Relaxing and Stretching Reads : Spinoza and Youth Work


The highest activity a human being can attain is learning for understanding, because to understand is to be free (Spinoza).

What I can’t complain about is a lack of stuff to post. Amongst the stuff is a range of pieces, which are lengthier and, whisper it softly, take a bit of an effort to get one’s head round. There’s always a danger these get overlooked and forgotten. So I’m going to start putting up longer reads on a Friday evening on the probably spurious grounds that you might have more time at the weekend to engage with them.

Hence I’m pleased to kick off the IDYW ‘Relaxing and Stretching Reads’ initiative with a challenging post co-authored by Hans Skott-Myhre, Veronica Pacini-Ketchabaw, and Kathleen S. G. Skott-Myhre.

Immanent Approaches and Liminal Encounters in Youth Work, Early Education, and Psychology

It begins,

It was a casual conversation at the edges of a child and youth care conference that led to a series of questions about where the edges of our work with young people were situated in the contemporary landscape. The set up for the conversation was like the introduction to a joke: a psychologist, a youth worker and an early childhood educator walk into a bar . . .

But there we were, representing three ostensibly distinct disciplines talking about what happens when young people and adults are thrust together in therapy, school and community programs. We wanted to find a way to think about where the edges of our disciplines frayed and faded into what we later came to call liminal spaces. Those being the spaces in between where new and uncharted territory might point in unanticipated and surprising directions for the work we do. We decided that we would edit a collection of essays that would hopefully articulate and entangle the liminal spaces of encounter, both within and between youth work, early childhood education and psychology.

The resulting collection of essays is called Youth Work, Early Education, and Psychology: Liminal Encounters and those writing within its covers work to re-think the set of relations posited by youth and adults involved in what we proposed as mutually transformative encounters. We asked the authors of the pieces in the volume to situate their work and thought within the question of how various modes of praxis might be premised in an acknowledgement of a shifting socio-political landscape. We wanted to wonder together about how the advent of global capitalism with its neo-liberal imperatives for education, psychology and child and youth care/youth work has had far reaching effects.

Provocatively the authors draw on the famous 17th century Dutch philosopher, Baruch Spinoza to inform the politics of the 21st century, specifically his notions of ‘immanence’ and ‘liminal’.  They seek to explore how we can resist global capitalism’s desire to invade every nook and cranny of our existence through the the exercise of our imagination and creativity in spaces outside of capitalism’s reach. I hope you might find the time to spend with this relaxing and stretching read and I’ll get a copy of the book.

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