Surviving Academic Whiteness: Perspectives from the Pacific

A new article from Māori and Pasifika hoamahi (colleagues) that I contributed to (free e-copies here):

This article begins by accepting that strategic ignorance, or agnotology, underpins academic practice and perpetuates the systemic disadvantage experienced on a global level by non-White and Indigenous academics and university students. Agnotology is a post-millennial word, coined by Robert Proctor (2008) for the concept and study of ‘managed ignorance’ that many commentators see exploding, along with the availability of information in the post-digital age, since, as the saying goes, ‘the more you know, the more you don’t know.’ Before ‘agnotology,’ the phrase ‘passion for ignorance’ (originally attributed to French psychoanalyst Lacan) was applied by Alison Jones (2001) to explain the reactions of New Zealand European university students, who resisted the idea that there could be limits to their (Western) knowledge. The disjunction between the two words ‘passion’ and ‘ignorance’ makes this phrase powerful, especially in relation to university education, which is assumed to be passionately against ignorance (Stewart, 2021). University pedagogy is based on the Hegelian idea of an open terrain of knowledge, i.e., that knowledge is there for the asking, and fits into a pre-existing Cartesian or Western/scientific paradigm or schema of reality. This attitude is evident in the assumed solution to the challenges presented by the new national teacher standards for te reo Māori in Aotearoa-New Zealand: demanding provision of the ‘missing’ teacher knowledge, even though that knowledge has been there all the time.

Stewart, G. T., MacDonald, L., Matapo, J., Fa’avae, D. T. M., Watson, B. K. I., Akiu, R. K., … & Sturm, S. (2021). Surviving academic whiteness: Perspectives from the Pacific. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 55(2), 141-152.


The battle for Ipu Pakore, 1730

(From Karanama Ruru’s “Auckland’s hidden pā sites and the fight for preservation” on Stuff, 6 Jan 2023)

At the site of the present-day public library and St Joseph’s Catholic Church in Grey Lynn [map], lies a significant battleground on central Auckland’s Arch Hill [more about Arch Hill].

Ngāti Whātua hoped to take the Ipu Pakore spring (in present day Grafton), however Waiohua, a confederation of hapū under the leadership of paramount Rangatira Kiwi Tāmaki, stood in the way, according to Te Ākitai Waiohua history.

A large battle ensued in 1730 between the two forces at Arch Hill. Ngāti Whātua won, and Waiohua abandoned the pā for a last stand at Māngere.

Arch Hill is a pā site and was the location of a large battle between Ngāti Whātua o Kaipara and Waiohua.
Arch Hill is a pā site and was the location of a large battle between Ngāti Whātua o Kaipara and Waiohua [this image shows the western entrance to Arch Hill Scenic Reserve].

By 1755 the last Waiohua pā was taken in Tāmaki Makaurau and the confederation retreated to the Waikato while Ngāti Whātua established mana whenua over Tāmaki Makaurau.

Waiohua women married into Ngāti Whātua o Kaipara, according to tribal history.

Learning for Deleuze: The Pedagogy of the Concept

Learning must be ethical: it is about amor fati, i.e., “to become worthy of what happens to us, and thus to will and release the event, to become the offspring of one’s own events, and thereby to be reborn, to have one more birth, and to break with one’s carnal birth [Arendt: natality!] – to become the offspring of one’s events and not of one’s actions, for the action is itself produced by the offspring of the event” (LoS 149-150)

Re concept-creation: “the concept is not given, it is created; it is to be created. It is not formed but posits itself in itself – it is a self-positing. Creation and self-positing mutually imply each other because what is truly created, from the living being to the work of art, thereby enjoys a self-positing of itself, or an autopoetic characteristic by which it is recognised” (WiP 11).

N.B. “in philosophy, concepts are only created as a function of problems which are thought to be badly understood or badly posed (pedagogy of the concept)” (WiP 16)

Re a pedagogy of the concept: it is “to analyze the conditions of creation as factors of always singular moments” (WiP 12)

“The relativity and absoluteness of the concept are like its pedagogy and its ontology, its creation and its self-positing, its ideality and its reality – the concept is real without being actual, ideal without being abstract. The concept is defined by its consistency, its endoconsistency [i.e., that of its components or parts] and exoconsistency [i.e., that of its relation to other concepts], but it has no reference: it is self-referential; it posits itself and its object at the same time as it is created. Constructivism unites the relative and absolute” (WiP 22)

DR 22: “learning [l’apprentissage, from apprendre, ‘to learn, to teach,’ from Latin apprehendere, ‘to take hold of, grasp,’ i.e., ‘to learn’] takes place not in the relation between a representation and an action (reproduction of the Same) but in the relation between a sign and a response (encounter with the Other)” – and signs involve heterogeneity in three ways:

  1. in (or from) the object that bears them (which is of another “order”) (differenciation)
  2. in themselves (i.e. because of their ideality, i.e., virtuality) (differentiation)
  3. in the response it elicits, which movement does not resemble its movement (counter-actualisation/dramatisation).

N.B. “Learning is essentially concerned with signs. Signs are the object of a temporal apprenticeship, not of an abstract knowledge.  There is no apprentice who is not ‘the Egyptologist’ of something. One becomes a carpenter only by becoming sensitive to the signs of wood, a physician by becoming sensitive to the signs of disease. Vocation is always predestination with regard to signs. To learn is first of all to consider a substance, an object, a being as if it emitted signs to be deciphered, interpreted. Everything that teaches us something emits signs; every act of learning is an interpretation of signs” (P&S 4).

DR 23: “The movement of the swimmer does not resemble that of the wave, in particular, the movements of the swimming instructor which we reproduce on the sand bear no relation to the movements of the wave, which we learn to deal with only by grasping the former in practice as signs. That is why it is so difficult to say how someone learns: there is an innate or acquired practical familiarity with signs, which means that there is something amorous – but also something fatal – about all education. We learn nothing from those who say: ‘Do as I do.’ Our only teachers are those who tell us to ‘do with me,’ and are able to emit signs to be developed in heterogeneity rather than propose gestures for us to reproduce. In other words, there is no ideo-motivity, only sensory-motivity.

“When a body combines some of its own distinctive [remarquable] points with those of a wave, it espouses the principle of repetition which is no longer that of the Same, but involves the Other – involves difference, from one wave and one gesture to another, and carries that difference through the repetitive space thereby constituted. To learn is indeed to constitute this space of an encounter with signs …”

Vs the orthodox master-teacher: “According to this infantile prejudice, the master sets a problem, our task is to solve it, and the result is accredited true or false by a powerful authority” (DR 158)

Cf. Doing philosophy is not to “repeat what they [the philosophers] said [but] to do what they did,” i.e. “create concepts for problems that necessarily change” (WiP 28).

DR 164: “Learning is the appropriate name for the subjective acts carried out when one is confronted with the objectivity [objecticity”?] of a problem (Idea [as structure-event-sense (DR 191)]), whereas knowledge designates only the generality of concepts or the calm possession of a rule enabling solutions.”

DR 165: “To learn is to enter into the universal of the relations which constitute the Idea, and into their corresponding singularities.”

N.B. the Idea of the sea “is a system of liaisons or differential relations between particles and singularities corresponding to the degrees of variation among these relations – the totality of the system being incarnated in the real movement of the waves.”

“To learn to swim is to conjugate the distinctive points of our bodies with the singular points of the Objective Idea in order to form a problematic field. This conjugation determines for us a threshold of consciousness at which our real acts are adjusted to our perceptions of the real relations, thereby providing a solution to the problem” (= an “education of the senses”)

N.B. the “conjugation” that marks learning is why human beings and “nature” often seem to co-individuate: “problematic Ideas are precisely the ultimate elements of nature and the subliminal objects of little perceptions. As a result, ‘learning’ always takes place in and through the unconscious, thereby establishing the bond of a profound complicity between nature and mind” (see

“We never know in advance how someone will learn: by means of what loves someone becomes good at Latin, what encounters make them a philosopher, or in what dictionaries they learn to think.”

“There is no more a method for learning that there is for finding treasures.”

Learning involves “a violent training, a culture or paideïa which affects the entire individual” – via a mediator (intercesseur) (N, 121). Culture (becoming learned) is thus an “involuntary adventure, the movement of learning which links a sensibility, a memory and then a thought” (DR 165-166).

DR 192: “the Idea is not the element of knowledge but that of an infinite ‘learning,’ which is of a different nature of knowledge. For learning evolves entirely in the comprehension of problems as such, in the apprehension and condensation of singularities and in the composition of ideal events and bodies. Learning to swim or learning a foreign language means composing the singular points of one’s own body or one’s own language with those of another shape or element, which tears us apart but also propels us into a hitherto unknown and unheard-of world of problems.”

DR 194: “learning may be defined in two complementary ways, both of which are opposed to representation in knowledge: learning is either a matter of penetrating the Idea, its varieties and distinctive points, or a matter of raising a faculty to its disjoint transcendent exercise, raising it to that encounter and that violence which are communicated to the others.”

N.B. “philosophy needs not only philosophical understanding, through concepts, but a non-philosophical understanding, rooted in percepts and affects” (N, 139)

DR: Difference and Repetition

LoS: Logic of Sense

N: Negotiations

WiP: What Is Philosophy?

everyday annotation


Last week I stumbled across the book Annotation, written by Remi Kalir and Antero Garcia. As the title suggests, the book is all about the history and practices of annotating texts. And probably because the book is from the MIT Press, the authors don’t stop at books and papers – they also tackle how digital technologies offer new possibilities for annotation. They consider how annotation might be used in the interests of open scholarship and open government.

Kalir and Garcia see annotation as one way that readers respond to texts. Not the only way of course, as copious memo-makers can attest. They say “Annotation is a way that readers talk with their texts, to their texts, about and beyond texts and within and through and through texts” (p. xii). The authors offer a generous take on annotation – seeing it ranging from underlining, and redacting to making extended commentary…

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Colonization of all forms

Stewart, G. T., Hogarth, M., Sturm, S., & Martin, B. (2022). Colonization of all forms. Educational Philosophy & Theory. Advanced online publication.

Victor Te Paa from

Colonization occurs in many fields, from the scientific to the philosophical, and involves all forms of life including flora, fauna and micro-organisms. All these forms of life can colonize or be colonized by others. The various processes of colonization connect in new and deadly ways in the current pandemic of COVID-19: on both sides of the Tasman Sea, Māori and Indigenous Australians are faring the worst in terms of illness and death as ethnic groups relative to the national populations. It is already colonized peoples who are being hit hardest by the colonizing viral pathogen (McLeod et al., 2020; Power et al., 2020). And this epidemic is but the latest in a series of epidemics since the arrival of Europeans in these lands, each of which has impacted disproportionately on the Indigenous populations there (see Crosby, 2015). For example, the Māori death rate in the 1918 influenza epidemic was eight times higher than that for Pākehā (Gooch, 2021). The skewed rates by ethnicity of COVID-19 illness and death signal a broader lack of progress towards social justice in these societies. Here, in response to the keynote of Melitta Hogarth in the PESA 2021 online conference (PESA, 2021), we address ‘colonization’ as an antecedent concept that calls into being the identity concept of the ‘Indigenous’ (Stewart, 2018). Our title bears a double meaning, referring both to the many levels and processes of colonization and to the myriad forms of life, human and more-than-human, affected by colonization in the world today. We consider how colonization operates in its many guises and on its various targets, from the biological, to the economic, to the linguistic, to the philosophical. All these processes of colonization play a part in understanding what is at stake in identifying as Indigenous today….

Kindness as Water in the University

Something I wrote with Alys Longley and Caroline Yoon on kindness as kinship (or alliance) is now available open source:

If kindness were a thing, what would it look like? A rose without thorns? A cat without claws? Acts of kindness are often associated with feelings of warmth and softness: things that makes us feel comfortable, cared for. When we think of kindness as a form of activism, however, we find ourselves likening it to water: a liquid body of micro-resistances that can carve out routes in rock. As academics working in the often unkind institutional context of the neoliberal university, we experience kindness as an activism that is flowing, that pools around and seeps into the solid form of the neoliberal university, being shaped by and shaping it. Such kindness could be viewed as weak, when up against strong institutional structures and policies. Yet we find value (and even power) in the weakness of kindness, a gesture that emboldens us to move away from anthropocentric, proprietary and competitive modes of relating to others in the university, towards relations with them that are multi-specific, non-proprietary and collaborative. This article explores a liquid ethics of kindness through interleaving the forms of essay, story and poem: one apparently stable, the others flowing around and through it.

To see or be seen? The grounds of a place-based university

Figure 1. Old Government House and lawn from the grove of oaks planted for the 1869 visit of Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh.

The first paragraph of a new essay by Stephen Turner and me:

We ask after the grounds of knowledge in the place now known as “the University of Auckland” (or Te Whare Wānanga o Tāmaki Makaurau). We take as our starting point the literal grounds of our University, which establishes the parameters of what counts as knowledge through the grounding provided by its faculties, schools, and disciplines. We ask about the University’s provenance, about the grounds it has secured for its functions—teaching, research, and service—and about the “built pedagogy” of its architecture and environs (Sturm & Turner, 2011). To do so, we read into the University the history of its own construction, in order to get at the grounds of university-based knowledge more generally. The remit that Spinoza gives us to do so is partly supported by the University of Auckland’s own aspiration to world excellence, which makes it a university just like any other aspiring world-excellent university, one which can stand in for the university in general, for the “idea of the university” today (Newman, 1996; Jaspers, 1959; Habermas, 1987). Indeed, the world-excellent university opens itself to the generic drive of all-inclusive or “transcendental capitalism” (de Cauter, 2002: 273). We argue that the optics of a Spinozan radical enlightenment enables us to ask after the grounds of knowledge, to ask what the university makes visible, and what, at the same time, is occluded by this visibility. 

The full essay appears in an Interstices special issue on Spinoza in the Pacific:

On digital attention (via The Manifesto for Teaching Online)

[T]he Manifesto … is a Call to Attention… (Sean Sturm)

Bernard Stiegler, in ‘Relational Ecology and the Digital Pharmakon’ (2012), reminds us that attentional spaces like that opened by teaching online have an ambivalent, or ‘pharmacological’ quality. If teaching online is perceived by many in higher education as a cure for certain ills — like, for example, a perceived decline in ‘student engagement’ or the ‘relevance’ of higher education, or the supposed ‘ineffectiveness’ of the lecture as pedagogy, or simply ‘spatial constraints’ — it is a cure that can kill … because it is so often conceived of as digitally capturing the attention of students. Bayne et al.’s Manifesto for Teaching Online (2020) thus calls us to attend carefully to digital attention.

Paying Attention

The Manifesto primarily conceives of digital attention as a kind of presence. Students attend, or have ‘access’ to, online classes on a ‘digital campus’, as they might attend offline classes on a ‘physical campus’. And they are asked to pay attention to their learning, which attention is monitored by their teachers and the institution algorithmically and analytically. (The word monitor appears 31 times in The Manifesto, and the word surveillance, 75 times.) Attention — and the attendees, but also the attenders — thus becomes subject to a cost–benefit calculus that trades in a kind of ‘hyper attention’, as Hayles (2007) dubs it: hyper- as in online, but also hyper- as in excessive.

Students and staff trade information with and about each other: students want information instantly (e.g. via access to academics or feedback against learning outcomes specified in advance); staff want information all the time (e.g. via monitoring attendance or continuous assessment) — and both want as much as they need. And this exchange of cognitive capital is facilitated by digital technology. The Manifesto thus reminds us that ‘we should attend to the materialities of digital education’ (Bayne et al. 2020: 19), that the mantra of digital education — and cognitive capitalism per se (Moulier-Boutang 2011) — is attention pays.

Careful Attention

But, as the 13th maxim of The Manifesto, ‘Algorithms and analytics re-code education: pay attention!’ (Bayne et al. 2020: 59), reminds us, such paying attention is different from the ‘deep attention’ (Hayles 2007: 187) that has been the norm in education for centuries, as exemplified in the close reading (Love 2013) and ‘slow scholarship’ (Berg and Seeber 2016) beloved of the humanities. As against the vigilant attention demanded by today’s digital university, for example, the ‘multi-task[ing]’ expected of students or being ‘responsive’ required of staff (Bayne et al. 2020: 28, 23), Hayles (2007: 193) recommends a ‘synergistic combination of hyper and deep attention’. Such attention might involve digitally interactive teaching or reading digital media deeply [Bayne et al. (2020: 33, 49) call the former ‘multimodality’ and the latter ‘playful critique’].

But I would also recommend careful digital attention — not so much the ‘careful monitoring’ of learning and teaching or algorithms and analytics that The Manifesto proposes (Bayne et al. 2020: 89), but rather careful critique, or ‘hypercritique’ (Stiegler and Ross 2017: 390). Such critique is not only self-critical (Gasché 2007), but also ‘thinks’ — or ‘cares about and cares for’ — ‘the limits of thinking … under the condition of exosomatization’. It cares about what happens to human thinking when we outsource it to tools, be they analogue or digital, as humans by nature do (Stiegler and Ross 2017: 390). This is the true call to attention implicit in The Manifesto: that we who inhabit the digital university must carefully attend to how digital attention can both automate us (short-circuit our collective individuation) and augment us (generate circuits of collective individuation).

The full article is available here:

Reference list

Bayne, S., Evans, P., Ewins, R., Knox, J., & Lamb, J. (2020). The manifesto for teaching online. MIT Press.

Berg, M., & Seeber, B. K. (2016). The slow professor: Challenging the culture of speed in the academy. University of Toronto Press.

Gasché, R. (2007). The honour of thinking: Critique, theory, philosophy. Stanford University Press.

Hayles, N. K. (2007). Hyper and deep attention: The generational divide in cognitive modes. Profession, 2007, 187-199.

MacKenzie, A., Bacalja, A., Annamali, D., Panaretou, A., Girme, P., Cutajar, M., … & Gourlay, L. (2021). Dissolving the dichotomies between online and campus-based teaching: A collective response to The Manifesto for Teaching Online (Bayne et al. 2020)Postdigital Science & Education [online first article].

Moulier-Boutang, Y. (2011). Cognitive capitalism. Polity.

Stiegler, B., & Ross, D. (2017). What is called caring? Beyond the AnthropoceneTechné: Research in Philosophy & Technology21(2–3), 386–404.

Stiegler, B. (2012). Relational ecology and the digital pharmakonCulture Machine13, 1-19.

Notes on note-making: Introduction

Not(h)ing here

The introduction to the special issue of Educational Philosophy and Theory on note-making, edited by Lavinia Marin, Boris Vlieghe and me, has just been published. Here is the opening passage:

Note-taking – or, better, note-making – takes diverse forms (from scribing on a whiteboard or flipchart, to summarizing or responding to a lecture on paper or a laptop, to annotating on an analog or digital text) and takes place at all levels of education (from primary school to university). But it has been largely neglected by the philosophy of education, while being taken up by the learning sciences and other positivist approaches that predominantly see it as an instrument of learning (see Kiewra et al., 1991; Kobayashi, 2006; Mueller & Oppenheimer, 2014; Reed et al., 2016). In part, this is because note-making is a largely invisible practice that tends to disappear into its instrumentality, i.e., because it tends to be seen as serving ends other than its own; in part, this is because it has not often been treated as a philosophical topic of inquiry in the study of education. With the recent philosophical interest in educational technicity (e.g., in the work of Bernard Stiegler or Yuk Hui), which echoes the work of 20th-century scholars of media (e.g., Ivan Illich, Vilem Flusser, Friedrich Kittler, Donna Haraway, Katherine Hayles), the philosophy of education has belatedly turned its attention to the role of mediation in educational practices, digital mediation, in particular (e.g., in the work of Catherine Adams, Sian Bayne, Norm Friesen, Amanda Fulford, Naomi Hodgson, Petar Jandrić, Jeremy Knox, Anna Kouppanou and Stefan Ramaekers, to name just a few – and see Fulford et al. (2016) special issue on Technologies of Reading and Writing).

This special issue aims to explore what is educational in the seemingly humble gesture of making notes: not only how and why the practice of note-making is educative in and of itself, but also what it says about education as such. The contributions to the issue each highlight different aspects of note-making and approach it differently, but all assume that note-making is an educational practice that merits philosophical study. Interestingly, they mostly focus on note-making as a non-digital practice (putting aside the use of laptops for note-making in class), perhaps because most were written prior to the great digitisation ushered in by educational institutions’ responses to the COVID-19 pandemic….

The introduction is available for open access download from (The articles from the special issue are still available under “Latest articles” on the journal homepage.)

Response-ability in video research with children

What follows is my open review included in Peters, M. A., White, E. J., Besley, T., Locke, K., Redder, B., Novak, R., Gibbons, A., Tesar, M., & Sturm, S. (2020). Video ethics in educational research involving children: Literature review and critical discussion. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 53(9), 863-880.

The problem of the ethics of using video in educational research involving children addressed in this paper opens up two fields of inquiry: on the norms of research ethics, in particular, what they preclude; and on the nature of the digital archive, in particular, how it can trouble our concept of research ethics.

Scopic vs haptic seeing

As to the first field: the norms of research ethics – the oft-stated tetrad of autonomy, justice, beneficence and non-maleficence – are usually couched in the language of compliance, not philosophy, in part, because ethics committees focus most often on the how, not the why, of research. With educational research involving video and children, this means that the committees tend to concern themselves with how its methods address issues of power (coercion, consent and the duty of care) and privacy (anonymity and confidentiality). And, in keeping with the normative assumption of research ethics that researchers and their subjects are rational agents, this means that they tend to assume that research subjects are sovereign human beings – including children as minors (non-human animals are a different category) – who communicate primarily through speech. Several contributors to the paper frame their legitimate concerns about the ethics of using video in educational research involving children in these humanist and logocentric terms. But what does this speciesist ethical imaginary preclude?

As to the second field: the digital archive is usually understood in terms of how it differs from the textual archive, for example, as persistent and faithful (relative to printed matter); easily shareable and searchable (and thus risky); and both user-created (prosumerist) and automated (algorithmic). For ethics committees, this difference demands regulation to ensure the “data sovereignty” of research subjects (and researchers), lest they lose control of their words and so much more. Several contributors to the paper frame the ethics of using video in educational research involving children in this way. But how does the digital archive trouble this textualist concept of research ethics?

I – or the “we” that is the digital (mediatised and haptic) assemblage creating this text with digits, eyes and keys; notions, notes and noises; tea, wax-eyes and heavy early summer shrubs and skies – think otherwise. By way of an answer to the questions posed above, what seems lost in this paper is (digital) video’s potential for co-creation, or “composition” (Massumi, 2011, p. 12) that enjoins the more-than-human and the unspoken – and thus for problematising our speciesist ethical imaginary and textualist concept of research ethics. We look not to the “responsibilization” (Rose, 1999) of research ethics – whereby the researcher takes on a burden of care for the risk to the research subject as a sovereign human being – but to its “response-ability” (Barad, 2012, p. 208): how it can open up new “techniques of existence” (Massumi, 2011, p. 14). We see research ethics as ethical insofar as it allows us to evaluate “‘what we do, [and] what we say, in relation to the ways of existing involved,’ and in relation to the kinds of potentials and capacities that those ways of existing affirm” (Hickey-Moody & Malins, 2007, p. 3, citing Deleuze, 1995, p. 100). Indeed, we would go further: research is ethical insofar as it allows “strengthens our response-abilities” to other-than-human beings through other-than-textual means (after Haraway, 2016, p. 29) – which, of course, is risky, but not care-less. (For response-ability at work, see Lorimer, 2013 and De Freitas, 2015.)

Barad, K. (2012). On touching: The inhuman that therefore I am. differences23(3), 206–223.

De Freitas, E. (2015). Classroom video data and the time-image: An-archiving the student body. Deleuze Studies9(3), 318–336.

Deleuze, G. (1995). Negotiations, 1972–1990. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.

Haraway, D. J. (2016). Staying with the trouble: Making kin in the Chthulucene. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Hickey-Moody, A., & Malins, P. (2008). Introduction: Gilles Deleuze and four movements in social thought. In A. Hickey-Moody, & P. Malins (Eds.), Deleuzian encountersStudies in contemporary social issues (pp. 1­–24). Basingstoke: Palgrave McMillan.

Lorimer, J. (2013). More-than-human visual analysis: Witnessing and evoking affect in human-nonhuman interactions. In J. Ringrose & B. Coleman (Eds.), Deleuze and research methodologies (pp. 61–78). Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Massumi, B. (2011). Semblance and event: Activist philosophy and the occurrent arts. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Rose, N. (1999). Powers of freedom: Reframing political thought. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.