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Democracy, emancipation and widening participation in the UK

Dr Kerry Harman has recently published an article titled "Democracy, emancipation and widening participation in the UK: Changing the ‘distribution of the sensible."


The broad concern of this paper is how the relationship between education, democracy and emancipation might be conceived. This theme is explored through examining the contribution of a Rancierian conception of emancipation and democracy to rethinking widening participation in higher education. Following Ranciere, it is argued that taking equality as a starting point in higher education, rather than as a goal to be achieved through education, disrupts a prevailing logic of education as necessarily providing a pathway to emancipation. From this view the pedagogic practices of explication and mastery, which Ranciere argues work to separate academic reason and practical reason, need no longer be understood as the only way to be academic. It is proposed that this ‘redistribution of the sensible’ enables higher education to be conceived in ways other than available in ongoing educational debates and enables a move beyond an assimilation–recognition binary. Instead, widening participation can be understood as a space for opening up to experience, transformation and change for both academics and students. From this view, democracy is enacted in the here and now, rather than a goal for the future, and practice can be understood as a site for change.

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Published: 21 March 2017