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The Emotional Complexities of Teaching Conflictual Historical Narratives: The Case of Integrated Palestinian-Jewish Schools In Israel


by Zvi Bekerman & Michalinos Zembylas — 2011

Background/Context: Emotions often accompany discussions of ethnic matters, yet there have been few sustained investigations in education of how, and with what implications, emotional responses are (de)legitimized in the classroom, especially when conflicting historical narratives are involved. Emotions have remained in the margins of educational research about the ways in which historical narratives are dealt with in schools, or at best, they are regarded as epiphenomena rather than constitutive components in teaching practice.

Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: The main objective of this article is to help us better understand how both emotions and historical narratives are constituted and operate interactively at the level of both the individual and the social-political structures within school and the wider society. The particular event on which we focus the present analysis—a classroom activity on the death of Yasser Arafat—was chosen because it is representative of multiple other events in which similar phenomena were identified. Its analysis offers insights into how those involved in education (even in the context of integrated schools) draw selectively from formal and informal sources to support their emotional identification and sense of belonging within their particular political, national, and religious communities.

Research Design: The events presented are based on rich data gathered from a long-standing ethnographic research effort in the context of the Palestinian-Jewish integrated bilingual schools in Israel.

Conclusions/Recommendations: We highlight two main implications of the analysis developed in this article. The first concerns the importance of teachers critically analyzing the emotional discourses/practices through which historical narratives are authorized by, implied by, and embodied in schools; this position also entails the recognition that such discourses/practices have consequences for the ways in which affective spaces and communities are constituted within the classroom and beyond. The second is that the findings of this study concerning the teaching of controversial issues in the classroom suggest an imperative need among teachers working with multiethnic children to increase their competence in dealing with conflicting historical narratives at both the cognitive and emotional levels. This competence can be partly developed through preservice and in-service teacher education that pays attention to the emotional complexities of teaching conflicting historical narratives.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 113 Number 5, 2011, p. 1004-1030
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 16087, Date Accessed: 12/11/2017 7:55:55 PM

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About the Author
  • Zvi Bekerman
    Hebrew University of Jerusalem
    E-mail Author
    ZVI BEKERMAN teaches anthropology of education at the School of Education and the Melton Center, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and is a faculty member at the Mandel Leadership Institute in Jerusalem. His research interests are in the study of cultural, ethnic, and national identity, including identity processes and negotiation during intercultural encounters and in formal/informal learning contexts. In addition to publishing papers in a variety of journals, Bekerman is the coeditor (with Seonaigh MacPherson) of the refereed journal Diaspora, Indigenous, and Minority Education: An International Journal. He has also recently edited a number of books, including, with Diana Silberman-Keller, Henry A. Giroux, and Nicholas Burbules, Mirror Images: Popular Culture and Education (2008); with Ezra Kopelowitz, Cultural Education-Cultural Sustainability: Minority, Diaspora, Indigenous and Ethno-Religious Groups in Multicultural Societies (2008); and with Claire McGlynn, Addressing Ethnic Conflict Through Peace Education: International Perspectives (2007).
  • Michalinos Zembylas
    Open University of Cyprus
    E-mail Author
    MICHALINOS ZEMBYLAS is assistant professor of education at the Open University of Cyprus. His research interests are in the areas educational philosophy and curriculum theory, and his work focuses on exploring the role of emotion and affect in curriculum and pedagogy. He is particularly interested in how affective politics intersect with issues of social justice pedagogies, intercultural and peace education, and citizenship education. Zembylas is the author of the books, Teaching With Emotion: A Postmodern Enactment (Information Age, 2005); Five Pedagogies, a Thousand Possibilities: Struggling for Hope and Transformation (Rotterdam, The Netherlands: SensePublishers, 2007); and The Politics of Trauma in Education (New York, Palgrave Macmillan, 2008). He is also coeditor of Peace Education in Conflict and Post-Conflict Societies: Comparative Perspectives (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009, coeditors C. McGlynn, Z. Bekerman, & T. Gallagher,) and ICT for Education, Development, and Social Justice (Greenwich, CT: Information Age, 2009, coeditors C. Vrasidas & G. Glass).
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