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I am the people too

If the above analysis is correct, it means there is always a risk of a central flaw in democracies that are based on the people as foundational for power, in that only some of the people are those who matter. As Butler (2015) argues, in an analysis of who is defensible according to a rationale for militarization in such a context, the flaw consists of “differentiating the people from the population”, resulting in the defence of legitimacy for some at the cost of others (Butler, 2015, p. 16).

It is not, therefore, the borders of a clinical definition of the people that is sought here, because that which is really at stake in this analysis is the very possibility of counting the excluded as a meaningful part of a multifaceted society and not just, to speak with Butler, establishing the population as distinct from the people. I am seeking a strategy that verifies all people in society, and as something more than bodies filling the space/territory of a nation-state.

Nevertheless, Butler argues that the assembly of bodies in themselves manifests as a possible claim of here we are: “Showing up, standing, breathing, moving, standing still, speech, and silence are all aspects of a sudden assembly, an unforeseen form of political performativity that puts livable life at the forefront of politics” (Butler, 2015, p. 18).

What livable life is very much about, as I have been arguing in this chapter, is the very possibility of freedom and change in and of the world, of being counted in as a productive part of culture and society; in short, about education, and the possibility of the divine two verified in education. This is education as a condition for addressing the sensibilities through which the world takes shape and meaning in multiple ways.

Paraphrasing the Swedish poet Tomas Transtromer (1989), who in one of his poems identifies the place and space in which the world becomes my world; where the outside and inside meet to form a livable life, we can say teaching is to give birth to such a place and space in which the outside of the people meets the diversity of a divine inside, where the energy of life in the plural breaks open the oneness of the form.

From this viewpoint, teaching is the staging of a space in which a subject attaches to the world as it is, in all its ambiguous divinity. To speak in and through the context of teaching, then, is to take on the world, and to take part in this world, as we know it. To claim one’s part in this world is also to claim, in education and democracy, that I am the people too. It is to supplement oneself as speaking, as having a voice in meaningful discourse, and to claim one’s life as divine, that is as embracing all the sufferings and joys of living a life together with others here and now.

To teach, then, is also literally to count those who are, in the present system of schooling, merely included in the whole only to be immediately excluded from the possibility of having a voice; condemned to the shadows of the epithet “One people! One (schoolbook) democracy!”; reduced to a disposable population under the weight of the abstraction whose only appearance is as noise-makers outside the meaningful discourse of the right people; sufficiently enlightened through schooling to be able to vote responsibly, but in all other matters filling the role of the populace.

To teach, in this context, is to claim the possibility of teaching; that is, the possibility of change and freedom as foundational for culture and society, and the very possibility' of pluralist democracy. The purpose of teaching in this sense is necessarily to listen to the wrong people speaking and to attach meaning to that speech, and therefore to add to, to supplement, that part who have no countable part (Rancière, 1999, p. 38). This means, in consequence, transforming the world so that teaching becomes the possibility of staging the world differently in the present.

This is the figure of subjectification, when each and every one has to be counted as standing for him or herself and simultaneously standing for all. With the claim “I am the people too” new bodies enter onto the stage, for example when in 1972 Bernadette Devlin, herself one of the excluded and poor of Derry in Northern Ireland, passionately entered the scene as a political subject with exactly this claim: I am the people too! I speak (Campbell, 2009). Her body in that performative moment disincorporates from the symbolic circulation of gender, religion and British colonialism otherwise attached to it, speaking with her voice as the voice of all, constituting a new body through establishing a new form, verifying a new balance, a new partage de sensible (simultaneously splitting/sharing) of subjects and objects beyond the already given constellation of gender, religion and colonialism. It is the very form of the partisan, in which the partisan appears as a subject of democracy and who intervenes through the performativity of a different sensory experience of what it means to take a stance, to speak, write and to understand outside the well-ordered distributive paradigm of inequality.

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