Doctoral Colloquium Series, Blog Post series

Cognitive Violence in Pedagogy: A Philosophical Approach— Silas Krabbe, Doctoral Colloquium

In October 2023, EDST began hosting a Doctoral Colloquium. Once a month doctoral students and candidates present their research to EDST students, staff and faculty.

In this blog post:

Colloquium coordinator, Yotam Ronen, recaps Silas Krabbe’s Colloquium.

Silas Colloquium Banner for Post

What is cognitive violence in education? Is it a necessary part of learning? Can we imagine and work towards education without cognitive violence?

These are the timely and vital questions that Silas Krabbe confronts in his doctoral project. In his dissertation, Krabbe aims to describe and understand the phenomenon of cognitive violence in education, and to offer alternatives to it that are firmly situated in the intellectual traditions of those communities who are most affected by violence in education and elsewhere. Using a multi-centric and iterative approach, Krabbe engages with political black theology, phenomenological accounts of violence, encounter in pedagogical theory, communal epistemic violence in literatures on colonialism, and non-violence in political education.

Krabbe’s first claim is that we often associate education as the cure for violence, yet education is itself often violent. Therefore, expecting more education to lead to less violence is a futile exercise. Here, a consideration of violence in education is especially problematic because both violence and education are seen as acts of change: the person changes when they learn, and violence is the experience of harm (change in felt experience) occasioned by one person on another.

The crux of the matter here is that the language we use to describe violence is insufficient in approaching the phenomenon of violence. This is a significant gap that cannot be easily accounted for. Instead of attempting to bridge this gap, Krabbe offers a multi-centric approach that considers the possibility of a multitude of understandings and ideas, and that approaches the topic of cognitive violence through constant iteration as an explicit resistance to logics of linearity.

This approach lends itself especially well to the problem of naming violence. The act of naming requires stretching our imagination towards a phenomenon that exists outside our purview, and in that becomes a problem of theology. Instead of rehashing the common arguments of violence as the right of the sovereign, who both enacts violence and defines it, black theology interrogates the question of violence from multiple directions through discourses on relations to god, the cosmos, and the self. By iteratively observing violence through these multiple discourses, Krabbe aims to identify the moment where the language of violence breaks down.

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These moments of breakage can reveal both ontological assumptions that are at the basis of our definitions, and account for the significance and mechanisms through which naming happens. Violence is a singular phenomenon that appears in a flow of phenomena. Its naming is a moment of distortion that must be accounted for because it requires making the phenomenon dead enough for it to be observed.

This process creates a maximal and minimal definition of violence, both problematic for a serious consideration of violence in education. These two definitions are insufficient for an understanding of violence, because they don’t account for the fact that we are changing and are a part of a world that changes constantly. Phenomena are with us and part of us, they move with us and through us, and thus require us to be able to understand them as such.

After critiquing our modes of seeing, defining, and isolating violence as a phenomenon, Krabbe moves to thinking of violence in the pedagogical encounter. He argues that there is asymmetry in pedagogical relations, but that such asymmetry is not inherently violent. It can be, and indeed tends to move towards violence, but does not have to.

Krabbe works through these interrogations of violence to question and understand the phenomenon of cognitive violence and to offer paths towards a less violent, or perhaps non-violent political education. Here violence as a problem of change will meet Krabbe’s tentative claim: that education, learning, and world building can occur without violence. For Krabbe, a multi-centric approach to worlding will address the concern that the imagination of possibilities can take on a colonial framework. Instead, Krabbe will offer pedagogical alternatives that center the role of the educator as one that warns against harm, but that does not predetermine the path forward.


Interested in more from EDST’s Doctoral Colloquium Series? 

Check out our Doctoral Colloquium page for more.

PhD candidate, Yeonjoo Kim, will present on the topic of “Exploring learning in leaving and career-transitions: A multiple-case study of Korean millennials voluntarily quitting workplaces.

Thursday, March 7, 2024, 12-1:30pm in PCN 2012.


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Navigating Anti-Colonialism in Education: An Interview with Aneet Kahlon

This post is the second in a series of interviews with EDST student representatives.

The first post featured an interview with Silas Krabbe, GAA representative on GPACC.

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Today I am thrilled to introduce Aneet Kahlon (she/her/hers), a MA student and student representative in EDST. Aneet graciously took the time to share insights into her academic journey, research interests, and experiences within EDST.

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From Science to SCPE

Aneet’s background before coming to EDST was in science learning. Coming from Calgary, AB Aneet earned her Biological Sciences degree at the University of Calgary, as well as a Bachelor of Education from the University of Alberta.

Originally wanting to come to UBC to study Marine Biology straight out high school, Aneet instead joined the Educational Studies department in fall 2022.

Finding Her Niche: SCPE and Anti-Racism 

In her pursuit of a Masters degree, Aneet found EDST’s SCPE (Society, Culture and Politics in Education) a wonderful fit, focusing on anti-racism and educational policy. Much of her previous university experiences were large, lecture-format classes, so she has really enjoyed the switch to smaller classes and the ability to talk about and engage in coursework with others.

Getting Involved as a Student Representative

Aneet is currently the student representative on the Scholarships and Awards Committee. While she hasn’t had the chance to meet with the committee this year, she is no stranger to volunteering in the department. Last year she was a SCPE student representative, and found it was a great way to meet people in EDST and get to know more about the inner-workings of the program.

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Aneet shared her motivation for joining committees as a student representative, in that she aims to expand her involvement beyond classroom learning, emphasizing the importance of understanding the program’s decision-making processes.

Life Beyond EDST

When asked about hobbies, Aneet shared that she is learning to draw. In addition to taking drawing lessons, Aneet also enjoys doing other arts and crafts like embroidery, creative writing, journaling and poetry.

Aneet is hoping to incorporate her newfound passion for drawing into her thesis through the inclusion of family photos she has been drawing. She described how the process of carefully studying the small details of family photos has been a moving process which has allowed her to feel more connected to her grandparents and family memories. She credits one of her supervisors, Hartej Gill, for encouraging her to integrate creative outlets into her thesis, as she had incorporated creative writing into her own dissertation.

Around Vancouver

When asked about her favorite spots around Vancouver, Aneet shared that one of her favorite peaceful getaways is New Brighton Beach near Powell Street.

Another favorite spot is Main Street, particularly Caffe Artigiano. She might often be spotted browsing at a nearby bookstore before settling in to study at Caffe Artigiano with one of their delicious oat milk chai lattes. Aneet also enjoys immersing herself in Vancouver’s live music scene and appreciates the diverse range of local artists and the vibrant energy of the music scene.

Aneet’s Research and Experience with EDST

Aneet’s primary focus is on education policy research, specifically delving into anti-racism policy through an anti-colonial lens. Her thesis, titled “Anti-Colonial Content Analysis of Surrey School District’s Racial Equity Strategic Plan,” will examine how policy production impacts students, teachers, and communities. Her research is driven by a desire to challenge the status quo and advocate for anti-colonialism in education, aiming to create inclusive spaces where diverse voices are valued and heard.

As Aneet reflects on her journey, she’s grateful for the supportive community and the diverse perspectives she’s encountered in her time with EDST.

Thanks to Aneet for sharing her story!

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This blog post was the second in a series of interviews with EDST student representatives. Click here to learn more about EDST’s committees and opportunities to get involved.

Are you a student representative interested in being featured on the EDST blog? Click here to reach out to our blog editor, Jessica Lussier.