Brigley Thompson, Z.
From safe spaces to precarious moments: teaching sexuality and violence in the American higher education classroom
(2018) Gender and Education, pp. 1-17. Article in Press.
Critics of safe spaces in campus teaching often fail to understand the complexity of instructors’ practices in teaching controversial topics. Beginning with recent controversy regarding safe spaces in the higher education classroom, this paper explores strategies for fostering more complex learning when teaching classes on sensitive topics, whilst encouraging a resilient mind-set in approaching disturbing subjects. Based on experience of teaching a mixed undergraduate/graduate course on ‘Sexuality and Violence’, the discussion focuses on moments of precarity in the classroom, drawing on Judith Butler’s work on ethical cohabitation and Michel Foucault’s writings on ethics. The precarious moment is defined, not simply as a tense or difficult exchange, but a moment when an ethical demand is made through an exchange between members of the classroom. Ultimately, this paper argues that what the university classroom needs is not safe space, but a space of precarity that is generative, dynamic, and valuable. © 2018 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
critical & literary theory; heteronormativity; higher education; Sexualities education; violence