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Call for Papers
Learning Unlearning: Critical Dialogues Between Anthropology and Education
A one-day conference organised in conjunction with the journal Teaching Anthropology
September 22, 2011
Department of Education, University of Oxford

Keynote Speakers:
Dr. David Shankland, Director of the Royal Anthropological Institute (RAI)
Dr. Peggy Froerer, Director of the Centre for Child-Focused Anthropological Research (C-FAR), Brunel University
Dr. Simon Underdown, School of Social Sciences and Law, Oxford Brookes University

Confirmed Speakers and Discussants:
Professor Anne Edwards, Director of the Department of Education, University of Oxford
Professor Roger Goodman, Head of Social Sciences Division, University of Oxford (discussant)

Learning Unlearning explores the revelatory paradoxes that lie at the heart of pedagogy and anthropological inquiry. One of anthropology’s strengths is its determination to unravel hidden meanings and complexities in taken-for-granted assumptions about social worlds. Such parallel processes of revealing the unexpected, making the strange familiar, and the unknown known, are important for all involved in pedagogy. Teachers of anthropology, and those seeking to teach anthropologically, see their task as helping students unlearn their preconceptions about phenomena before they can fully grasp alternate ways of thinking. Similarly, academics, teachers and students of all kinds sometimes have to unlearn assumptions – for example, about disciplinary boundaries or received wisdom about academic practice, methodological approaches or epistemology – in order to move knowledge forward. Unlearning becomes just as important as learning in the process of developing new knowledge.

This one-day conference opens up dialogues between academics, teachers and students in education and anthropology about the meaning, experiences and implications of learning unlearning.

Papers are invited to explore learning and unlearning on multiple levels:

  • Teaching unlearning (or teaching ‘anthropologically’): what can anthropology tell us about inspiring critical, analytical approaches and practices of inquiry in the classroom, the seminar or the lecture theatre?
  • Learning to unlearn: how can anthropologists engage more critically with their own educational practices? What can anthropologists gain from greater critical engagement with educational research?
  • Unlearning institutional practices: can processes of unlearning help us to re-imagine disciplinary boundaries, professional hierarchies and collaborative practices between students and teachers in educational institutions?
  • Unlearning methodology: how can learning and unlearning about methodology (and ethnography in particular) help stimulate new and innovative approaches to how research is carried out, both in and across education and anthropology?
  • Exploring teaching and learning anthropology within the context of the new A-Level qualification: what are the implications of the emergence of anthropology in secondary education? What must we unlearn about anthropology as a discipline as it becomes established in secondary education, and what can anthropology add to the social worlds of schools?
  • How can the dialogue between anthropology and education help us re-imagine how, where and when learning takes place? What are the new creative spaces for learning and unlearning that could emerge from a deeper engagement between anthropology and education?

If you would like to propose a paper or a themed panel, please send a title plus a 400-word abstract and author information to by Monday 4 July 2011. Selected papers will be included in a special edition of the journal Teaching Anthropology.

We are keeping the cost of attendance low at just £20 (to cover lunch, refreshments and an afternoon reception). To reserve a place and arrange payment, please email:

The journal Teaching Anthropology will be launched at a drinks reception following the conference.

CFP – Learning Unlearning: Critical Dialogues Between Anthropology and Education