Class begins with Brandon telling me that the class is reading Arendt (Fanon and Foucault still to come!), and that on the board are six or seven terms: imperialism, emancipation of the bourgeois, Jews, Bismark, The Boy who wanted to shake and shiver, nation-state, Frankfurt Assembly, Wagner’s Ring, nationalism, dialectic.    Students are asked, for six minutes at class beginning, to write freely, connecting two of these terms.

Diego: “Nationalism is what comes from the overpowering nation. And overpowering is essential because it is all about power the whole thing revolves around which is more powerful.  Can the state keep the nation and the nationalism in line, or does the nationalism overpower the institution of state?   The thing that keeps recurring in Hegel and Marx and Arendt is this idea that if we get the people in line with the state (i.e. the nation in line with the state), we have peace, harmony, world spirit, freedom, whatever.”

I like this way of starting class– begin with a problem or project, let students work and think, then move to teacher-lead time, rather then vice versa (which is more common, sadly).   Now Brandon is leading us in a rich conversation about these terms, with lots of participation and critical acumen in place.   Teacher: “What imperialism do to the state?”  Student “It will impose its law on the people–which contradicts the original intention of a nation state.”  Teacher: ”  The alignment of imperialism and nationalism causes contradictions, because the state is supposed to protect rights, and this is the opposite.”

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