Listening of Production

Word Count: 6,699

by Paula Chieffi000: Archive

This article is formed of three texts that can be read apart, or compose a triptych of a complex relation that connects clinical practice and education. As the three texts explore, when the practice of listening is activated in an educational context, which means considering everything that happens during the process (including all its resonances) as a trigger to thought, then it is possible to think from a pedagogical-clinical perspective

~Paula Chieffi


PART ONE: A CLINICAL PERSPECTIVE AFFECTED BY AN EDUCATIONAL POINT OF VIEW

As a psychologist and educator, in my doctoral research I was faced with the challenge of writing about some of the ways clinical practice interfaces and interferes with education. With this, I shifted the clinical practice from its traditional encounter in the clinic to another field, one already consolidated with its own norms, and unique ways of working and thinking. As interesting as the effects of this shift can be to the educational field, what interests me in this text is to think of what this shift brought to the clinical field: like tending to one’s house after returning from a long trip.

The first movement to which I dedicated myself and my research was to understand or, perhaps, imagine, what would be the fundamental attitude of the clinical practice. I turned to the beginnings of psychoanalysis and came across its initial definition as the talking cure. I do not entirely disagree with such a definition, but it does not fully encompass the clinical practice that I intend to evoke, which contains a methodological principal towards the other (the invitation for the patient to speak freely) rather than a basic bodily attitude of the therapist. Nevertheless, it was from this definition that I came to what I consider to be the extract of the clinical practice. Because, if there is a talking cure, it is necessary to imagine a position that sustains the talking, something that precedes its own enunciation or that makes it possible. This attitude, present in all clinical encounters, is clinical listening –  a practice perceived only by its effects, which leads us to think that the listening speaks. A silent action that renders possible the production of a conversational field where words that give meaning to experiences – sometimes traumatic, others excessive or even, meaningless  – can be inscribed.

After defining the listening as the basic attitude of the clinical practice, it was important to clarify the difference of clinical listening from other types – after all, we all listen (even people who present some hearing dysfunction are able to perceive vibrations and decodify them). What is particular to clinical listening is that it is not evaluative, from a moral point of view. Instead, it is characterized as an ethical way of following processes, words, pauses, gestures, silences. Another particular characteristic is that of non-interdiction, except in extreme cases, where the behavior accompanied may be life-threatening to those involved. In this sense, if the philosopher is the one who understands all, the psychologist is the one who listens to all – memories, narratives, gaps, jokes, dreams, seemingly meaningless ideas, morally marginalized or inadequate topics, unthinkable things, movie plots, fictional characters, everything that can affect the human can be listened to and, to the extent that it appears in treatment, is a matter clinical work.

When thinking about what is particular about clinical listening, I was led to take a step back in the attempt to understand how clinical listening as it exists today was engendered through history. This was an extensive area of research, and I point here to just a few ideas that I consider particularly important for this discussion. The first concerns something characteristic of any human manifestation, but I mention it here regarding listening. It is not possible to think of general listening, since it is an experience that varies in time and space. We can imagine that the listening capabilities of an indigenous yanomami are completely different from those of a metropole inhabitant; similarly, the listening to proposals for the functioning of a city/society in Ancient Greece differs totally from the private way of listening to a religious confession at the beginning of Catholicism. With this, I want to highlight that the clinical listening we experience today was modulated throughout history and will continue to unfold and differentiate itself for as long as it exists (just think of the current listening configurations mediated by virtual devices for example).

We have always listened. Even before we had the eyes to see or the mouth to try, it was already possible to listen to sounds— aquatic, distant and distorted, from within our mother’s bellies. In general, we relate listening to our ears:  a small structure in the shape of a funnel that functions as a small seismograph. It is able to record vibrations from the world around us, and transmit them to the central nervous system that then turns them into codes and sounds, offering us an existential sonorous landscape or an environment that may be either familiar, or may indicate some imminent danger. All this without resorting to any rationality or consciousness. We listen with the whole body and with everything that the body brings.

The detail that we listen to vibrations or sound waves is not irrelevant. It makes us, writing or reading this text, attentive to the specificity of listening, understood here as an intensification of hearing, or the capacity for vibration and resonance. Resonance here refers to an ability to register a vibration of the world and to resend it in a subjective way, that is, a way that is simultaneously singular and general. The singularity refers to how something resonates in a particular way in the body, which can be accessed if we think of the multitude of existing voice tones. If we continue to think of a tone of voice, we know that it is not something controllable, it is a style or a brand, the meeting of the vocal cords with the air, inside and outside at the same time. Many authors have dedicated themselves to thinking of how our visual capabilities have been instrumentalized by current modes of capitalism, through the presence of cameras and screens all around. A kind of omnipresent and consensual vigilance that objectifies us, as it captures us in a way that can be measured and controlled, as a governable object. The operation that unfolds in listening, on the other had, subjects us to resonate vibrations of the world within ourselves at the same time that it connects us to the world itself – an idea of self as an effect of the experience of the world, a priori not existing.

At the risk of becoming somewhat specific or hermetic, the question remains: why does it matter to think about the clinical practice today? If we consider that the global socio-economic organization objectifies and commercializes identities and ways of life, we find in the listening a possibility for producing subjectivity, that is, a possibility for becoming subjects and therefore separate from hegemonic objectification. It is worth pointing out that the listening that I speak of here is not the listening to the self or to an individual (to listen to the self—would that not be an objectification of the subject?) The clinical listening focuses on desire, conceived as a pulsing movement that gives rhythm to life. In this sense, it is closer to the unconscious production than to consciousness. Let me explain: while the conscious organizes, explains and rationalizes content, the unconscious produces. Only that. Produces connections that do not fit, mixes fiction, reality, stone, tree, pieces of paper, buttons, old corners of abandoned houses, the carrot cake of the grandmother who has never been there, because she died before I was born… whose birth? … a time in which people greeted each other on the streets – but today I greeted a man with a friendly face – it was after the dip in the sea that does not exist here, but evidence have been found that the desert was once the sea, and that what is here now once was another world, and then our world would not be the other of a world to come?

With this, I emphasize that to consider the unconscious is to think that meaning comes from non-sense, that is, it is produced. Thus, to listen to what is produced as meaning or to the other senses present in the listening to the unconscious can lead us to possible invented futures and horizons other than what appear as real, helping us broaden the realm of the real. It is also worth mentioning that the listening experience is complex and does not guarantee access to desire or to the unconscious. Nor is it anything positive in itself. For there can be a listener whose objective is the control of the processes, the telephone listening, for example. Listening interests us in the clinical practice to the extent that it is an open process, of which the end is unknown. It is therefore, a life-monitoring practice and not content to be transmitted or an instrument of control.

Clinical listening, then, is not the listening of the self, as it can be mistakenly thought when we see two people from a distance, talking in a clinic. Clinical listening, as I define it after a walk through education, through schools, with students, educators, and managers who carry multiple worlds but share hours in common, is another listening. Or perhaps a listening of the other – of the other that inhabits me, of the other world, of other ways of taking care of oneself, of other ways of being, of meeting and caring. It is already a care in itself, because it knows that taking care of the other that lives in me is to be able to look at others around me, who are different from me and differentiate me from myself. And soon, I can imagine that the other is not my enemy, but someone who co-inhabits me, with less or more neighborhood and frontiers. It is not a salvation, we already experience this illusion and today we desire something more immanent, close to the body. It is a possibility of coexistence. Something that seems revolutionary, nurturing, in times of coups, major/minor[1] wars, and terror.

[1] As proposed by Deleuze and Guattari in Kafka, those categories do not relate to size or hierarchies rather than, respectively, hegemonic and counter-hegemonic or codified and uncodified issues.


PART TWO: EDUCATION FROM A CLINICAL PERSPECTIVE – THE OPENING OF A CONVERSATION FIELD

“I’m going to introduce myself like this: I am Hermeto Pascoal and I’m playing here with the frogs, making some music here by the lake. […] I really felt the frog saying: you can go, you can play. And I played, and played. And suddenly, he would say: for, that me to continue. And I would stop. But for all this there has to be a preparation, to say to them also: look, I arrived, for them to say to me: look, but the owner of the party here is I, I am in the lake, the lake is mine, you are here and to play you have to get into our thing. Then when it gets really hot, you have to be careful, because there are times that I get beaten by them, that they take from me. In terms of mental speed I lose even to the toad. I’m trying and bam … and I can’t, you know. And then suddenly I do something, and he waits. When he waits for me to do something, he challenges me.”[1]

After this return to the clinical field, I feel invited to share some effects of clinical listening as described above in the educational realm. It is worth saying that these effects are part of a chart in process – a mapping of impressions, results, small and not-so-small pieces of more than ten years working with students and educators in the public school system in Brazil. I analysed this multiplicity of material precisely in the last four years, during my Phd research.

I would like to highlight a general but important aspect of this work. Clinical listening can contribute to education when understood as a form of listening to what is alive. This listening to what is alive is potential in all educational processes, despite its absence in traditional modes of education focused in a specific content program.  Put another way, when the practice of listening is activated in an educational context it is possible to affirm and to consider that these spaces are spaces of life.

If we understand educational spaces as spaces of life, it is important to think how life can be accompanied by an educational perspective. Clinical listening, when practiced in educational contexts, is a way to do this. It is a simple practice despite the complexity of its unfolding. The complexity is related to the procedural aspect it requires. In other words, clinical listening in an educational context is a process without a known end. Besides that, it is a process involving learning that cannot be calculated or evaluated because of its existential nature. How can we calculate an existence?

Though we cannot calculate an existence, we can certainly follow it. Clinical Listening is a radical but simple attitude that requires no contents, plans or subjects – the traditional issues of education – but rather, the mobilization of a certain kind of perception. In order to describe, detail and experiment with this mode of perception I propose a shift of clinical listening into the educational context: what if we could listen to gestures, behaviors, happenings (and also to the unexpected) as something that can produce collective sense and subjectivation rather than something to be punished, avoided or a subject that cannot be discussed?

Previously I said listening is a radical but simple attitude. Let’s follow some words from Deleuze in order to better detail this affirmation:

If the protests of children were heard in kindergarten, if their questions were attended to, it would be enough to explode the entire educational system. There is no denying that our social system is totally without tolerance; this accounts for its extreme fragility in all its aspects and also its need for a global form of repression. [2]

These few words can sound optimistic, but what would happen if we would truly listen to children’s questions, and gave them consequences? We can pick up very common issues in students’ claims as the permission to go to the toilet, to use smartphones during classes, or the frequent complaint about the hours spent seated on a chair. What can these simple questions do to the planning of classes, collective rules and to the frame of teacher/student relations? If we take them seriously and understand their complexity instead of giving simple answers in order to keep everything working properly to achieve preformulated learning goals, we could rethink the whole learning system.

All of these questions were collected in several listening groups that I participated in with students during the past years. It is important to say that listening to these questions does not mean resolving all of them or immediately meeting the demands implicit in them. It is very common to confuse listening to someone or something with the imperative to solve or answer what is heard. However, the practice of clinical listening does not mean an exact response, it means considering the questions instead of being subjugated to them. In other words, listening to children does not mean they will have control and impose their own interests on the teacher and classroom, but they will affect the educational process.

An attitude of listening does not hierarchize or pre-determine what will be heard. By not knowing in advance what the possible meetings and conversations will be, the importance of a constant listening that is not vigilant is affirmed – a state of listening and attention to the deviations, noises and timbres of what is alive, in spite of the institutional crystallization. The idea of a constant attitude does not mean that there are no pauses, mismatches or arrhythmias – the impossibility of total silence indicates variations and qualities of silences that can be followed or merely experienced.

Though listening does not always mean answering questions we could, on the other hand, specify attitudes that can make listening possible. This could include creating and sustaining a relaxed and informal atmosphere that is open to playfulness, confronting difficult questions, that does not punish conduct, that considers everything that is said including silences and gestures. In a general sense we do not only listen to words, we listen to worlds.

Listening is operated, therefore, as diplomacy, both in the sense of a negotiation or translation of worlds, and as an attitude that considers difference and produces possibilities from singular encounters, both in the sense of recognizing the disciplining aspects that regulate school life through evaluations as well as categorizations that, as they spread, have effects on non-school life. This means to not ignore such lines and to stand before them in a singular way. It is, therefore, a diplomacy in favor of lines of force activated by the others’ thought, by interpellations from the outside, by deviations – since such lines are thought propellers and holders of another’s power—deregulations and transformations. This is a diplomacy that recognizes schools not as places of harmony, but those of conflict, noise, difference, life – a place of collective subjectification that opens the possibility for a pedagogical-clinical elaboration of questions related to school life and that resonate beyond it.

It is important to say that, as a mode of diplomacy, this attitude is not disinterested: it seeks to make perceptible the movements that are buried by institutional functioning, the effect of which is subjection. To talk about Education is to consider institutional functioning—the institutional rules and operations that regulate the existence of the institution itself. It requires a negotiation between life in its multiple expressions and the institutional forms. A dialogue that activates a field that is not restricted to understanding and does not oppose or seek a response, other than a conversation capable, therefore, of sustaining what is to come, thus having “nothing to understand, nothing to interpret” (Deleuze, 1996, p.14).

LISTENING IS POSITIONING YOURSELF

Clinical-educational listening is, above all, an attitude that permeates encounters that regard the other as a producer or trigger of thought. In this sense, it allows the establishment of a conversation field, and requires positioning and unfolding. What is done with what is heard matters so that the power of listening is not lost as an intercessor of vital possibilities, at the risk of making it harmless, an instrument of control or mere rambling. The conversation that listening engenders, since it is a meeting between differences, demands not to subjugate or be subjugated by the other, but to affect and be affected by it – being in conversation. It implies accepting incompleteness and openness and affirming the encounter as the producer of difference. Thus, listening to students, teachers or administrators is to produce conversations with the school in order to affect their functioning from the desired positions they affirm, which does not mean accepting everything one hears, giving up to pedagogical gambles and school experience, but creating openings in a system that regulates, evaluates and distributes paths and behaviors. An attitude of listening becomes potent in this type of approach, since it is not known in advance which investments unfold in affirmative claims and which others can engender repressive or moralizing operations. Guattari speaks of a “constant listening” to that which can be a desiring position or to that which can announce singular possibilities of life. Often this position appears out of place or off topic, being quickly suppressed to ensure the normality of things. This point is important for thinking about listening practices in schools or educational settings. To listen to teachers, for example, is to sustain a field of conversation in which what emerges does not refer to the subject, but to a field of forces[3]. Having this clarity is fundamental so that the comments do not receive blame, prohibiting listening. It is very common for initiatives of conversation and participation to result in the persecution of one or another person. At this point, a differentiation is necessary, because when this happens, listening functions as control and discipline, and the idea of constant listening is reversed in permanent vigilance and in a consequent restriction of the vital field.

Because the school is an essentially political enterprise that involves a collective and arranges several functions in the same place, they must create collective spaces for pedagogical elaboration. An effectively educational work requires the institutional and collective problematization of these functions, that is, the pedagogical elaboration of the workings, impasses and desires that cross the school daily. It implies the constitution and pedagogical-clinical (and not moral) support of a field of conversation in which these questions may appear, disturb, and/or force the invention of other formats, change some functions, reaffirm others. A systematic meeting space to elaborate, from the pedagogical point of view, what appears as a question, without the need to find the guilty – shifting the accusatory question of who did it? to how did this happen?, how does it happen?, how to revert this situation? A conversation where one can pose the questions that can not be forgotten and listen to others, negotiate and take over the present impasses in the complex process involved in proposing to educate anyone.

To characterize this space of listening, however, is to demarcate a non-space or a space between, because listening in the institution does not always take place in a single, designated space, but moves through boundaries. This is why it is important to affirm the power of a state of listening or of an extended attitude of attention to the various symptoms that continue to be placed in schools’ routine, and to the constitution of a space that can unfold these questions and produce collective meanings for the school process.

EDUCATION FROM A CLINICAL PERSPECTIVE

Out of the clinical interferences in educational contexts, the practice of listening can be thought as a line that stresses these two fields, in the sense of acting precisely at the border between the clinical practice and an educational doing that considers the production of subjectivity to be part of its process.

Thus, education, when crossed by listening as a constant practice accompanying life – impasses, questions, possibilities that present themselves in multiple ways – can offer a vital registration space for the pedagogical process. It offers the possibility of a conversation in which the other occupies the position of subject and is not objectified in generalizations or fixed places, resulting instead in mobile and singular processes. This accompaniment may offer pedagogical-clinical unfolding, if understood in its procedural character, serving for the collective elaboration of singular educational proposals and functioning to extend the vital field of the people affected by the school. Placing yourself to listen to the people involved in the educational process implies giving up hegemonic forms of perception and encountering multiple timbres, tones, rhythms, and styles that characterize a student, a teacher, a classroom, a certain school. It concerns discovering both institutional and subjective functioning by capturing noises that indicate possibilities for encounter, learning or conflict. It relates to the ability to live up to what is happening in school, understood as a place of life. In this sense, listening is presented as a device of attention to life, understood as an ethical practice that opens to a process of subjectification and not subjection.

Education, from a clinical perspective, can affirm desirable positions and consider them in the educational proposition when listening to what happens in school. It can constitute formalized spaces for listening, but without losing sight of the fact that not everything that appears in it needs a pedagogical-clinical unfolding, as well as much of what is needed in this kind of elaboration appears in cracks, bathroom doors, daily gestures, intervals, corners – any kind of encounter. More importantly: in order for such spaces to be configured as a listening space it is necessary above all that they are open to diverse questions, the main one being: how and for what purpose does this space function?

If you listen to students, welcomes deviations, follow extravagant lines, offer the possibility for school administrators to position themselves in face of the impossibility of educating, certainly you do not completely reverse the type of established school functioning. However it is possible to testify (and, hopefully, to sustain) to the expansion of a power, at times minimal, at others deafening, made to be noticed when unbalancing the game, forcing the coexistence of differences. Who knows, this testimony may open the way for a possible change in the rules of the game and, even momentarily, raise rules guided by life, its expansion and its multiplication.

Education, thought from a clinical perspective, as an encounter between multiple worlds, can help affirm a polyphony while refining collective points of encounter and subjectification. Such encounters can produce surfaces of contact as long as it does not react to an interpellation as a fatal threat, but as a possibility of affirming differences and practicing radical diplomacy. For this, it is imperative not to steal voices, but rather to sustain and lend words that help to give shape to the current experience, which has ties to the past while producing futures.

[1] Excerpt from the documentary Hermeto, Campeão by Thomas Farkas, 1981.

[2] Intellectuals and Power: A conversation between Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze

[3] The term field of forces is employed in research according to the Deleuzian study of Nietzsche (Nietzsche and Philosophy) and considers the experience of thought as a set of forces, in other words, as an intensive encounter with the Outside that has as one of its effects the production of subjectivity.


PART THREE: LISTENING IN AN EDUCATIONAL CONTEXT

Some years I lived in Itabira.
Principally I was born in Itabira.
That’s why I’m sad, proud: of iron.
Ninety percent iron in the sidewalks.
Eighty percent iron in the souls.
And this estrangement from what in life is porosity and communication. […]
From Itabira I brought various gifts that I now offer:
this ironstone, Brazil’s future steel,
this Saint Benedict of old saint Alfredo Duval;
this tapir leather, spread out on the couch in the living room;
this pride, this hanging head …
I’ve had gold, I’ve had cattle, I’ve had farms.
Today I am a civil servant.
Itabira is just a picture on the wall.
But how it hurts![1]

The work I facilitated with administrators in the municipal network in a small city in the State of Minas Gerais was part of a bigger movement in Brazil that proposes to increase school hours and expand the pedagogical activities offered in the public school system. The sessions took place at the Fazenda do Pontal, a place that belonged to Carlos Drummond de Andrade’s[2] family and that today is a public space that holds workshops, exhibitions, and other cultural and educational activities. The first core goal of working with administrators was to activate the conception of integral education – a model of education that considers all those involved in the process as subjects – in the municipal network. The second goal was to produce teaching guidelines for the implementation of a wholistic pedagogical program. Participants were also oriented in different manners to produce a fertile space for listening and exchanging technologies and knowledge related to education. This essay emphasizes the ways that listening was used as a way to enrich and consider the multiple elements of the educational process.

LISTENING IN THE TRAINING SPACE OR LISTENING TO THE TRAINING SPACE

The space where the sessions with the administrators took place is an emblematic place—a mining town in the state of Minas Gerais. Mining is a striking presence in the city – from the jobs it offers, the interferences in the landscape caused by the huge mine dumps that border the city and by the presence of huge craters, including one of the ancient landmarks of the city, Cauê Hill, which after mining, has become Cauê Hole.

Despite of this remarkable presence, with its intersecting concrete and symbolic landscapes, its absence in training sessions or in the school curriculum is noteworthy. If we understand the school curriculum as connected to the wider social production and intimately marked by cultural production, the lack of pedagogical problematization of the fact of being a mining town is disturbing.

Considering the precise space where the training sessions take place, the reason for this small deviation will be understood, since they happen in the old farm that belonged to the family of the poet Carlos Drummond de Andrade. In the year 1973, the main house of the Farm was dismantled to clear space for a dam for ore washing. Vale[3] kept it dismantled for thirty years. In 2004, the company rebuilt the house with the original pieces and “handed over to the community this important part of Drummond’s childhood”. [4] Today, the Fazenda do Pontal is situated a few kilometers from its original location and overlooks the ore washing ponds or, simply, the waste.[5]

It is noteworthy the fact that the Fazenda do Pontal was delivered to the city thirty years after it gave way to ore washing. According to Suely Rolnik, this is the time it takes for a trauma of social dimensions to return and be elaborated. The time of a generation. On the other hand, it makes you wonder how long it takes to produce a silencing, understood from both cultural and curricular perspectives.

THE SILENCES AND THE LIMITS OF THE TRAINING

Back to the training experience, it is possible to say that some silences that were repeated there began to sound like noises that were just as hard to avoid as they were to face. The work of Raquel Stolf[6] called Assonances of Silence helps to access silence from an affirmative point of view and, thereby, differentiate silence from silencing. This work consists of records on compact disc of fifty different silences – silence with cricket, with wind, with many birds, with emptiness and insects, with a refrigerator running, with a glitch, among other sound situations recorded by the researcher.

The experience of listening to the silences, as she proposes it, is a sound experience. To what silence does it refer, then, since there are recordings of different sounds? One possible approximation of this question is the fact that there is no recording of voice, breath or any other indication of the artist’s presence in the recordings. Is the silence, here, connected to a who? From this, it may be possible to think of a kind of relative silence, in which the subject disappears except for the sound recording of what is going on in the surroundings. However, if we understand the subject as that which resounds in it, we could emphasize the subjective presence in the recorded silences, understanding the inventory of silences recorded by the artist as an apprehension of what in it resounded as silence. This leads one to think the relation between silence and listening beyond the field of the subject founded on reason or as an a priori.

During the fourth session, an administrator pulled me aside, almost in confidence. It was not the first time she had. Her observations, always delicate, contrasted with her corpulent presence. “It’s been 42 years of school,” “I am impressed these days with the fatigue that I feel when trying to understand something that is so natural for them.”[7] In the midst of this seemingly trivial conversation, rather banal talk about the city came up: “Did you know that Itabira is the city with the highest number of suicides in Brazil?” (I was not aware of it until that moment). It was surprising that this information had only come from an aside, almost as a confession, after almost two years of work in the city. Why was this data considered unimportant?

“We have lost the ability to establish resonances between things” states Vladimir Safatle[8]. It is possible to question whether this capacity has been lost or if it is interdicted via multiple forms of silencing, both cultural and curricular. What must be done, in the recording of a pedagogical-clinical process, is to reestablish the possibility of resonating; to provide situations of listening in which people perceive themselves in a force field and to draw lines that connect and simultaneously give visibility to what imprisons and what drives life; to resume our ability to establish resonances and to bet that this can cause the body to reverberate in order to break the silence and create possibilities consonant with the vital processes.

It is important to question the ways the traversing of a mining company’s presence in a city expresses itself subjectively, and if the high rate of suicide attempts is not connected. It is also necessary to question how the educational task confronts this suicide rate, that is, the effects from the point of view of a public school curriculum.

This question points to the power of education to increase perception of influences from the outside, to be affected by them and to work in a way to resonate such issues from the point of view of the organization of contents and learning situations, that is, from the curriculum. Perceiving this specificity gives strength to the educational actions that work with horizons of extension of the students’ experience. What’s more, to offer activities that consider singularities and act to extend freedom and to produce empowerment means to fight actions restricted by the sieve of profit.

In view of what has been presented, it seems possible to map out a kind of silencing regime, partially worsened by the high rate of suicide in the city and by the devastation of the local landscape. Thus, it is important to differentiate silence from silencing. The silence in Stolf’s work is affirmative and productive, since from it, it is possible to perceive from its absolute impossibility until the access to sound spaces that can trigger multiple threads of meaning. On the other hand, the silence around the issues related to the high suicide rate and coping with the effects of the presence of mining in Itabira can be understood as a silencing of questions from the outside and its possible connections with the curriculum.

What happens if we listen to the mining’s presence and to the high suicide level from a clinical-pedagogical perspective? It happens that we can position ourselves on this question. I’m referring to an institutional positioning and, when it comes to the schools, it means a curricular positioning. In other words, the schools could discuss and think how to face it from a curricular point of view (what we do with what we listen to).

Considering it was not possible, for several reasons, to do that with the schools, it is still possible to imagine curricular responses to those questions, for example: studying contents related to mining from different subjects’ perspectives; doing a field survey with the students in order to register and testify the mining effects – the visible and the invisible ones; proposing several aesthetic interventions such as literary and poetic texts, or images; interviewing older dwellers about the old spots and life before and after the mining; thinking collectively (educators and administrators) about practices of valuing life, talking about suicide in a nonmoral mode; mapping possible causes (affective rather than scientific). At the same time, we must always have in mind the following question: how can what we heard and researched affect our educational propositions? How can life, even when considered from the perspective of suicide or death, impact educational processes? It’s also possible to think and propose activities not directly related to mining, but those able to make the social imaginary wider, for example,by exploring and experimenting with other possibilities of political organization.

The interweaving between the economic sustenance of the past and the present and the prospects of the future around mining activities configures a dependency relation that restricts the field of possibilities in the city. On the one hand, this shows how the capitalist mode of operation infiltrates life, something perceptible in the movement of the great machines that carry tons of ore a year, the sound of the train that crosses the city or the ferrous colour of the water lines in the small village in the countryside; that is to say, one cannot go beyond capitalist functioning. On the other hand, it is precisely this interweaving that suggests the possibility of resisting, refuting, blocking or not being able to cope with capitalist flows, understood in a broad way as the principle of placing profit over life. If it is here that the river runs, it is precisely here that it is possible to bathe, build a dam or start a crossing. The perception that each process, be it existential, curricular, technical or of any other type, connects with the production of subjectivity as a whole, even if this is not done in a visible way at any and all levels, it can suffocate or, on the contrary, stir up the power to act.

Such power is also placed in the educational field. Hence the educational task moves a whole field of forces that cannot be restricted to the areas of knowledge. If the school’s role is, in general, to promote learning and if we understand the curriculum as the proper artefact of school education, our instruments to connect body and word, culture and pedagogy, life and education are precisely in the curriculum. This may mean understanding that the curriculum is a producer of subjectivity to the extent that it is affected by the process of subjectification. Being attentive and porous to the resonances to which the educational process is subject is one of education’s tasks, when it is thought about from the perspective of life itself, its circumstances and resonances.

[1] “Confidência do Itabirano”, poem by Carlos Drummond de Andrade.

[2] Important Brazilian poet, born in 1902 in Itabira. Dead in 1987.

[3] One of the largest mining companies in the world, founded in 1942 in Itabira. Privatized in 1997 in a not-so transparent operation, while still called Vale do Rio Doce. In 2015 it was one of the responsible for the environmental crime resulting from the rupture of an ore washing dam in Mariana, MG, which resulted in the contamination of the Rio Doce.

[4] Available here.

[5] It should be added that in Itabira there are about 30 dams similar to the one that broke in Mariana.

[6] Available here.

[7] Referring to the relationship of students with the application that takes the name of pokemon go – an expanded reality interface that indicates, by geolocation system, the presence of animated pokemon characters and allows their capture via application. Despite their presence on the sites, they can only be accessed by the application. Without it, the characters are invisible.

[8] In a speech that included the release of the book Crisis and Insurrection in 2016.


Barthes, Roland. 1990. O óbvio e o obtuso.  Rio de Janeiro: Editora Nova Fronteira. Translated by Léa Novaes.

Deleuze, Gilles (with Claire Parnet) 1996 From A to Z.  US: The MIT Press. Translated by Charles J. Stivale.

Deleuze, Gilles and Guattari, Félix. 2009 Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Penguin Books Ltd.: Penguin Classics. Translated by Robert Hurley.

Guattari, Félix. 2015 Psychoanalysis and Transversality. Texts and Interviews 1955–1971. US: The MIT Press. Translated by Ames Hodges.

Nancy, Jean-Luc. 2007 Listening. New York: Fordham University Press. Translated by Charlotte Mandell.

Rolnik, Suely and Guattari, Félix. 2007. Molecular Revolution in Brazil. Los Angeles: Semiotext(e). Translated by Karel Clapshow and Brian Holmes.


Written by PAULA CHIEFFI

Originally published JUNE 2018

Photo montage in sepia colours, a figure imposed onto a cliff face with their face hidden

Artwork by KATE HOLFORD

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