Challenging Dominant Discourses using Feminist Poststructuralism

As I continue on my journey to becoming a teacher, I am gradually becoming more involved in the critical thinking of pedagogy and what the role of teacher entails. One approach to this thinking I had not previously considered is that of feminist poststructuralism, as discussed by M.J. Barrett in the article Making (Some) Sense of Feminist Poststructuralism in Environmental Education Research and Practice. Considering feminist poststructuralism, I examine (and perhaps challenge) my identities (subject positions) as student teacher and environmental educator in relation to dominant discourses.

When I think of myself as a preservice teacher, I usually think of myself in relation to the dominant discourses often associated with the term. As a preservice teacher I am supposed to be young, unexperienced, and most likely female. Because I fit these frameworks, my identity as a preservice teacher is reinforced through the dominant discourses. This may, however, not be the case for all preservice teachers, especially in terms of gender.

When I think of myself as an environmental educator, I also think of myself in relation to the dominant discourses often associated with the term. Dominant discourses imply that as an environmental educator, I should be male (as most scholars in this field are), a teacher, and an environmental activist. While I would consider myself a teacher in the context of environmental educator, others may consider themselves students, constantly learning about the field. I am also not male, nor do I consider myself an environmental activist. In this way, my identity as environmental educator is not reinforced through it’s dominant discourses.

While the dominant discourses associated with a select term might work for some, they do not work for all. It is this inconsistency that proves the value in taking a feminist poststructural approach to any term.

“Discourse and the ways in which it produces subjects, is a central focus of poststructural theorizing, and as such, so is an analysis of power.” – M.J. Barrett, p. 80. My visual representation is a reflection of this quote, showing the discourse scales of preservice teacher and environmental educator. Blue words represent discourses about being a preservice teacher, while green words represent discourses about being an environmental educator. The heavier sides of the scale contain the dominant discourses of that term, which have more power in mainstream society.

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