On Study: Giorgio Agamben and educational potentiality: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

On Study: Giorgio Agamben and educational potentiality

1st Edition

By Tyson E. Lewis


184 pages

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In an educational landscape dominated by discourses and practices of learning, standardized testing, and the pressure to succeed, what space and time remain for studying?

In this book, Tyson E. Lewis argues that studying is a distinctive educational experience with its own temporal, spatial, methodological, aesthetic, and phenomenological dimensions. Unlike learning, which presents the actualization of a student’s "potential" in recognizable and measurable forms, study emphasizes the experience of potentiality, freed from predetermined outcomes. Studying suspends and interrupts the conventional logic of learning, opening up a new space and time for educational freedom to emerge.

Drawing upon the work of Italian philosopher and critical theorist Giorgio Agamben, Lewis provides a conceptually and poetically rich account of the interconnections between potentiality, freedom, and study. Through a mixture of educational critique, phenomenological description, and ontological analysis, Lewis redeems study as an invaluable and urgent educational experience that provides alternatives to the economization of education and the cooptation of potentiality in the name of efficiency. The resulting discussion uncovers multiple forms of study in a variety of unexpected places: from the political poetry of Adrienne Rich, to tinkering classrooms, to abandoned manifestos, and, finally, to Occupy Wall Street.

By reconnecting education with potentiality this book provides an educational philosophy that undermines the logic of learning and assessment, and turns our attention to the interminable paradoxes of studying. The book will be key reading for scholars in the fields of educational philosophy, critical pedagogy, foundations of education, composition and rhetoric, and critical thinking and literacy studies.


‘Surely, one of the greatest merits of Lewis’ book is to relate Agamben’s thought to established philosophers of education, among others Illich, McLaren, Freire and Rancière…Lewis also offers highly nuanced analyses and, although I may have suggested otherwise by emphasizing the negativity that characterizes study (not-knowing, a-poria, im-possibilities, etc.), the argument in this book isn’t a mere repudiation of the things we usually hold to be true.’- Joris Vlieghe, Philosophy of Education Society of Great Britain

‘This is a highly inspiring and compelling book. It offers a remarkable and original reading of some of Giorgio Agamben’s thoughts, developing them into a profound philosophy of study that challenges the language of learning that has colonized educational thought in the last decades. In a really surprising and provoking way Lewis opens up a route for a (un)timely educational philosophy and theory.’ Jan Masschelein, Professor in the Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences, KU Leuven

Table of Contents

1: From Being Willful to More Willing: The Agency of the Studier 2: Im-Potentiality: The Ontology of Study 3: The Aesthetics of Study: Poetic Rhythm, Mood, and the Melancholic Angel 4: The Method of Study or, Collecting Signatures 5: The Space and Time of Study: Weak Utopianism and Education 6: The Work of Studious Play: Overcoming the Problem of Transmission 7: Studying with Friends 8: Public, Collective Studying as an Im-Potential Political Gesture

About the Author

Tyson E. Lewis is Associate Professor of Educational Foundations at Montclair State University, USA, where he directs the graduate program in pedagogy and philosophy.

About the Series

New Directions in the Philosophy of Education

This book series is devoted to the exploration of new directions in the philosophy of education. After the linguistic turn, the cultural turn, and the historical turn, where might we go? Does the future promise a digital turn with a greater return to connectionism, biology and biopolitics based on new understandings of system theory and knowledge ecologies? Does it foreshadow a genuinely alternative radical global turn based on a new openness and interconnectedness? Does it leave humanism behind or will it reengage with the question of the human in new and unprecedented ways? How should philosophy of education reflect new forces of globalization? How can it become less Anglo-centric and develop a greater sensitivity to other traditions, languages, and forms of thinking and writing, including those that are not routed in the canon of Western philosophy but in other traditions that share the ‘love of wisdom’ that characterizes the wide diversity within Western philosophy itself. Can this be done through a turn to intercultural philosophy? To indigenous forms of philosophy and philosophizing? Does it need a post-Wittgensteinian philosophy of education? A postpostmodern philosophy? Or should it perhaps leave the whole construction of 'post'-positions behind?

In addition to the question of the intellectual resources for the future of philosophy of education, what are the issues and concerns that philosophers of education should engage with? How should they position themselves? What is their specific contribution? What kind of intellectual and strategic alliances should they pursue? Should philosophy of education become more global, and if so, what would the shape of that be? Should it become more cosmopolitan or perhaps more decentred? Perhaps most importantly in the digital age, the time of the global knowledge economy that reprofiles education as privatized human capital and simultaneously in terms of an historic openness, is there a philosophy of education that grows out of education itself, out of the concerns for new forms of teaching, studying, learning and speaking that can provide comment on ethical and epistemological configurations of economics and politics of knowledge? Can and should this imply a reconnection with questions of democracy and justice?

This series comprises texts that explore, identify and articulate new directions in the philosophy of education. It aims to build bridges, both geographically and temporally: bridges across different traditions and practices and bridges towards a different future for philosophy of education.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
EDUCATION / Philosophy & Social Aspects