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Title: Politics, education and the imagination in South African and Brazilian student-led mobilisations (2015-16)
Author: Platzky Miller, Joshua James
ISNI:       0000 0004 8508 6180
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2020
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When students contest an education system they experience as oppressive, what do they imagine could exist instead? This dissertation explores the intersection of politics, education, and the imagination amongst students who mobilised in Brazil and South Africa during the 2015-2016 protest waves. The study focuses on how students learnt from their activism, reimagining both education and society more widely. In Brazil, it focuses on the activity of high school students in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro during the 'Primavera Secundarista' (Student Spring). Here, primarily through school occupations, students fought to keep their schools open, supported their striking teachers, and called attention to a crumbling public school system. Simultaneously, they challenged various forms of oppression and questioned the purpose of schooling in an unequal, exploitative society. In South Africa, it focuses on university students in Johannesburg and Cape Town during '#FeesMustFall' and affiliated campaigns. These students exposed problems of university access and funding, decolonising education, and exploitative labour practices in universities, particularly outsourcing workers. They questioned the ‘post-Apartheid’ social order, continued racism and racialised capitalism, and how universities reproduce these conditions. The dissertation draws on 9 months of fieldwork across four cities, primarily encompassing interviews with student participants and staff working in solidarity, documents and statements produced by participants, and both journalistic and academic articles that have reflected on these processes. It tracks the precursors to and eruption of the mobilisations, how the students involved reconfigured existing coalitions and groups, ran their own educational projects, and in the process challenged ideas and practices of education, thereby shaping their own perspectives. Drawing on literature about the imagination and social movement learning, I argue that students reimagined education conceptually and practically. They challenged the existing education systems, while addressing their experiences of alienation, marginalisation, and exclusion. In doing so, they constructed dialogical, thoughtful spaces of teaching and learning, interrogating the educational system in which they were embedded. Students who took part in politicised collective action over 2015-16 were thus shaped by their experiences, emerging with different perspectives on education and society.
Supervisor: Abdelrahman, Maha Sponsor: University of Cambridge
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Politics ; Education ; South Africa ; Brazil ; Decolonisation ; Social Movements ; Student Movements ; Imagination ; Universities ; Higher Education ; Secondary Education ; Critical Pedagogy ; Political Philosophy ; Social Epistemology ; Epistemic Injustice ; #FeesMustFall ; #RhodesMustFall ; Primavera Secundarista ; Student Occupations ; Social Reproduction ; Rupture ; Solidarity ; Curriculum Reform ; African Studies ; Latin American Studies ; Comparative Politics