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Latest update: September 15, 2000

Mutuality and Replacement Discourse

On Wednesday, September 6, 2000, Tina Juen wrote:

The problem I'm wrestling with is that once a student has a taste of mutuality and becomes aware of "those little unstated assumptions", then is treated with respect and love by one professor, what happens to those feelings when they go to thier next classroom? They experience strucual violence, adversailism. Being new to this new concept they aren't strong enough in theory or knowledge to defend their new feelings or stance. Alas they slip back into "ambalance"(Fellman p.50)

Love and Peace, Tina

On Monday, September 11, 2000, jeanne responded:

Good comment, Tina. I'm going to try to answer you from the perspective of Stuart Henry and Dragan Milovanovic's constitutive theory. Constitutive theory suggests an interdependence or "copresence" between individual agency and structural context. That means that Henry and Milovanovic believe that we as actors make choices and have some control, though in some cases, minimal. The context, the structure, also interact with our actions and choices to produce the outcome actions. This is not new. That is very much like what Sartre proposed in existentialism. That no matter how minimal our choices, we do have and do make choices within that limited context. Sartre added that we are "responsible" for those choices. Henry and Milovanovic are less concerned with placing responsibility, since they are looking for ways to deconstruct crime, to alter the adversarial structure so that criminal responses will no longer appear to be the only responses available.

Henry and Milovanovic have looked at the precise situation you are describing, Tina. We take tentative steps toward understanding mutuality, but then are overwhelmed by the contextual adversarialism in our situational context. Henry and Milovanovic recognize the criminologist's responsibility in altering that context to guide us past the presently structured criminal justice and penal systems. I'm going to suggest the same approach in recognizing the teacher's responsibility in altering the context within the educational system. Henry and Milovanovic call this cultivating "replacement discourse."

"Replacement discourse, then is not simply critical and oppositional, but provides both a critique and an alternative vision" (Citations omitted. At p. 9 of Constitutive Criminology at Work) It's the "alternative vision" that is important here. Henry and Milovanovic suggest that one of the primary ways to create replacement discourse is with the media. That would be good. But on a campus we don't have much access to the "media." Next they suggest support groups in which the actors sustain themselves in their newly acquired "awareness" of mutuality. Those support groups can extend beyond the university to include families and friends.

Essentially, it seems to me that Henry and Milovanovic are saying with replacement discourse that we need to support each other in our new-found awareness of adversarial compulsiveness, so that we can support each other in working for transformation of our institutional structures to include mutuality. I hope the students are rather stronger in their commitment to an institution that respects and supports them than you think. I suspect that your feeling of discomfort comes as much from the attempts you have made to exert agency in a structure that severely constrains your options as it does from a real belief that students will not be strong enough to maintain the mutuality understanding. In this discomfort you display the very effects that we feel when we are not permitted to exert agency by oppressive structures. I think Henry and Milovanovic's text will help with this. We'll try to work on Chapter 3 next week, which gives excellent narratives for working with this problem.

More later . . .

love and peace, jeanne