Theses Doctoral

The Distortion of Discussion

Backer, David I.

This dissertation addresses a common, but troubling, educational interaction: when a facilitator (whether teacher, professor, or organizer) announces that a discussion will take place about some subject or question, but proceeds to speak at length and field questions regarding that subject. In this case, a controlled and unequal form of interaction known as recitation has occurred, though the interaction was called a "discussion" at the outset. Since discussion, as a form of interaction, connotes democracy, equality, and freedom, this interaction (where recitation passes for discussion) is distorted.
After a survey of discussion's many pedagogical meanings, a Marxist theoretical approach--primarily drawing from Louis Althusser and Valentin Voloshinov--is used to critique the distortion of discussion. From the Voloshinovian perspective, the aforementioned distortion composes and iterates the social formation known as neoliberal capitalism. A psychoanalytic theoretical approach is then used to propose a new concept of discussion that works against this neoliberal distortion, one founded on Jacques Lacan's early concept of dehiscence. The dissertation concludes with suggestions for dehiscent facilitation practices, calling for greater emphasis on the form of interaction (as opposed to content) when working for social and political change.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Philosophy and Education
Thesis Advisors
Laverty, Megan
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
July 7, 2014