Horizon for a new vision: interdependence in Adult Education
In recent dialogues, we have gone beyond sharing experiences as we described in Buddyscapes #1. Our sharing has taken on new purpose as research: to reflexively interpret this sharing of our experiences. Just as our individual landscapes differ, so do our theoretical frameworks.
Buddyscapes is an ongoing “transnational” research project conducted by two researchers – a woman, and a man with dissimilar backgrounds and diverse age – that are living in different countries: Italy (Silvia) and UK/USA (Tom).
Chatting and sharing pictures by WhatsApp represents a cross-borders experience where the researchers are involving interactions across the nation-states’ borders. For Silvia this process has created a space for dialogue around the interdependence between humans and the more-than-human world and what the systemic thinkers called co-dependency links (Maturana and Varela, 1980). Looking at photographs taken for each other has over the months created a kind of bond.
According to the feminist bell hooks “we can celebrate and honour communitarianism and interdependence […] by affirming our connection to the world community on a daily basis.” (2022, p. 124 Silvia’s translation from the Italian version of All about love, 2001). But how is it done? The author suggests that in order to make choices that affirm our interconnectedness with others, it is necessary to hone one’s awareness–that is, to cultivate one’s capacity for critical analysis that enables one to understand how to care for oneself and others with commitment, trust, responsibility, and respect, and to always be willing to learn.
In describing methods of critical educational research, Cohen et al (2017, p. 53) cites Gadamer’s (1975, p. 273) thinking that it is ‘the fusion of horizons between participants’ which is the foundation of such emancipatory research. Similarly, Laverty (2003, p. 21) quotes Koch (1995, p. 835):
Hermeneutics invites participants into an ongoing conversation, but does not provide a set methodology. Understanding occurs through a fusion of horizons which is a dialectic between the pre-understandings of the research process, the interpretive framework and the sources of information.
In The Beautiful Risk of Education, responsibility is conceived as occurring in the events in which ‘I am a non-interchangeable I’ (Levinas 1985, p. 101, cited by Biesta 2013, p. 21). Within the scope of this project, such irreplaceability is demonstrated for me in Silvia’s unique position, which she reveals in her photographs. No one else is standing in her situation—temporal, spatial and axiological (Holquist 2002, p. 152). Each photo is a documentation of her irreplaceable place, drawing on all her experience, her judgement—what Biesta calls her virtuosity, discoverable especially ‘through life history’ (Biesta 2013, p. 136). By her giving this to me—and, in return, my giving her my situation—there opens up the opportunity of a shared horizon, of directing our gaze in a mutually gifted direction.