Learning to sustain emancipatory rhythms through social and environmental transitions

Michel Alhadeff-Jones, The Times of a Just Transition
Project status

The current environmental crisis, and the activities deployed to interpret, anticipate, contain, and transcend it, reveal tensions (e.g., antagonisms, dilemmas, stress, conflicts, struggles). Their regulation shape not only how individuals and collectives cope with the challenges encountered, but also how they learn, transform, and develop themselves in that context. Such tensions and modalities of regulation compose a historical movement that is neither static, nor constant, as it flows over time. Thus, they require individuals and collectives to learn to adjust and reinterpret situations whose meanings remain uncertain and fluid (Alhadeff-Jones, 2021b; Morin, 1976). Such a movement involves the production and the sharing of narratives that become constitutive of who they are, as much as it defines how they interpret their own development, individually and collectively.

From a theoretical perspective, referring to the fluidity inherent in changes, crises, transitions, and developmental processes, remains problematic. It raises questions about the way we conceptualize such fluctuations. Complexity theories (e.g., Morin, 1976, 2008), rhythm theories and rhythmanalysis (e.g., Bachelard, 1950; Crespi & Manghani, 2020; Lefebvre, 2004; Lyon, 2018; Michon, 2005, 2021, 2022; Sauvanet, 2000; Wunenburger & Lamy, 2018) provide us with resources to study the complex interweaving of heterogeneous rhythms that compose natural and human flows of activity. From an educational perspective, questions remain regarding how to interpret such phenomena (Alhadeff-Jones, 2017, 2018, 2020, 2021a, 2021b; Lesourd, 2006; Mathisen, 2015; Pineau, 2000; Roquet, 2018):

  • How do people learn to discriminate, interpret, examine, argue, judge, and challenge the rhythmic features that characterize individual and collective transformations?
  • How to highlight such rhythmic features through narratives that may be produced and shared?
  • What are the resources required to develop such a critical capacity?
  • How to foster it?
  • How to evaluate its individual and social impact?

The aims of this project will be to address these questions. The first one is to study what goes into the individual and collective capacity to critically reflect on the rhythms through which transformative and transitional processes unfold. It assumes that developing such a « rhythmic intelligence » (Alhadeff-Jones, forthcoming) is critical for people to regulate the changes they are confronted to in an emancipatory and sustainable way. This objective relies on the description of key processes whose temporal features (e.g., rhythmic patterns, periodicity, non-linearity) shape the evolution of the ongoing environmental crisis, its effects, and the ways people respond to them throughout their personal and professional commitments. The understanding of such processes will be explored through a biographical inquiry conducted with a sample of professionals and/or volunteers, involved in sustainable development initiatives, and identified through local networks (e.g., Geneva 2030 Ecosystem, SDG Lab Geneva, Coord21 – Association of public authorities and institutions committed to sustainable development in French-speaking Switzerland; Transition Network in French-speaking Switzerland). Capitalizing on the results of this initial inquiry, the second aim of this project is to design and implement a series of online training modules to share resources and frame a participatory action research, to study and contribute further to my current research on the development of rhythmic intelligence, in relation to everyday activities. This programme will involve the people identified previously and bring them to reflect more in details on the rhythms that shape some of their specific actions. The objective of this programme is, on one hand, to raise participants’ awareness of the rhythmic dimensions that characterize the transformational processes they are confronted with, and benefit from their experiences to better understand what is at stake in their everyday regulation. The third aim of this project is to evaluate the contents and design of this programme to develop it further for upcoming cohorts.

By confronting theoretical research on rhythm and transformative processes to the experience of professionals addressing social justice and climate change, this research project aims at:

  1. Reinforcing the theoretical development of rhythm studies to enrich our understanding of individual and collective transformations.
  2. Developing further the use of rhythmanalysis in conjunction with narrative inquiry, as a research and educational methodology to foster emancipatory learning.
  3. Developing innovative educational design as a strategy to reinforce field-based participatory action research.
  4. Establishing a collective to promote innovative conceptual development and new educational practices, based on cutting edge theoretical advances and field-based experiences.

References cited

Alhadeff-Jones, M. (2017). Time and the rhythms of emancipatory education. Rethinking the temporal complexity of self and society. London: Routledge.

Alhadeff-Jones, M. (2018). Pour une approche rythmologique de la formation. Education Permanente, 217, 21-32.

Alhadeff-Jones, M. (2020). Explorer l’inconscient rythmique dans les pratiques d’histoire de vie en formation. Education Permanente, 222, 43-51.

Alhadeff-Jones, M. (2021a). Time and the rhythms of academia: A rhythmanalytical perspective. In F. Vostal (Ed.), Inquiring into academic timescapes (pp.21-37). Bingley, UK: Emerald Publ.

Alhadeff-Jones, M. (2021b). Learning from the whirlpools of existence: Crises and transformative processes as complex and rhythmic phenomena. European Journal for Research on the Education and Learning of Adults, 12(3), 311-326.

Alhadeff-Jones, M. (forthcoming). Developing rhythmic intelligence: Towards a critical understanding of educational temporalities. Sisyphus, Journal of Education.

Bachelard, G. (1950). La dialectique de la durée. Paris: PUF.

Crespi, P., & Manghani, S. (Eds.) (2020). Rhythm and critique: Technics, Modalities, Practices. Edinburgh, UK: Edinburgh University Press.

Lefebvre, H. (2004). Rhythmanalysis: Space, time and everyday life (S. Elden & G. Moore, Trans.). London: Continuum. (Original work published 1992)

Lesourd, F. (2006). Des temporalités éducatives: Note de synthèse. Pratiques de Formation / Analyses, 51–52, 9–7.

Lyon, D. (2018). What is Rhythmanalysis? London: Bloomsbury.

Mathisen, A. (2015). Rhythms in education and the art of life. Lefebvre, Whitehead and Steiner on the art of bringing rhythmical transformations into teaching and learning (part I). Research on Steiner Education, 6(2), 36-51.

Michon, P. (2005). Rythmes, pouvoir, mondialisation. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.

Michon, P. (2021). Elements of rhythmology (4 Vol.). Paris: Rhuthmos.

Michon, P. (2022). Problèmes de rythmanalyse. Paris: Rhuthmos.

Morin, E. (1976). Pour une crisologie. Communications, 25(1), 149-163.

Morin, E. (2008). La Méthode. Paris: Seuil.

Pineau, G. (2000). Temporalités en formation: Vers de nouveaux synchroniseurs. Paris: Anthropos.

Roquet, P. (Ed.) (2018). Rythmes et temporalités en formation. Education Permanente, 217.

Sauvanet, P. (2000). Le rythme et la raison (2 vol.) Paris: Kimé.

Wunenburger, J.-J. & Lamy, J. (Eds.) (2018). Rythmanalyse(s). Théories et pratiques du rythme. Ontologie, définitions, variations. Lyon: Jacques André Editeur.

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