Learning to Work: Embodying Occupations

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 14:15
Location: Hörsaal 47 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Chris SHILLING, University of Kent, United Kingdom
Philip MELLOR, University of Leeds, United Kingdom
This paper explores how ‘learning to labour’ affects people’s embodied abilities and identities, involving a fundamental education of sensory capacities and dispositions. In so doing, it analyses the transmission and consequences of those ‘embodied pedagogics’ that characterise contemporary occupations.  The notion of body or embodied pedagogics emerged as part of a growing interdisciplinary concern since the 1980s with how society influenced people’s bodies as well as their 'minds', and has been defined as ordered sets of practices and knowledges that seek to cultivate skills, values and sensory as well as cognitive orientations to the environment.  We first explore the human properties central to learning, in order to highlight the range of capacities addressed by these pedagogics, through an engagement with John Dewey’s writings on the subject. What is particularly useful about Dewey’s work, is that by identifying the contrasting properties of (abstract) thinking and (immanent) sensing he suggests that knowledge and learning can possess a doubled character  Building on this analysis, we then explore how occupations seek to educate these embodied capacities, focusing on their need to synchronise cognitive,  sensory and emotional knowledge with physical action in order to facilitate particular tasks. Here, through case-studies of education within medicine, the infantry and dance, we explore the contrasting ways in which occupational pedagogics attempt to combine movement, sensing and thought into particular ‘techniques of the body’.  These examples illustrate some of the various ways in which learning occurs, but they also enable us to explore how individuals come to experience the world differently. In seeking to harness together particular patterns of sensory knowledge, emotion and thought, the contrasting embodied pedagogics and techniques associated with specific jobs create differences between people, doubling and multiplying further the contrasts and varieties that exist between them.