It’s only during the past year that I discovered what a remarkable woman Louise Michel was having seen the French film Louise Michel La Rebelle (full film in French) and heard @paulmasonnews talk on the Paris Commune at the Really Free School. She was a key Communard in the Paris Commune of 1871 who was tried, convicted and sent to New Caledonia for 9 years before being part of a general pardon and returning to France in 1880. In New Caledonia she supported the political and educational struggles of the local people, and on her return to France she returned to her political activism, was imprisoned again in 1883 but remained an active educationalist. Like all true revolutionaries she saw that education was where activism had her home.
#contextisqueen We use the concept Context is Queen as a result of research we did when commissioned to identify a Digital Divide Content Strategy (by the DfES). We concluded that, rather than there being some explicitly defined content that was socially inclusive, so proving that Content is King, in fact socially inclusive learning was better served by tools and skills appropriate to context. In fact social inclusion requires a move from Access to Content to Context; Fair Access is not enough. As a consequence Ronan O’Beirne ironically coined the phrase ‘Context is Queen.’ So on International Women’s Day here is a little more on Louise Michel and also on some of the women working today to make Context the Queen of Learning; which is why we created the hashtag #contextisqueen for Twitter.
Anarcha-Feminist; On Anarchopedia Louise Michel is the second woman quoted in the section on Anarcha-Feminism. If we use Googles NGram viewer to see how often she has been referred to in books since 1860 we can see that in English she was not seen as significant as Mary Wollstonecraft or Emma Goldman, but interest in her rose markedly in the 1930s, when women had the opportunity to become school teachers (as depicted in the recent ITV series South Riding) and around 1980 when research by Feminist authors like Sheila Rowbotham raised the profile of historically significant feminists. However in French texts since 1860 the ‘Red Virgin’ herself has consistently aroused interest, initially when she was publishing texts like her memoir Red Virgin (available as a preview of Red Virgin on Google books) especially after her imprisonment in 1883. Then she stimulated interest again in the 1930s as women became active educationalists, and also in the 1960s as the social issues concerning the position of women grew. So her work has repeatedly aroused interest whenever social activism has organised around the position of women, education or civil justice because;
“The first thing that must change is the relationship between the sexes. Humanity has two parts, men and women, and we ought to be walking hand in hand; instead there is antagonism, and it will last as long as the ‘stronger’ half controls, or think it controls, the ‘weaker’ half.” [The Red Virgin: Memoirs of Louise Michel, p. 139]
Women’s Vigilance Committee; When the French government of Adolphe Thiers abandoned Paris to the Prussian invaders on January 28th 1871 the 229,000 people left in Paris organised resistance against them. Then on March 26th they formed a Municipal Council to run Paris as a Commune. Louise Michel was in charge of the Womens Vigilance Committee, whose work allowed for the self-organisation of women in various ways, and set up a network of hospitals. Subsequently exiled for her part in the Commune to New Caledonia she was converted to Anarchism by Nathalie Lemel and consequentially started teaching in Noumea and amazingly also helped the local Kanaks people resist French colonial administration in 1878. On her return she taught, gave public lectures and was active in the political First International, spending some time in England (to avoid harassment in France) where she helped set up the first libertarian school at 19 Fitzroy Square near University College London.
There is a wonderful French film on her which I was lucky enough to see last year in France. Here is a short extract from Louise Michel La Rebelle, which gives you a sense of her life in Nouvelle Caledonie. Resources in English on Louise Michel’s work are relatively poor, especially on her work as an educationalist, basically she simply regarded men’s and women’s rights as equal and acted accordingly. However if you see that Paul Mason of BBC Newsnight is giving his talk on the Paris Commune go along, he explains really well what various women, including Louise Michel, were doing to make the Paris Commune work in 1871. After being released from prison in 1885 she spent the last 20 years of her life giving public lectures and promoting education for all before dying in Marseille in 1905 just before she was due give another talk to her adoring French public. Her views on centralised power were anarcho-feminist. She noted the “monstrous manner in which power transforms men” and advocated ending the “crimes that power commits” by “spreading power out to the entire human race”…
BBC Radio 4 Great Lives; Podcast on Louise Michel – added in September 2013
Queens of Context today; As well as my Women of #PurposEd Education curation I will conclude with a brief shout out to women who have influenced or worked with the Learner-Generated Contexts Research Group starting with the inimitable;
Rose Luckin; Who started the Learner-Generated Contexts group off by suggesting that lastfridaymob become a research group. She paid for a critical awayday when we pulled our original ideas together as A Coincidence of Motivations leading to Agile Configurations. She also provided the Ecology of Resources model as the basis of our thinking and has been part of teams that have built both a prototype Facebook (Cybrarian) and iPad 2 (Homework) before the more famous editions. She focusses on project work as she Redesigns Learning Contexts. Seriously underrated as an academic, here she is discussing participatory science.
Katerina Avramides; Who gave us the term epistemic cognition, still a great quote for clearing the room, but it is what academia should be focussing upon; all our studies in fact. If I dont want to scare people off by talking about heutagogy, I can always go Greek and discuss epistemic cognition (or think for yourself if we want the conversations to continue)
Wilma Clark; a Trojan in keeping us going, but also developed the obuchenie interpretation of the Open Context Model of Learning after pointing out that in Russian the same word, obuchenie is used for both learning and teaching, so it was a lot easier for Vygotsky to go constructivist, as there weren’t the same conceptual barriers to break down as in Engish.
Judy Robertson; at Herit-Watt in Edinburgh who was part of the original Learner Generated Contexts Group. A computer scientist Judy focusses her work on narrative and interactive learning environments.
Eileen Scanlon; now an Emeritus Professor and a stalwart supporter of our work who developed the nQuire toolkit. Gave a wonderful presentation in our session on ‘Does technology promote non-knowledge‘ and a key promoter of e-science and participatory science.
Helen Keegan; is only one of a brilliant group of women at Salford University including Frances Bell and Cristina Costa. Her work, and behaviours, concerning digital identity is also helping point the way forward to us as we start thinking about Ambient Learning Cities.
And many more women besides, such as those looking at the future of the book like Sue Thomas, Kate Pullinger, @the_anke and Kati Rynne, along with ecologically aware women like Bridget McKenzie and Jody Joanna Boehnert who are all taking forward Louise Michel’s work in making society more inclusive, diverse and interesting. A pleasure to know you all 🙂
Radio YouTube; There is also a tribute to musical women, If I cant Dance I dont want to be part of your Revolution, Women in Music, on Radio YouTube. Enjoy PJ Harvey, Cassandra Wilson, Rumer, Patti Smith, Anna Calvi, Laura Marling and more and Dance Me to the End of Exploitation