus a question of ontology (Agamben, 1999). From a Marxist and biopolitical analysis, in particular through Agamben’s philosophy but also based on Spivak and Ahmed, I have been wanting to highlight how the testimonies do not exist outside of the political, and in Western society more specifically, the capitalist system. When I ask the question of the pedagogical possibilities of witnessing and testimony, I thus do so in relation to this type of analysis of society. Witnessing and testimonies do not exist outside of the society in which they operate, which means that witnessing and testimony are conditional. This is a matter that also becomes relevant when witnessing and testimonies enter the context of teaching, and it has consequences for how the witnessing and the testimony can be understood and what their pedagogical possibilities may be. For example, I have shown how testimonies can serve as a form of control of students’ feelings and perceptions and where testimonies can serve as ways of influencing the view of the society in which the students live. Or how witnessing, to make one’s voice heard, also can take place at one’s own expense. It can also mean that testimonies serve as a way of rebuilding different stereotypical images of different people’s suffering and thereby consolidating prevailing power relations and identities. These conditions that surround witnessing and testimony mean that witnessing can be perceived as both a poetic testimony and as an exploitation or expropriation of already vulnerable people. This boundary between exploitation and a poetic witnessing, as expressed by Ken Chen, may be considered fragile, but it is not, (Chen, 2015) rather it is a boundary that has been, in the words of Mara Lee, “dragen med en skarp svart linje som heter klass och materiella villkor” (“drawn with a sharp black line called class and material conditions”, Lee, 2014, p. 237). Considering witnessing and testimonies as a purely ethical voice, or as a possible way of developing a moral compass to be able to enter into the future is, thus, not enough. It needs to be problematised. In my example of Collateral Murder, the educational purpose was not to teach about the war in Iraq. What could be seen and heard in the classroom was just a small part of the reality that exists. Teaching about the war



using the testimony of Collateral Murder as a starting point would thus not be enough. It would require more in the form of context and through the shared memory, a memory that should also put our “own” involvement under the microscope, for example, the way that Swedish arms exports through the Swedish government or companies in Sweden directly or indirectly supported the war. It is with the shared memory, which problematises and tackles the history, that the responsibility of the interpreters of history is made relevant.

To What Do You Authorise Me? How should we include historical wounds in our teaching? Well, with the shared memory and with the infected wound. At this point in time, the past with its difficulties and contradictions plays too small a role. To relate to the different examples that I have included in the book (there are many more wounds), I would like to say that there is a forgetfulness; a forgetfulness regarding the ruin of wars, regarding the slave workers and the poor in the outskirts of the city and the country, a forgetfulness regarding the many who have drowned along the way while fleeing for their lives. But through these historical voices—who speak or have someone else who speaks on their behalf—the times we live in can be understood in a different way. Through testimonies it is also possible to demonstrate and problematise the poverty that prevails today, the miserable working conditions with time pressure, or the wars, or the inequalities before the law. But we must also be reminded that these voices that emerge have an invisible bottom, in the words of Celan: “No one / bears witness for / the witness” (Celan, 2014, p.  71). Through this answer, with a desire not to forget about historical crimes, I would like to return to the question with which I have studied the testimony based on the representation aspect: what pedagogical possibilities do historical testimonies have to be able to change the present? What I would like to do here is deepen the idea of testimony in the way it was proposed by Agamben. There is a third etymological derivation that Agamben makes with regards to the testimony. A connection that Agamben first discusses in the last chapter of Remnants of Auschwitz. If the two previous witnesses placed themselves as, firstly, a third person (terstis, testis) and, secondly, as a person who has lived through an event from start to finish (supertes), he writes, based on an analysis of the language



and the impossible witnessing, how the witness is the one who predicts. The witness is, through the testimony, an auctor: Auctor signifies the witness insofar as his testimony always presupposes something—a fact, a thing or a word—that preexists him and whose reality and force must be validated or certified. Testimony is thus always an act of an “author”: it implies an essential duality in which an insufficiency or incapacity is completed or made valid. (Agamben, 2008, p. 150)

What I find interesting about this nuanced depiction of the witness and the testimony is the way in which Agamben opens the door for pedagogical possibilities through his analysis of the testimony as auctor. Agamben formulates the possibilities of the testimony partly in terms of the authority being given back to the witness (to acknowledge the witness as subject), and partly in terms of the witness predicting and giving authority to those who are witnessing. The connection between auctor and the witness lies, according to Agamben, in its connection to how author also is an economic word: how the right to buy something is based on someone else, the seller, having authorised it by witnessing the purchase and the action. Agamben’s point here is not, and it is not mine either, to make testimony an economic matter—but rather to emphasise what Agamben formulates: how testimony stands between two subjects where one acts as auctor on behalf of the other (Agamben, 2008, p. 149). There is, thus, a sort of relational giving and taking in this movement. Agamben writes: It is the author who grants the uncertain or hesitant will of subject the impulse or supplement that allows it to be actualized. When we read in Plautus Miles “quid nunc mi auctor es, ut faciam?,” this does not only mean, “What do I advise me to do?” It also means, “To what do you ‘authorize’ me, in what way do you complete my will, rendering it capable of making a decision about certain actions?” (Agamben, 2008, p. 149)

Agamben’s starting point is the paradox of the testimony (as formulated by Levi) about the drowned and the saved witnesses, which Agamben referred to as two impossible testimonies since neither of the two witnesses can tell the true story. The point that Agamben makes here is to turn the question around, to face other questions in the meeting with testimonies. We do not have to ask ourselves the question: is this the truth? But rather ask ourselves the question: “to what do you authorise me to



do? What is interesting here is thus that Agamben does not contradict the uncertainty, the epistemological fragility itself, but rather how this doubt and uncertainty (impossibility) constitutes the basis of authority. How the witness can secure what cannot be secured. Agamben writes: Every creator is always a co-creator, every author a co-author. The act of the auctor completes the act of an incapable person, giving strength of proof to what in itself lacks it and granting life to what could not live alone. (Agamben, 2008, p. 150)

Relating the testimony to authority means that I can put forward an idea about pedagogical possibilities in testimony based on a relational understanding, a relational understanding that does not separate the two impossible testimonies, as they are inseparable: “The survivor and the Muselmann, like the tutor and the incapable person and the creator and his material, are inseparable; their unity-difference alone constitutes testimony” (Agamben, 2008, p. 150). The idea of how these two witnesses are inseparable reformulates the entire idea of the singular witness and the testimony as formulated by Derrida and Celan. Rather it is a merger, a fusion, to use the voice of Benjamin. The voices that take place in the witnessing are thus not only related to others, related to the person or the thing on behalf of which the witness testifies, but one and the same voice. The voices of the drowned exist in the voice of the witness. They echo within it. The voices of the drowned exist in those who speak for them, to return to my example of Alan Kurdi. His testimony becomes relevant through the bodies of others. Alan Kurdi, or the children and adults who lost their lives in the streets of Baghdad, no longer exist, but can be found as echoes within those who testify. Alan Kurdi, and the several thousand others who drowned in the Mediterranean live on in the actions and voices of others. It is based on these voices that we also can act, and they give us authority to act. By writing this based on Agamben, but also by bearing in mind the call not to forget the historical wounds with which I began this section, I come to a conclusion that is close to that which several other researchers have highlighted based on a historical consciousness and what it may mean for the possibility of being able to enter into the future (see: Andersson, 2004; Assmann & Shortt, 2012; Simon, 2005; Simon, Rosenberg, & Eppert, 2000). Because if we do not use these wounds as a starting point we will end up in silence, or colour blindness, or faced with a belief about



a classless society where everyone exists under similar conditions. Just as we judge the abuse of power in the past, the future will judge us. Herein lies a choice. Herein lie possibilities to do something. Therefore, it is of value that teachers incorporate these voices into their teaching, but I emphatically emphasise that there are no shortcuts. I thus have different reservations when it comes to making use of testimonies in teaching, which are about the role of emotions, about the problem of representation, and when and how witnessing as a process owns the possibility for the students to appear as subjects. There are thus two sides to the pedagogical possibility of including testimonies in teaching. On one side, a way to manipulate and play on students’ emotions, their subjectivities, and on the other side, a possibility to have testimonies as a carrier of different voices to be able to understand the historical wounds as well as the times we live in, and from there, based on these voices, to be able to act and enter into the future.

The Arrested Time, Subjectivity As I have mentioned earlier, the question of possibility (and impossibility) is not just epistemological or logical but also ontological. The possibility is thus not only about the question of being able or not being able, but also about the actual subjectivity as such. Thus, the pedagogical possibilities of witnessing are ultimately about subjectivity, which I here want to focus on in relation to temporality. I will here return to the question of how witnessing can enable the processes of subjectivity. In the book, I have distinguished between subjectivity as an ethical becoming and a process of becoming that is about a political, social and situated position, called subject position (Oliver, 2001). This distinction makes it possible to see how a (common) witnessing also can act as a possible force to create awareness of one’s own position in society, such as gender, sexuality, class and ethnicity (and by doing so creating a prerequisite for what Marx refers to as the transition from a class in itself to a class for itself), and from there being able to change the state of things. In the book, I have discussed this distinction based on an analysis that I made based on the testimonies collected in Sara Lidman and Odd Urhbom’s Gruva. In order to deepen the answer to the question about the possibilities that witnessing may have for people to come forward as subjects, I would like to go further here by relating subjectivity to temporality.



Agamben’s descriptions of subjectivity in relation to the coming community are an understanding of temporality. When Agamben writes about the coming subject, which he formulates as a “whatever being”, it is a subject who has the possibility to appear in the coming community. Within the framework of this subjectivity there is thus a direction, a direction coloured by messianism (Benjamin, Paul) and Marxism, and it is directed forward. Towards the time, as he puts it, that remains (Agamben, 2005). This temporality has an ethical character: coloured by solidarity and community. It is a subjectivity—shared as a community—that is placed in the future, but which may enter at any time. Even within this understanding of subjectivity and temporality, Agamben remains in the possibility itself— in what is to come, or may come and thus not in what already is or has become. Possibility, as a force of not being realised, can be understood in terms of an arrested time or by interrupting telos: interrupting the predetermined. I quote Agamben from the book Potentialities: “It [the existence of potentiality] is potentiality that is not simply the potential to do this or that thing but potential to not-do, potential not to pass into actuality.” (Agamben, 1999, p. 180). The existing possibility lies in the actual possibility of not being realised. In other words, by staying, in the arrested time and thereby not becoming embodied or relevant. Based on this understanding, I want to develop how the possibility also can be understood based on the idea of arrested time. This idea of the arrested time, or of the rupture that can interrupt telos, may be of value for teaching that wants to use the shared memory, of two sides, as a starting point. The arrested time makes it possible to interrupt, revise, and perhaps thereby overthrow the predetermined. There are pedagogical possibilities in the arrested time. The question I want to ask in relation to this temporality of the arrested time is: when does this time come, when possibility can take place? This is where Lee’s answer in När andra skriver becomes relevant. Lee describes the arrested time as two things, partly as the threat and partly as an ethical border (Lee, 2014). The arrested time thus carries, already, a two-­sidedness; a two-sidedness that also can appear contradictory. The arrested time, Lee argues, can be the slow movement where the temporality of an ethical meeting with another can take place (an outstretched hand, a friendly word, a glance), just as it can be the nice conversation in the taxi that is abruptly interrupted, as you step out of the car, by a sexist comment. The arrested time can thus just as well appear as a threat, which may include the possibility to step forward as a subject in the meeting with others, to:



“den stumma, lydiga reaktionen, den kroppsliga chocken som gör att en enbart förmår underkasta sig. Och sedan, skammen, ilskan, efteråt: varför sa jag inget? Varför förmådde jag inte göra motstånd?” (“the dumb, obedient reaction, the bodily shock that only enables one to submit to the situation. And then, the shame, the anger, afterwards: why didn’t I say anything? Why wasn’t I able to fight back?”, Lee, 2014, p. 222) Lee puts her finger on the duality of the arrested time, where the possibility places itself in a temporality in which we can actually do something. Where I could have said something in the taxi, yet did not. Where the possibility was not fulfilled, realised, but instead placed itself in the impossibility. Even if there was a will. The pedagogical possibility of the arrested time in relation to subjectivity can be problematised further. Lee poses the question: “skulle hejdandets uppbromsande kraft någonsin kunna ses som en möjlighet?” “could the deaccelerating force of the arrested time ever be seen as a possibility?” Lee answers, using the words of Ahmed, that yes, in these openings there is something that allows for transformation. But at the same time she writes: “Visst. Fint. Fint att tilldelas en plats ibland”, (“Sure. Nice. Nice to be assigned a place sometimes”, Ahmed, 2004; Lee, 2014, p. 223) but that it is not enough. Or rather how this mode of being becomes the very way of life: when will the next racist, sexist or derogatory comment come? Or even worse, when will the repression be incorporated to the extent that this mode of being becomes a condition that is normal: when the view of others (like a figure, a machine, a caricature of a group) also becomes one’s own view of oneself, internalised? If the arrested time means never being comfortable, to constantly remain the stranger, the arrested time would rather mean a mode of: “If you win, you lose”, which is constantly in the making.1 In this form of interruption, the witnessing would not contribute to a subjectivity but rather the opposite. It would mean not being able to step forward as a subject or not being able to change the state of things.

1  In relation to this I come tho think of the possibilities of the splitted tounge, which Franz Fanon speaks of (1967). To speak with the splitted tounge involves learning to speak the language of those who have the power, and through that language speak for those who’s voices are not heard. A splitted tongue that mastered the violence and diplomacy as well as the dialogue. An possibilities that I imagine is both about survival, but also about how one— as a witness—should be able to influence the environment one lives in by creating a third room that the Lord, the one in power, did not foresee.



Subjectivity, along with qualification and socialisation, forms the bones on which teaching and education rest (Biesta, 2011). The subjectivity that can take place in witnessing, through a common witnessing of being able to “say we”, can be of value in teaching, but it can also cause a block. Therefore, a common witnessing where the students are going to bear witness to their wounds and tell their stories is, as Hinsdale writes, (Hinsdale, 2014) not something I am in favour of since such teaching could be a way of provoking (already vulnerable) voices and not taking into account the students’ opacity (Cf. Zembylas, 2015). That being said, I want to write that teaching and the students’ subjectivity are not dependent on the witnessing, there are other ways to go for students to come forward as subjects than through bearing witness of wounds.

The Arrested Time, Again, Teaching Teaching is specific action. It is a type of work where you need to fulfil many requirements, with everything that comes with it, such as school plans, curriculums, schedules, agendas, the students’ state of mind from day to day, how they are feeling, etc. It is also a specific place to look at the world—through literature, stories, facts, testimonies. These various representations create the educational direction. Testimonies can be discussed and processed in an educational context—but this does not mean that I want to take it as far as to say that it can be applied and utilised regardless of how it is being put to use, something which Masschelein and Simons argue (Masschelein & Simons, 2013). Based on my research on the importance of emotions for witnessing and the pedagogical possibilities of the testimony, I do not want to make the students’ emotions the starting point of treating historical wounds. Rather, I want to defend the students’ opacity as mentioned earlier. In order to answer the question of what emotions can do in the meeting with testimonies, I thus argue that emotions, as well as enabling pedagogical possibilities, also can oppose this type of development. The approaches I offer instead are about opacity/transparency and listening. They are about the double movement of letting things be and hacking at the same time—to once again use Spivak’s metaphor (Spivak, 2004). The testimony as a disturbing element—a crisis—is not something that I argue for in teaching. Rather, I emphasise the repetitive form of teaching that revises, and revises again, and where “letting be” and



“hacking” can include putting something into context, questioning and creating a more nuanced picture. Allow me to return to the classroom and the example of Collateral Murder. How can the event be understood based on the idea of the arrested time. One way to view it is through temporality and specifically the rupture or the gap that I experienced there in the classroom. This rupture can be described as an arrested time. A temporal freeze where it was possible to choose different ways. The rupture that existed—the possibility—did not, however, enter into an actuality—at least not a visible one. In the gap there was no pedagogical change. But at the same time there is something bursting and boiling. In the middle of the impossibility. Is this a shortcoming, one might ask? Sure. Absolutely. But at the same time it is also a reality. There are no shortcuts. That being said, I want to return to Agamben who also places the shortcoming and our inability at the centre of the possibility. An understanding that defines knowledge as a form of testing, or in terms of different attempts and how the pedagogical possibilities can be understood as starting or beginning something. Where students can study through different techniques (memorising, dictating, copying, etc.) and how these practices work formatively but also at the same time enable the students to start doing again: that the students can make the practice their own. These practices have no end, as Masschelein and Simons write: The significance of these techniques does not lie in some ultimate end—they are in a sense ‘endless’. Their significance lies precisely in the very experience of being able to begin, which is repeated anew, again and again. In short, it is the experience of restarting so typical of the act of memorization. It is through this repetitive motion that the self of the student takes form; the spoken and written word, but also the numbers become incorporated in the student. (Masschelein & Simons, 2013, p. 55)

Based on Masschelein and Simons, I therefore do not want to formulate the pedagogical possibilities in the form of a single interruption, but rather consider how the arrested time also could be the repetitive action of constantly being able to start, and start over. These different beginnings, interruptions, which Biesta also describes, are always related to other subjects and to the world (Biesta, 2006). It is in the classroom that this repetitive work can take place. The following day, the teacher has the opportunity



to meet the same students, and to start from there again. Open up for discussion, ask the question, how this did turn out? Where can we go from here? It is perhaps also based on this idea that Arendt formulated that (in her case, higher) education has a specific task, and responsibility, to be the place where the interpretation of history and the times we live in can take place. I therefore want to relate this idea of beginnings to what I wrote based on Spivak and her understanding of literary reading. A form of literary reading that also emphasised the repetitive work and the difficulties that lie within: “this texting, the practical pedagogy of it, not in devising the most foolproof theory” (Spivak, 2004, p.  559; see also Hållander, 2015, p. 183). Rather it is the effort that is required—and possible—in teaching, the repetitive work of constantly starting over again and through that entering into the future.

References Agamben, G. (1999). Potentialities: Collected Essays in Philosophy. Stanford University Press. Agamben, G. (2005). The Time that Remains: A Commentary on the Letter to the Romans. Stanford University Press. Agamben, G. (2008). Remnants of Auschwitz: The Witness and the Archive. Zone Books. Ahmed, S. (2004). The Cultural Politics of Emotion. Routledge. Andersson, B. (2004). Vad är historiedidaktik? Några begreppsliga och teoretiska utgångspunkter för ämnesdidaktisk vetenskap, skolnära forskning och lärande i skolan. Institutionen för pedagogik och didaktik, Göteborgs universitet. Assmann, A., & Shortt, L. (Eds.). (2012). Memory and Political Change. Palgrave Macmillan. Biesta, G. (2006). Beyond Learning: Democratic Education for a Human Future. Paradigm Publishers. Biesta, G. (2011). God utbildning i mätningens tidevarv. Liber. Celan, P. (2014). Andningsvändning. Lublin Press. Chen, K. (2015). Authenticity Obsession, or Conceptualism as Minstrel Show. Asian American Writers’ Workshop. Retrieved from authenticity-obsession/. Fanon, F. (1967). Black Skin, White Masks. Pluto Press. Hållander, M. 2015. Voices from the past: On representations of suffering in education. Ethics and Education 10(2): 175–185. 0/17449642.2015.1051853. Hinsdale, M. J. (2014). Witnessing Across Wounds: Toward a Relational Ethic of Healing. Philosophy of Education, 81–89.



Lee, M. (2014). När andra skriver: Skrivande som motstånd, ansvar och tid. Glänta produktion. Masschelein, J., & Simons, M. (2013). In Defence of the School. A Public Issue. E-ducation, Culture & Society Publisher. Oliver, K. (2001). Witnessing: Beyond Recognition. University of Minnesota Press. Simon, R. I. (2005). The Touch of the Past: Remembrance, Learning, and Ethics. Palgrave Macmillan. Simon, R.  I., Rosenberg, S., & Eppert, C. (Eds.). (2000). Between Hope and Despair. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Spivak, G. C. (2004). Righting Wrongs. The South Atlantic Quarterly, 1 2004, nr 103:2/3 (Spring/Summer), 523–81. Zembylas, M. (2015). ‘Pedagogy of Discomfort’ and Its Ethical Implications: The Tensions of Ethical Violence in Social Justice Education. Ethics and Education, 10(2), 163–174.


A Affects, 41, 72n2 Agamben, Giorgio, 1, 8–12, 16, 18–20, 22–28, 23n4, 33, 35, 36, 38–40, 42–47, 46n2, 52, 57–59, 66, 77, 84, 94–98, 100, 103 Agency, 65 Ahmed, Sara, 8, 12, 58, 72n2, 73, 76, 78–80, 82, 83, 88, 89, 95, 101 Alan Kurdi, 12, 71–74, 77, 79, 80, 87–89, 98 Apparatus, 25, 39 Arendt, Hannah, 11, 25, 33–35, 51, 64, 104 Arrested time, 12, 99–104 Auctor, 97, 98 B Biesta, G., 21, 22, 28, 64, 68, 102, 103 Biopolitics, 25, 26, 94–96

C Capitalism, 25, 38 Celan, Paul, 12, 96, 98 Class, x, 25, 32, 32n1, 37, 40, 41, 48, 59, 6, 61, 65, 66, 95, 99 Collateral murder, ix, 2, 9, 94–96, 103 D Derrida, Jacques, 12, 16, 17, 43, 98 Desubjectification, 24, 25 E Emotions, x, 2–4, 6–8, 10, 12, 41, 48, 69, 71–90, 72n2, 94, 99, 102 Ethical, x, 2, 4–6, 8, 11, 22, 23, 24n5, 33, 41–43, 45–47, 50–52, 57, 64, 65, 67, 74, 75, 78, 81, 87, 88, 95, 99, 100 Ethics, x, 5, 22, 57, 81 Existing possibility, 94, 100

 Note: Page numbers followed by ‘n’ refer to notes.


© The Author(s) 2020 M. Hållander, The Pedagogical Possibilities of Witnessing and Testimonies,




F Fanon, Frantz, 84, 101n1 Feelings, vii, x, 2–4, 16, 59, 72n2, 75, 80, 95, 102 Foucault, Michel, 25, 44 Free time, 11, 33, 35–38, 40–42, 51 Freire, Paulo, 62, 76 Future, 24, 24n5, 28, 33–35, 77, 84, 89, 94–104 G Gap, ix, 44, 46, 63, 103 Gates, Henry Louis, 59, 61 Generic possibility, 94 Glissant, Édouard, 8, 12, 73, 76, 84–86, 89 Gruva, 9, 11, 55–57, 59–61, 60n3, 64, 67, 68, 99 H Historical, 2–8, 12, 17, 19, 25, 28, 33, 34, 40, 42, 48, 51, 62, 72, 75, 77, 78, 82, 84, 85, 89, 96, 98, 99, 102 History, x, 2–4, 7, 11, 23, 28, 32–35, 47, 50, 52, 57, 62, 65, 67, 73, 78, 82–84, 87, 90, 96, 104 Hope, viii, 8, 21, 24n5, 45, 76, 85 I Images, x, 2, 5, 12, 32–34, 42, 60, 63, 71, 72, 74, 77–80, 87–88, 95 Impossibility, vii, 8–10, 18, 19, 23n4, 24, 27–28, 43–46, 57–59, 61, 64, 67, 68, 84, 85, 94, 98, 99, 101, 103 Injustice, viii, 6, 12, 16, 18, 40, 41, 57, 61, 66, 72, 73, 75, 77, 86, 89 Intersubjective, 20, 23, 64

J Johnson, Eyvind, 11, 32, 32n1, 33, 50–52, 9 L Lacuna, 44 The Latina Feminist Group, 8, 58–65, 67 Levi, Primo, 19, 43–45, 57, 61, 97 Levinas, Emmanuel, 5, 64, 74, 81 Lidman, Sara, 11, 56, 56n1, 57, 59–61, 67, 9, 99 Listening, 5, 12, 36, 45, 63, 66, 72, 73, 76, 81–83, 86, 89, 102 Literary reading, 49, 50, 104 The Living History Forum, 2–4, 9, 35, 77–78 M Marx, Karl, 84, 99 Marxism, 100 Marxist, 79, 95 Mollenhauer, K., 35–38 N Narrative, 2, 48, 62, 75, 77, 78, 81 O Oliver, Kelly, 8, 59, 64–67, 99 Opacity, 8, 12, 72, 73, 75, 76, 81, 83–86, 89, 102 P Paradox, 11, 19, 20, 33–35, 59, 62, 64, 67, 68, 97 Past, x, 2, 5, 11, 17, 32–34, 42–44, 47, 50, 73, 75, 77, 78, 82, 83, 89, 96, 99



Pedagogical, vii, 4–6, 11, 12, 15–28, 57, 62, 73, 78, 94–96, 103 Pedagogical possibilities, vii, x, 1, 7, 8, 10–12, 15–28, 32, 38, 44, 45, 47, 49–51, 94–103 Pedagogy, 4–8, 11, 16, 20–22, 24n5, 26, 28, 49, 50, 52, 73, 74, 104 Penelope, 9, 11, 32–52 Poetic, 42, 46n2, 52, 58, 59, 84, 95 Political, x, 2, 7, 8, 11, 22, 25, 26, 33, 35, 39, 41–43, 45–47, 50–52, 57–59, 61, 62, 65, 67, 74, 76, 80, 83, 87, 95, 99 Possibilities, vii, 1, 15–28, 32, 56, 73, 94 Potentiality, 100, 16, 22–24, 23n4, 26–28, 43, 45, 46, 46n2, 52, 72, 8 Present, x, 5–7, 9–11, 16, 17, 28, 33, 34, 36, 41–43, 46, 47, 51, 52, 77, 82–84, 96 Profanation, 25, 33, 35, 37–42, 51

Subaltern, 47–49, 49n3, 61, 86 Subjectivity, 7, 8, 10–12, 21–24, 55–69, 79, 94, 99–102 Suffering, 3, 17, 33, 66, 74, 79, 82, 89, 94, 95

R Relational, 12, 20, 56, 62, 63, 73–76, 78–81, 84–86, 89, 97, 98 Relational witnessing, 11, 12, 55–69 Remnant, 11, 43–47, 52, 56, 77 Representation, 1, 2, 7, 8, 10, 11, 18, 32–52, 56, 63, 77, 94, 96, 99, 102

W Waiting, 47–51 Weaving, 9, 32, 33, 47–52 Web, 32–52 The witness, 2, 4–8, 11, 12, 16–20, 40, 42–47, 56–58, 61–63, 65, 68, 77, 86, 96–98, 101n1, 102 Witnessing, vii, viii, x, 1, 2, 5–8, 10–12, 15–28, 32, 42, 43, 46, 51, 52, 55–69, 77, 87, 94–104 Wound, vii, 2, 3, 5–8, 11, 12, 16, 18, 19, 52, 57, 58, 66, 72, 79, 82–85, 89, 90, 96, 98, 99, 102

S Social positions, 6 Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty, 8, 11, 18, 33, 42, 47–49, 49n3, 52, 95, 102, 104

T Teacher, x, 2, 4, 5, 20, 21, 32, 33, 38, 42, 51–52, 73–76, 78, 87, 88, 99, 103 Teaching, vii, x, 2–9, 11, 12, 20, 21, 24, 28, 32–52, 72–78, 83, 86–90, 94–96, 99, 100, 102–104 Testimony, vii, 1, 15, 32, 56, 72, 94 Todd, Sharon, vii, 12, 20, 21, 48, 73–76, 80–82, 89 Translation, 12, 17n3, 23n4, 36, 3n1, 48, 56, 56n1, 57, 59, 60, 62–64, 67, 84, 85 Transparency, 8, 12, 73, 81, 83–86, 89, 102