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Ocularcentrism, Phonocentrism and the Counter Enlightenment Problematic: Clarifying Contested Terrain in our Schools of Education


by Phil Francis Carspecken — 2003

Our schools of education today host two important counter-Enlightenment discourses, criticalism and postmodernism. Graduate students inevitably encounter both discourses when taking their required classes in research methods, along with modernist modes of thinking embedded within mainstream research methodologies. These three modes of thought and practice—the modernist mainstream, criticalism and postmodernism—are also found within such educational fields as curriculum studies, multiculturalism, literacy and social foundations. Differences between criticalism and postmodernism are difficult to articulate, and confusion abounds. Both criticalism and postmodernism have distinguishing features based on their challenge to ocularcentric and phonocentric theories of truth that can be found underlying the assumptions of mainstream social research methodologies. Ocular- and phonocentrism also operate within the popular cultures of modernity. This paper clarifies differences between postmodernism and criticalism through a very partial exploration of ocular- and phonocentric theories of truth and meaning. The alternatives opened by these counter-Enlightenment discourses are reviewed and compared. The problematical relations between knowledge and representation, knowledge and power, and sameness and difference are simultaneously explored, as is the concept of self. The essay argues that certain popular postmodern themes are importantly insightful but best relocated within a criticalist framework. Criticalism provides a more promising direction for counter-Enlightenment thought and practice, but criticalism is an unfinished project in need of further work.


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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 105 Number 6, 2003, p. 978-1047
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 11546, Date Accessed: 11/20/2014 3:37:05 PM

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About the Author
  • Phil Carspecken
    University of Houston
    E-mail Author
    Phil Francis Carspecken is professor of Inquiry and Philosophy at Indiana University's School of Education. He teaches and conducts scholary work in the fields of critical qualitative research methodology, social theory, social philosophy and philosophical issues in inquiry.
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