Jan Masschelein (BE) | University of Leuven

Jan MasscheleinThe world 'once more': walking lines

During the last ten years Jan Masschelein travelled with post-graduate students to post-conflict cities, non-tourist megapoles in China and quiet rural cities in Europe. Students were asked to walk day and night along arbitrary lines drawn on city maps. Lines starting and leading nowhere particularly, lines without plan, crossing at random neighborhoods, buildings, areas.

Everyday, during long talks, students were asked very simple questions: What have you seen? What have you heard? What do you think about it? What do you make of it? The travels are educational experiments. Education, here, is about giving the world 'once more', however not about its re-presentation, but its 'presentation' in the literal sense: making it present. What the city travels offer, is not the opening of a window onto the world (a vision or view, a sight or insight) or the showing of a scene (as in a theater), but lines as cuts in the world onto this very world. What is at stake in this traveling is not discovering far countries and exotic habits, but making the (slight) move which shapes the mapping of a 'there' to a 'here'. The line as a cut, the walking as copying the line by foot together with the mapping of the line are devices to enter a space, to enter the world; they are devices for penetration, before they are devices for contemplation and reflection. This device does not work by opening up (broadening, widening, multiplying the views) but by mobilizing the look, making it vigilant and attentive. The world 'once more' is not an 'original' reality behind (the vision, perspective) but its evidence, the 'there-is' or 'being there', which requires either luck or an art to make it happen, the art of a pedagogy which says: "look, I won't let your attention become distracted, look! Instead of waiting for thrills and a denouement, for stories and explanations, Look!" It impresses the gaze by offering cuts, incisions as lines that mobilize the gaze, attract it, take it along. But the line does not define the gaze. Walking the lines is walking without an agenda, without an end but with a burden, a charge: "What is there to see and to hear? And what to do with it? How to respond to it?" The task of pedagogy, then, is to offer lines and to keep the walkers to the line, preventing escape from the burden, from 'being-there'.

Jan Masschelein (BE)

Jan Masschelein teaches Philosophy of Education at the University of Leuven (KU Leuven, Belgium) and is head of the recently founded 'Laboratory for Education and Society'. His primary areas of scholarship are educational theory and social philosophy. Currently his research concentrates on the public character of education and on 'mapping' and 'walking' as critical research practices. In addition he is engaged with architects/artists in the development of experimental educational practices and research practices. He published e.g. Europa anno 2006. E-ducatieve berichten uit niemandsland (2006, together with Maarten Simons); De onwetende meester, a translation of Jacques Rancière's book Le maître ignorant (2007); De lichtheid van het opvoeden (2008) and recently (equaly with Maarten Simons) De apologie van de school. Een publieke kwestie (2012).