The ambiguities of empowerment : a deconstructive approach to the adult education work of Edward Roux in the 1930s and 1940s and its implications for present conceptions of learner materials for adult basic education and training (ABET)
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AbstractBibliography: p. 173-182.
This research is an attempt to understand the ambiguities of empowerment inherent in transactions between educators and adult learners studying at a basic level. Through analysing the case study of Edward Roux's text-based adult education intervention for Africans in South Africa in the 1940's, some conclusions on the resultant power arrangements were drawn. These interpretive conclusions were applied comparatively to a set of adult basic education texts in use in South Africa in the 1990's. The research addressed itself to selected biographical events from Roux's life, as well as to a set of theoretical texts written by Roux about adult education and a set of pamphlets called The Sixpenny Library, intended for mass distribution to adult readers. The texts were analysed using a postmodern discourse analysis methodology. Having identified five recurrent discursive formations in the texts, it was proposed that these discourses could be intertextually read as constituting an individualised construction by Roux of the Enlightenment meta-narrative. The genealogy of the meta-narrative was analysed, the subjectification of the adult learners was asserted and an interpretation of the arrangements of power within the educational transaction was proposed. The primary findings were made on the basis of the case study: it was concluded that Roux was committed to the Enlightenment ideal which he constructed in terms of Western educational and cultural norms. By conflating education with social remediation and rationalism, he proposed that education in its own right had socially . redemptive power and that it would even result in equality. The potential impact of the intervention in subjectifying adult learners and their resultant disempowerment was analysed and some general trends were noted. Roux's intervention suggested a deep but unrealistic conviction that the acquisition of knowledge had the potential to alleviate the social deprivations that Africans suffered under conditions of post-colonial racial capitalism. Unconsciously Roux conflated the promise of empowerment with the acquisition of a set of basically Western rationalist cultural values and beliefs, without recognising the identity which he constructed for the educator and the attendant disempowerment which the learners may have experienced. The secondary stage of the research comprised the application of the claims identified in Roux's case study to three comparable genres of Adult Basic Education and Training texts of the 1990's; the presence of similar assumptions in these transactions was assessed and continuities and changes were identified. Some general conclusions were drawn regarding the nature of adult education transactions and the potential for a postmodern consciousness to alter the arrangements of power within educational transactions for adults was discussed. The limitations of the study in terms of learner responses was acknowledged and avenues for further research were identified. An attempt was made to bring into focus some of the uncertainties operative at a global level within adult education, while addressing issues of power between educator and learner in the field of basic adult education in South Africa.
TypeThesis / Dissertation
Alexander, L. 1999. The ambiguities of empowerment : a deconstructive approach to the adult education work of Edward Roux in the 1930s and 1940s and its implications for present conceptions of learner materials for adult basic education and training (ABET). University of Cape Town.