Picturing transformative texts: anti-colonial learning and the picturebook

Bagelman, Caroline P. (2015) Picturing transformative texts: anti-colonial learning and the picturebook. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This project suggests that the exclusion of children from social discourse has been naturalized, and remains largely unchallenged in the West (Salisbury and Styles, 2012, p. 113). While some didactic picturebooks and pedagogies construct and perpetuate this exclusion, I will explore the potential of critical picturebooks and critical pedagogy to counter it. Critical picturebooks and critical pedagogy, I propose, can help to build and support the critical consciousness of readers, transforming their social relations. Specifically, this project is concerned with the exclusion of children from discourse on colonialism in Canada, and it highlights the need for critical consciousness in this area. I suggest that critical picturebooks can play a role in unsettling settler relations, or shifting Canada-Aboriginal relations towards more ethical ones. I therefore offer an anti-colonial pedagogy for picturebooks to facilitate these aims. This pedagogy is generated through putting theory on picturebooks, critical pedagogy, Indigenous methods, as well as local pedagogy in Alert Bay into an interdisciplinary conversation. I begin by asking ‘how can picturebooks function as transformative texts?’ Drawing on picturebook theory, I present five elements of critical picturebooks that make them conducive to transformative social discourse: 1) flexibility of the form (enabling complex, cross-genre narratives); 2) accessibility of composite texts (allowing for multiliteracies); 3) textual gaps in composite texts; 4) their dialogical nature (often being read and analyzed aloud); and, 5) their ability to address content silenced in many educational settings. I hold that “the plasticity of mind” which Margaret Mackey suggests is engendered by the picturebook’s flexible form (explicated by these five elements) also fosters a plasticity of mind in terms of the reader navigating social issues or complex problems presented in its content (as cited in Salisbury and Styles, 2012, p. 91). This dual plasticity positions the picturebook as a valuable and empowering discursive or dialogical tool. If, as Paulo Freire asserts, “it is in speaking their word that people, by naming the world, transform it, dialogue imposes itself as the way by which they achieve significance as human beings”, then it is crucial that children are included in social dialogue that has been typically reserved for adults (Freire, 2000, p. 69). I then discuss the ways in which my participatory action research (PAR) in the community of Alert Bay, British Columbia, illustrates the transformative potentials of picturebooks, and helped to form an anti-colonial pedagogy for picturebooks. Workshops with local children, young adults and adults examined the unique form and content of picturebook narratives. In following with Freire, the aim was not only to explore the pedagogical promise of existing texts, but also to co-develop tools with which participants generate their own self-representations. We focused on developing narratives on food, an important generative theme that connects many facets of life including experiences of colonialism. Through additional conversations and embodied learning activities, I was introduced to local anti-colonial pedagogical methods. I put these experiences into conversation with theories of critical pedagogy put forth by Freire, Ivan Illich, bell hooks and Henry Giroux and a discussion of Indigenous research and pedagogical methods offered by Linda Tuhiwai Smith, Sandy Grande, Leanne Simpson, Lynn Gehl, and curricular resources. This research culminated in making Grease, a picturebook on the importance of oolichan oil to Alert Bay, told from a visitor’s perspective. In creating Grease, I have aimed to practically apply my proposed pedagogy, and make my work available to both Alert Bay and (in the future) to readers farther afield. This is an effort to address the dearth of anti-colonial literature and education available to children in Canada and elsewhere. The final chapter of my thesis serves as an annotative guide to be read alongside Grease. The pedagogy and picturebook combined present tenable ways in which picturebooks can engage children in critical discussions of colonialism and function as transformative texts.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Critical pedagogy, anti-colonial pedagogy, decolonization, picturebooks, critical picturebooks, critical children's literature, participatory action research, visual literacy, critical literacy, critical theory.
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
L Education > L Education (General)
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education
P Language and Literature > PZ Childrens literature
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Education
Supervisor's Name: Arizpe, Dr. Evelyn and Phipps, Professor Alison
Date of Award: 2015
Depositing User: Ms Caroline Bagelman
Unique ID: glathesis:2015-6134
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 04 Mar 2015 09:03
Last Modified: 19 Mar 2015 09:11
URI: https://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/6134

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