Quotes from bell hooks’ Teaching to Transgress

bell hooks is a noted feminist, social activist, and educator. Her book Teaching to Transgress is best characterized as critical pedagogy, but even a cursory read shows how deeply the ideas of critical race theory, feminism, postcolonialism, and neo-Marxism have become intertwined within an “intersectional” framework. Much of the book was relatively benign, consisting of hooks’ musings on her career in education and her interaction with her students. But the ideas (dare I say worldview?) that undergird her thoughts surface on numerous occasions. Below, I’ll offer a handful of representative quotes:

“We learned early on [as students] that our devotion to learning, to a life of the mind, was a counter-hegemonic act, a fundamental way to resist every strategy of white racist colonization.” (p. 2)

“the work of various thinkers on radical pedagogy (I use this term to include critical and/or feminist perspectives) has in recent years truly included a recognition of differences–those determined by class, race, sexual practice, nationality, and so on” (p. 9)

“I have placed alongside the struggle to end racism a commitment to ending sexism, and sexist oppression, to eradicating systems of class exploitation” (p. 27)

“I have not forgotten the day a student came to class and told me: ‘We take your class. We learn to look at the world from a critical standpoint, one that considers race, sex, and class. And we can’t enjoy life anymore.'” (p. 42)

“Patricia Williams… writes that even those of us who are ‘aware‘ are made to feel the pain that all forms of domination (homophobia, class exploitation, racism, sexism, imperialism) engender” (p. 74)

“Identity politics emerges out of the struggles of oppressed or exploited groups to have a standpoint on which to critique dominant structures, a position that gives purpose and meaning to struggle. Critical pedagogies of liberation respond to these concerns and necessarily embrace experience, confessions and testimony as relevant ways of knowing, as important, vital dimensions of any learning process” (p. 88-89)

“Historically, white female efforts to maintain racial dominance were directly connected to the politics of heterosexism within a white supremacist patriarchy” (p. 95)

“White women who have yet to get a critical handle on the meaning of ‘whiteness’ in their lives, the representation of whiteness in their literature, or the white supremacy that shapes their social status are now explicating blackness without critically questioning whether their work emerges from an aware antiracist standpoint” (p. 104)

“One white woman…. suggests that the degree to which a white woman can accept the truth of racist oppression–of white female complicity, of the privileges white women receive in a racist structure–determines the extent to which they can be empathetic with women of color” (p. 106)

“The erasure of the body [e.g. ignoring where the professor stands, how physically close they are to students. etc.] encourages us to think that we are listening to neutral, objective facts, facts that are not particular to who is sharing the information” (p. 139)

“The power of [non-standard English] speech is not simply that it enables a resistance to white supremacy, but that it also forges a space for alternative cultural production and alternative epistemologies–different ways of thinking and knowing that were crucial to creating a counter-hegemonic worldview” (p. 171)

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