Council on Anthropology and Education
Oral Presentation Session
In Lebanon, as in countries across the world, education is tasked with rebuilding a society torn apart by violent conflict and riven with economic injustice. Public education in Lebanon is currently undergoing repeated cycles of reform, even as, this sector has been further stressed by yet another major crisis brought about by the civil war in neighboring Syria. Drawing on four years of ethnographic research, this paper focuses on the everyday work of the teachers in one public kindergarten school, who attempt to do the work of teaching the children and “repairing the nation.” Educational policy-making typically positions teachers as conduits through which reforms are ciphered, rather than as full participants, professionals, (often) mothers, and, citizens.
Focusing on the complex and contradictory nature of teaching in an ordinary public kindergarten school in Beirut, caring for Lebanon’s most vulnerable children, I analyze the mechanisms through which forms of civic life are being forged and contested. On the one hand, the teachers are educated—through the practices of teaching—into subject positions that do not cast them as full public actors. Nevertheless, as they improvise practice with the limitations of what is available, they constitute themselves as public actors through engaged, embodied, shared practices of working together on behalf of the children most affected by the rent fabric of Lebanon. Highlighting kindergarten as a site of civic contestation, this paper examines feminist perspectives on care as practice that is inextricably bound up with politics and governance, and thus, with justice.