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Framing Peace: Thinking about and Enacting Curriculum as "Radical Hope"

reviewed by Molly Quinn - October 21, 2015

coverTitle: Framing Peace: Thinking about and Enacting Curriculum as "Radical Hope"
Author(s): Hans Smits, Rahat Naqvi (Eds.)
Publisher: Peter Lang Publishing, New York
ISBN: 1433122413, Pages: 269, Year: 2014
Search for book at Amazon.com

Recently, I found myself at my friends’ new loft apartment, housed in a most artfully renovated old mill and generously afforded to me to escape the heat of my own 96 degrees home. The downtown sunset kissing the canal, taken in from the large windows and cold air within, arrested me with its beauty, and I found myself wanting to capture it with my iPhone camera. An hour later, I realized I had become obsessed with the views I could apprehend by carefully varying the way I framed them. I took the snapshots standing on the couch, lying down, kneeling, on tiptoe. And as the light changed, so too did the possibilities—some perhaps forever lost as new ones appeared. I was even a little saddened in realizing what I had missed as the darkness fell, and by the limits of my camera and the confined location from which I had to photograph. But I also felt somehow inexplicably and unwittingly happy, grateful and blessed. Perhaps it was the subject and substance I experienced and with which I was unexpectedly yet intentionally engaged. Perhaps it was the sense of freedom or agency I felt in being able to open to such beauty, to participate in it and even seek to commemorate or recreate it through multiple photographic frames.

In reviewing Hans Smits’ and Rahat Naqvi’s (2015) Framing Peace: Thinking About and Enacting Curriculum as “Radical Hope,” I share this lighthearted story as a curricular event, a pedagogical moment that allowed me to become more attuned to questions that shed light on frames and framing, particularly in relation to the makings and meanings of the stories we embrace through the project of education, and the curricular conceptualizations and practices so central to it.

For in this rich and diverse collection of essays—engaging cultures and contexts from a variety of countries (e.g., Canada, South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Mexico, etc.), cultures (e.g., First Nations, Israeli, Pakistani, etc.), and viewpoints (e.g., Islamophobic, anti-American, institutional, governmental, heteronormative, and neoliberal, etc.)—the authors come together in illuminating questions about framing. These questions come from scenes of science, social studies, literature, language, and law; from elementary, secondary, and higher education settings; from restorative justice, teacher education, and peace teaching sites. Throughout the text, there is a commitment to realizing peace “in the everyday . . . [to] the peace-by-piece construction of livable lives” (p. 38), and as a critical educational demand and fundamental curriculum concern. Such harmony, this unity-in-diversity is achieved here not only through the editors’ invitation to the authors to reconsider curriculum in thought and action as ethical inquiry, but also by their entreaty to do so in dialogue with two key concepts: frames/framings as inspired by Butler (2010), and radical hope as forwarded by Lear (2006).

We are asked “to recognize how lives are made precarious through the frames we employ to view humanity, as well as our collective responsibility for nurturing what it means to be fully human” (p. 119). Radical hope and courage are requisite to such recognition and responsibility, embracing “the goodness of the world [that] transcends one’s limited and vulnerable attempts to understand it” (Lear, 2006, p. 104) in the midst of difficulty, displacement, suffering, oppression and violence. Additionally disclosed to us is how education and curriculum are implicated in promoting and sustaining such frames, as well as erasing or delegitimizing others while seldom ever giving attention to the power operating through them or what is at stake therein. This relates to the obligation to cultivate awareness of the normative and normalizing frames we live through and interrogate them. Pursing a “humble togetherness” (p. 61), we understand that we can only ever come into full being in relation to others. The need to act ethically comes from a realization of our collective and ontological vulnerability and shared humanity, belying differential or conditional assessments of life’s recognizability, injurability, grievability, precariousness, or worth. Attuned to both the efficacy and vulnerability of our frames, we also seek to break through them or at least acknowledge what they can never contain.

These challenges are brought to us from a neoliberal context in which education is dominantly framed through concerns for technological and economic advancement, or exploitation, and national competitiveness in the global marketplace. In this, curriculum is instrumentally framed via standardization and driven by high stakes testing and accountability, wherein subjectivity is severely limited. This collection forwards the frame of a radically marginalized and differentially appraised other peace in relation to the project of education and as a central curriculum concern. It does so in concert with other recently published work in curriculum studies (e.g., Quinn, 2014, on peace and pedagogy; Wang, 2014, on nonviolence and education), this text calls for sustained consideration of these questions in the hope that “conversations will replace accusations” (p. 185) in order to build and nurture sustaining relationships of care.

This vulnerability of the human subject, of teaching, and of all social relations, is neither denied nor sought to be overcome, but rather embraced as a source of a radical and rhizomatic hope. Our condition of openness, our incompletion and unknowability, our part in that which is not yet conceived or inconceivable, enables us to uncover and overcome compulsions to normative closures, to challenge and recast the ontological, epistemological, and axiological frames that shape our lives (p. 239). Through this, we can acknowledge our universal precariousness that we all are beholden to one another, beckoned to give an account of ourselves, bear ‘accountability’ in all our relations, bound to reckon with the accounts of others. It is the site of our resiliency, renewal, relationality, and responsibility, which makes transformation and education possible. This includes our capacity to trust, to embrace the gift of each other, to share our lives and life stories, to be and become anew and beyond what we have been through such engagements, and to refuse “to read in advance of the encounter” (p. 76).

Peace approached in this way—as a person-centered invitation to awaken to and apprehend each other in full recognition as a form of radical hope—is not via education and curriculum, “just something you learn about, and not only what you do, but critically also what you can be and become” (p. 9). It entails a radical openness akin to the hospitality of which Derrida (2000, 2002) speaks, what Butler (2005, p. 136) describes as a “willingness to be undone in relation to the other” (p. 12). In contrast to the solidifying calcification of identity at work in our post-9/11 context, it calls for a softening susceptibility, the capacity to struggle to make rage articulable and injustice visible, to genuinely mourn and grieve. This “is a turning, working, cultivating oneself in a different direction” (White, 2000, p. 100; p. 9) toward subjective possibilities and modes of relationships that make hope, healing, human flourishing, and the thriving of life possible.

The generosity of my friends afforded me a moment of peace, and hope, in a difficult time of loss. With my camera, I became awake anew, aware in a heightened way to the power of the frame and through it, my capacity to respond, to give an account to others that might also help cultivate greater peace and hope. Framing Peace: Thinking About and Enacting Curriculum as “Radical Hope” engages hope even as it reckons with injustice, grief, indifference, and fragility. I hope it will be taken up by many, and given to many more others in turn.


Butler, J. (2005). Giving an account of oneself. New York, NY: Fordham University Press.

Butler, J. (2009). Precarious life: The powers of mourning and violence. New York, NY: Verso

Butler, J. (2010). Frames of war: When is life grievable? London: Verso.

Derrida, J. (2000). Step of hospitality/No hospitality. In A. Dufourmantelle & J. Derrida (Eds.), Of hospitality (R. Bowlby, Trans.; pp. 75–160). Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Derrida, J. (2002). Hostipitality. In G. Anidjar (Ed.), Acts of religion (pp. 356420). New York, NY: Routledge.

Lear, J.  (2006). Radical hope: Ethics in the face of cultural devastation. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Quinn, M. (2014). Peace and pedagogy (primer). New York, NY: Peter Lang.

Wang, H. (2014). Nonviolence and education: Cross-cultural pathways. New York, NY: Routledge.

White, S. (2000). Sustaining affirmation: The strength of weak ontology in political theory. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: October 21, 2015
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 18166, Date Accessed: 12/6/2021 4:12:50 PM

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About the Author
  • Molly Quinn
    Georgia Regents University
    E-mail Author
    Molly Quinn, Ph.D., is an associate professor of curriculum studies at Georgia Regents University. Presently serving as vice president of AAACS, her recent works include: Peace and Pedagogy (2014); Theorizing Justice, Justly Theorizing, in Education (forthcoming); and numerous book chapters and articles, among them, those exploring children’s understandings of peace and violence, counter enlightenment and creole curriculum history via transatlantic study, and the contributions of Maxine Greene to the field curriculum studies through her work in aesthetics, phenomenology and existentialism. As a curriculum theorist, much of her scholarship engages ‘spiritual’ and philosophical criticism toward embracing a vision of education that cultivates understanding, beauty, compassion, and social responsibility.
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