Listen to episodes featuring Irving Epstein:

Affect Theory in Comparative Education

Texting and youth protests

Globalization & Affect

by Irving Epstein
Ben and Susan Rhodes Professor of Peace and Social Justice
Illinois Wesleyan University

The intellectual journey I have most recently pursued focuses upon the use of affect theory as a tool for better comprehending comparative educational practices and policies. As this work has compelled me to refine my understanding of globalization processes, I have found three FreshEd speakers to have had a particularly significant influence upon my thinking. They include Jane Kenway, who shared her insights regarding the possibilities of engaging in multi-cited global ethnography, Raewyn Connell, who commented about Decolonization and Education, and Arjun Appadurai, who spoke about the nature of failure in the age of Covid-19.

In her podcast, Jane Kenway reiterated the possibilities of re-conceptualizing comparative education by referencing the works of George Marcus and James Clifford. She then applied their insights to her global study of social class, elitism, and education in seven different settings. By reconsidering traditional notions of space, time, and mobility, she and her colleagues created a research model that is as captivating as it is insightful.

I have been a fan of Raewyn Connell’s work for many years, but listening to her podcast on Decolonization and Education was especially gratifying. Her erudition and respect for knowledge forms emanating from the Global South was as impressive as was her ability to forcefully highlight the interconnectedness and vibrancy with which ideas are constructed, shared, and appreciated. In so doing, one could not have offered a more convincing testimony for the power of affect in helping to frame the varieties of human experience from which our knowledge forms are drawn.

Finally, Arjun Appadurai’s analysis of the nature of failure, as a globalized phenomenon, has forced me to reconsider some of the assumptions I have made regarding the nature of affect. I have viewed the fear of failure as a primary motivation for the creation of numerous educational practices that prevent the expression of interconnection and meaning-making. In this podcast, Appadurai comments upon the globalized embrace of failure in the Covid-19 era.  as reflecting a new and dangerous collective sensibility. Although his conclusions contradict some of my own views, what I loved about this episode was Appadurai’s willingness to explore ideas that are not fully formed but are being refined in the moment. Such self-exposure represents a remarkable act of intellectual courage for which we are all beneficiaries. Together, these scholars allow us to intimately listen to the ways in which they grapple with new ideas, reconsider previously held assumptions, and apply theoretical musings to radically different settings. I am deeply appreciative of their efforts.

November 12, 2020