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    How Critical is Talk? Discourses of Development Education among Facilitators in Ireland

    Dillon, Eilish (2017) How Critical is Talk? Discourses of Development Education among Facilitators in Ireland. PhD thesis, National University of Ireland Maynooth.

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    In this thesis I explore discourses of development education (DE) in Ireland with specific reference to DE facilitators' talk about DE and the meanings they ascribe to it. Building on existing research on discourses 'in' and 'of' DE, as well as debates about the politics of DE, I address the need for research which focuses on how DE is understood by those who support and promote it, and on the implications of their understandings for practice. Drawing on questionnaires, interviews and workshops with 21 facilitators who support and promote DE across a range of sectors, as well as interviews with nine key informants, I develop a framework for understanding different discourses of DE that they draw upon. In this framework, the DE dimensions of knowledge and understanding, skills, learning processes and action are identified as important, as are the aims, values and politics of DE. Drawing on the work of Vanessa Andreotti (2014), the framework identifies different discursive positions when it comes to DE - technical, liberal, North-South, critical and post-critical discourses. The thesis highlights that though DE facilitators largely draw on a critical discourse of DE, they also draw on each of the other discourses. While no particular discourse of DE appears hegemonic, findings suggest that there is a hegemonic style in talk about DE in Ireland, where facilitators talk about DE in idealised, abstract and apolitical terms. In opening up different positions and their implications and in highlighting the prevalent discursive style, this thesis questions any apparent consensus about what DE means and the criticality of its politics. How discourses of DE are shaped is also a focus of this thesis which offers insight into the politics of DE in Ireland. Findings highlight the hegemonic position of Irish Aid as funder and DE as a site of discursive struggle. They suggest that a discursive culture of restraint is prevalent in the DE sector in Ireland. This is characterised by discursive contradictions, consensual relations of non-confrontation and policies and practices which constrain criticality. Thus, though DE facilitators often talk in critical terms about DE, this thesis argues that such talk does not fully capture the contradictions or the constraints involved. In focusing on DE discourses and their implications, as well as on power relations in the DE sector in Ireland, this research aims to inform debates about the politics of DE in Ireland. It calls on DE organisations and facilitators to 'turn the gaze back on ourselves' and to 'constructively deconstruct' DE in an effort to reimagine a post-critical politics of DE. While specifically relevant for the Irish DE sector, the broader relevance of this thesis to research in DE lies in its focus on the experiences and meanings attached to DE among DE facilitators, in its advancing of understanding of different discourses of DE and in its focus on the institutional and relational factors which shape them. Beyond DE, this research highlights the value for critical pedagogy of not taking critical talk for granted. Understanding talk and delving beneath it to explore meanings and their implications, as well as the institutional factors which shape discourses, offers deep insight into the complex challenges facing educators who strive to be critical and relevant in an increasingly unequal world.

    Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
    Keywords: Critical; Talk; Discourse; Development Education; Facilitators; Ireland;
    Academic Unit: Faculty of Social Sciences > Adult and Community Education
    Item ID: 9558
    Depositing User: IR eTheses
    Date Deposited: 14 Jun 2018 16:30
      Use Licence: This item is available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike Licence (CC BY-NC-SA). Details of this licence are available here

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