This book sets a course for redirecting the forces of globalization, and as a consequence, the effects of the Anthropocene, through transversal thought experiments, that reinterpret what education can do in the present situation:
Principles of Transversality in Globalization and Education
Edited by David R. Cole & Joff P.N. Bradley.
The challenge for transversality in education today
This volume, Principles of Transversality in Globalization and Education, presents a challenge to think transversality in a way that is both responsible and liberating; it gives us a transversality for popular emancipation, and not for subordination to profit. The stakes of the essays collected within are clear; we might identify two incompatible definitions of this term. While one approach implements a new flexibility, but subordinated to the profit motive and marketable skills, the other promises a radical re-thinking of education across the globe. The authors present compelling new theory and practice of liberation, focused around the second option, as well as delimiting our contemporary challenges in education and globalization through practical examples of transversality.
Our moment might seem to be one in which transversality is a broadly accepted method and goal, rather than a subversive or novel proposition. In business management literature, it is now common to call for an end to isolated departments of production and circulation. Institutional silos are considered inefficient, wasteful, and slow; rather, the pressures of a global economy require networks of communication and integration, with the potential for contingent interactions and frequent points of collaboration between groups and individuals with diverse competencies. Management consultants have become experts at reorganization measures around problem-solving, aimed at matters of general import. These consultants invoke transversality as the name for this new form of immanent, networked institutional structure; one in which different departments are not opaque to one another, but rather are capable of diverse and supple modes of interaction.
This new thinking on organization mirrors a transformation in the expected character of the labor force. Rather than training toward a particular specialized skill, labor in the new millennium must be prepared to constantly adapt to new markets and new technologies. Labor is no longer geared toward a fixed outcome or role in the process of production; rather, service and manufacture are intertwined. Different forms of knowledge and the ability to disseminate information are themselves assets or products to be sold or purchased. The leading edge of the economy, as embodied by firms such as Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon, then, appears to act according to an understanding of transversality; their core competencies are dispersed and embedded, rather than localized, fixed, or dependent on a particular resource or purpose. These firms seem to function according to a radical pragmatism; they do business in a zone of potentiality rather than reliance on norms. From this viewpoint, the global marketplace that came into being with the end of the Cold War made way for transversal commerce; commodities can be made anywhere and circulated to anyone, for any purpose.
Education may have lagged behind business, to some degree. However, many thought leaders advocate a transformation toward global education networks, following methods and best practices employed by successful businesses. Some authors have advised a great re-structuring, to overcome excessive specialization and old disciplinary barriers. It is believed that universities and other educational institutions could be re-organized to require collaboration across disciplines, organized around problems. In this new framework, flexibility would be placed above permanence; training and learning would draw from multiple sites of research and reflection. From a managerial perspective, then, transversality could be the name for the abolition of inefficient and inaccessible zones of impractical research, and their replacement by webs of interaction aimed at immediate problem-solving. In the contribution collected here, Janell Watson (chapter 2) offers us a vivid description of this mode of transversality and its limitations.
At first glance, this form of transversality might appear liberating. But, many of us might pause; we might become increasingly suspicious. After all, this reorganization does not take place under conditions of widespread democratic empowerment. To the contrary, the theorists of collaboration and flexibility speak from a position of privilege and with the assurance of the elite. The dissolution of old protocols of research and learning, then, might threaten a liquidation of centuries of our intellectual heritage; the call to collaboration in order to solve general problems seems to carry with it presumptions about what constitutes a “problem” and who might justifiably benefit from its solution. From this viewpoint, we might be tempted to unmask the apparent egalitarianism and potentiality of transversality as another name for neoliberalism; the gutting of any assurances of stability in favor of low-cost contingent labor, and the replacement of disinterested inquiry by research geared toward that which is most quickly made profitable.
But what if the concept of transversality were something else entirely than what goes by that name in managerial discourse? Maybe its principles are not best understood as a form of managerial restructuring toward the goal of efficiency; maybe it is something freely created from the experience of humans before their disciplining by the workplace. Further, maybe transversality is an aspect inherent to the nature of learning itself, rather than a new buzzword to describe a process of adaptation to the market. Félix Guattari, the first author to speak of transversality in the context of education, believed this.
According to Guattari, transversality undoes vertical hierarchies or pyramids, in which power is concentrated at the top and by which those placed lower in the hierarchy are increasingly less autonomous. Naturally, then, this counters the presumption that education is a process of the transmission of knowledge from some people who know and understand the means of knowing, toward others who are initially ignorant and lack the means to overcome this ignorance. Further, it conflicts with the belief that some cultures or nations are most advanced in their economic and social understanding, while others remain mired in traditions and tasked with catching up to those ahead of them. For these reasons, Guattari’s transversality is very different from the most widespread understandings of contemporary globalization and education reform, which share his interest in the decentralized, the contingent, and the pragmatic, but maintain the priority of the nation-states of core economies and the privileges of the wealthy.
Guattari’s insistence on transversality was aimed at the creation of new collectivities that would avoid alienation into hierarchies of obedience or the subordination of creativity to commodification. In his elaboration, a non-alienating education would require a network of reflexivity in which participants would work and think together. Moreover, this network – contrary to the neoliberal formulation – would avoid organizing the horizon of its inquiries around that which is marketable or which can be sold. And further, a transversal collective of education needs to establish consistency and functionality, avoiding a tendency to dissolve into inaction, lethargy, or chaos. The transversal acts against the commercialization of learning, as well as against the unthinking replication of past activity. Rather than accountability to profit, transversality has a different type of responsibility. As Guattari developed it, the understanding of the intertwined interactions of all the elements of our situation requires an ecological point of view. A true education, then – one in which we learn about our place in the world, what we know about it, and how to act in it – requires not just cross-cultural communication but understanding of the natural world and its potential and activity beyond human consciousness or practice.
This form of transversality, then, is not widespread, but rather might seem to be quite marginal, something in short supply. The drive toward flexibility in service of profit mirrors some transversal principles, in that it calls for collaboration, but it obscures and destroys the possibility for a broader and more consistent thinking or acting along transversal lines. It is heartening, then, to find a volume that provides such a rich resource on not only the conceptual underpinnings of transversality but a record of varied and provocative experiments, around the world today. We find a series of striking cases that help us to reflect on Guattari’s own activities – in France, Italy, Brazil, and elsewhere – but also on original experiences that emulate or invite comparison with his discoveries.
I think the experience of the Zapatistas, in Chiapas, perhaps makes most clear the incompatibility between Guattari’s transversality and the neoliberal application of the same term (chapter 10). Management consultants and education reformers today call for efficiency, speed, and disruption. Their mindset calls for just-in-time production; the needs of the future cannot be known in advance, so students and teachers must be entirely flexible, adapting to immediate needs. Traditional skills, from this perspective, are not worthwhile; we must all become digital natives, entirely at home with the newest tools and without nostalgia for what came before. In their essay, included in this volume, Mark LeVine and Brian Reynolds show that the Zapatistas constitute a stubborn obstacle to all of this. While they make use of contemporary communications technology, they do so according to their own needs and desires, rather than those of the market. They refuse to be hurried by the expectations of core economic powers. They decide, collectively, the tools and the knowledge that is best suited to their existence and creativity, and their continuing interaction with the ecology that sustains them and with which they communicate. This is a transversality that we can learn from, and that impedes our exploitation.
Principles in Transversality in Globalization and Education is a vital contribution to discussion of the philosophy of education today, particularly with regard to transnational comparison and experience. Contributors help us learn from events in North America, Hong Kong, Japan, Australia, Iran, and elsewhere. It will be of great use to anyone reflecting on the role of the university, the social conditions of education, and the interaction between technology and the classroom. We can hope to discover in its pages a transversality worthy of the name; and the reader will no doubt link the experiences here to his or her own life and work.
John V. Roach Honors College
Texas Christian University
Fort Worth, TX.
Principles of Transversality in Globalization and Education
David R Cole & Joff P.N. Bradley
Western Sydney University, Australia & Teikyo University, Japan
Part I: Universities, Transversality and the Future
The Transversal Campus: Open Black Box?
Virginia Tech, USA.
Wild Studios: Art, Philosophy, and the Transversal University
Gray Kochhar-Lindgren & Kanta Kochhar-Lindgren
University of Hong Kong & Founding Artistic Director: Folded Paper Dance & Theatre
A Transversal University? Criticality, creativity and catatonia in the globalized pursuit of Higher Education excellence.
Canterbury Christ Church University
Part II: Transversality, Education and Becoming
On philosophical and institutional ‘blinkers’: SOAS and transversal worldviews
Joff P.N. Bradley
Teikyo University, Tokyo, Japan
The Incorporeal Universe of Childhood in the Tactical Pedagogy of Félix Guattari and Tanigawa Gan
Wako University, Tokyo, Japan
Towards a Pedagogy of Immanence: Transversal Revolts under Neo-Liberal Capitalism
Hans Skott-Myhre, Veronica Pacini-Ketchabaw & Lucas Kalfleish
Kennesaw State University, University of Western Ontario & University of West Georgia
Part III: Transversal Movements across International Educative Borders
Transversality, Constraint and Desire in Australian and Iranian Classrooms
David R Cole & Mehri Mirzaei Rafe
Western Sydney University, Australia and University of Tehran, Iran
Transversal Resettlement Transitions: Young Refugees Navigating Resettlement in Greater Western Sydney
Mohamed Moustakim & Karin Mackay
Western Sydney University
Fugitive Pedagogy: Guattari’s Ecosophy in the Mural Discourse of the Zapatistas
Mark LeVine & Bryan Reynolds
University of California, Irvine
Part IV: Further Issues in Transversality, Education and Globalization
Alice’s Adventures: Reconfiguring Solidarity in Early Childhood Education and Care through Data Events
Susan Naomi Nordstrom, Camilla Eline Andersen, Jayne Osgood, Ann-Hege Lorvik-Waterhouse, Ann Merete Otterstad & Maybritt Jensen
University of Memphis, Norway Inland University of Applied Sciences, Middlesex University, University College of Southeast Norway & Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences
The Ontological Plurality of Digital Voice: A Schizoanalysis of Rate My Professors and Rate My Teachers
Deakin University, Geelong, Victoria, Australia
Schizoanalysis, Counselling Praxis and a Sandbox Dirge
Jeff Smith & Scott Kouri
Addiction Foundation of Manitoba & Camosun College Counselling Services
Afterword: Zhibo, existential territory, inter-media-mundia
Joff P.N. Bradley & David R. Cole
Teikyo University, Tokyo, Japan & Western Sydney University, Australia.