das kollektiv, Austria

das kollektiv
critical education, counseling and cultural work by & for migrant women*

das kollektiv

das kollektiv is a follow-up organization of maiz, an independent association of and for migrant women*, existing since 1994 with the aim to improve the living and working situation of migrants in Austria and to promote their political and cultural participation as well as to bring about a change in existing, unjust social conditions. (www.maiz.at)

das kollektiv is a place of critical educational work, of exchange, of contradiction and of collective organization. We work i.a. in the field of adult education with migrant and refugee women* who have the least privilege.

We run basic education courses, including literacy courses, preparatory courses for primary education, preparatory courses for high school entrance, professional education or universities. We also provide education and trainings for teachers, also migrant and refugee women*. In conjunction with and in addition to the courses, many processes and projects, discussions and actions arise at this location. In the development and research projects, approaches and theories are further thought, processed, interwoven, developed and brought into relation to experience.

We work in a space characterized by experience and repeated ascertainment of the diminishing rule of law, a lack of social security and participation, and dwindling economic and social justice. We work in a space that is developing under neoliberal capitalism and its migration regimes to an ever larger space, in which the consolidation of what has been there for a long time takes place: the outside of fundamental rights.

Our course learners are those who are not considered to be entitled to equal rights. In this space, we design a pedagogical practice for re-reading and re-writing the world – and in the sense of pedagogical reflexivity (migration pedagogy / Paul Mecheril) – also for re-reading our practice as teachers, developing from critical-emancipatory (pedagogy of the oppressed / Paulo Freire; bell hooks,etc.), anti-racist, queer-deconstructive and decolonial approaches.

We are developing and implementing a pedagogical practice that aims to contribute to emancipation, transformation of reality and reduction of structural discrimination and violence. Our education work therefore promotes the critical acquisition of the German language and the knowledge of the dominant society. From our position as migrant*self-organizations we ask: Which truths does a statement or a picture convey? Which knowledge is considered to be true and why? How is it possible to produce the less truth possible in critical education? We regard language in its dialectical relation to reality – as a normative instance, the constitutive one for the preservation of power relations, but also as a reality-constituting action. Because we name the world and co-create it, we can change it too – we learned a long time ago and continue learning in the present. We read and think critical pedagogy in the tradition of educação popular from our perspective as migrant women* in Europe.

Based on Paulo Freire, we mean that learners as part of an emancipatory educational work should have the opportunity to perceive and problematize social, political and economic contradictions in order to act against the oppressive elements of reality. An emancipatory and critical educational work is not exhausted in the revelation of reality. It leads to organization of a practice of change. Critical educational work demands also structural changes.

Because despite everything we experience, despite the repeated mantras of the lack of alternatives of the current socio-political economic reality, there is knowledge about the possibility of changing the ruling violent, murderous order.

Poetry approach as a strategic response

Given the neoliberalization of educational work, we choose the work with poetry as one of our learning and teaching (resistance) strategies.

Especially since educational policy is increasingly prioritizing efficient training for the market, for the neoliberal capitalist market.

Especially since educational programs aim to promote individualized forms of self-efficacy and convey skills that should lead to inclusion – in precarious, exploitative systems.

Establishing neoliberal measures: a situation, also in the basic education, not only in Austria. Educational technocrats measure the field, attest deficiencies, present strategies, determine success indicators, prescribe descriptors and learning outcomes.

We prefer to work with poetry.We prefer to practice metaphorical thinking, abstractions. To become more intellectually independent from hegemonic politics.

Within the project POETA and in dialog with the partner organizations we have the possibility to explore, develop, test, reflect, implement and disseminate a poetry approach to literacy processes.