What is the role of politics in the classroom? How does the desire of the teacher shape the pedagogical process? Is teaching possible? Is learning possible? Pedagogy as Encounter engages with such larger issues. The majority of discussions, workshops, conference panels, articles, and books avoid meta-pedagogical issues by focusing on technique. Such “technique talk” examines schemes, methods, and procedures that do and do not work in the classroom. It answers the “how” question at the cost of ignoring these bigger queries.
Pedagogy as Encounter consists of 120 vignettes arranged in eight chapters. Most of these are first person autobiographical stories that describe encounters with students and colleagues. They portray a teacher whose classroom disappointments lead him to radical experimentation. But there are also a few theoretical sections, as well as segments that are epigrammatic in nature. All of it is grounded in a Lacanian political psychology and in a critical global political economy. The theory, however, remains largely implicit and is confined to the footnotes. The body of the text is free of jargon and presented in a conversational voice.
Naeem Inayatullah is professor of politics at Ithaca College. He has taught at the University of Denver, University of Colorado, Syracuse University, and for a short period in Brazil. He is associate editor of the Journal of Narrative Politics.
1. Prologue: The Encounter
2. Motivations: Origins, Memory, Family, and Political Economy
3. Apprenticeship: Graduate School and Junior Faculty Trials
4. Encounter as Method
5. Consequences: Encounter and Risk
6. Musical Metaphors and Learning from Students
7. From Theory to Healing
8. Epilogue: Projection, Transference, Embodiment
Naeem Inayatullah writes beautifully and excises our worlds with a precision and thrill that is rare, offering a perspective on pedagogy that is provocative and disquieting. Inayatullah and his interlocutors throughout lay bare the pretence at the heart of pedagogy and stare unflinching at what is found in, and through, and in the margins of, each encounter. This book is an act of courage, a testimonial, an inspiration – a gift.
This is the most honest, scorching, humane book about what it’s really like to teach that I have ever read. It somehow manages to be an interrogation of a system and an interrogation of the self, which is what makes it convincing. If you want to be a professor—and by that I mean if you want to know what it means to sit every day with the souls of young people in your hands—read this.
How do we teach and learn? Is teaching an instruction, an activism, or is it an encounter in which both 'teacher' and 'student' learn? In this wonderful book of 120 stories of encounters Naeem Inayatullah restores 'teaching' to a human plane of interaction and discovery.
Pedagogy as Encounter is a personal quest for a deeper pedagogy rendered as an act of witnessing. An honest, erudite, and profoundly student-centered work, Inayatullah embraces the range of human behavior in the classroom, including emotions, paradox, discomfort, and spirituality. His innovative method rejects all kinds of political correctness in favor of the openness of each student's encounter with professor, text, and group.
I think of Inayatullah in this book as our modern day gadfly of pedagogy. Or he's Diogenes of Sinope relaxing at the feet of Alexander the Great, who has asked him what he might desire above all else, to which he replies, for you to step away you're blocking the sun. What's blocking the sun in this inquiry are pat, self-congratulatory paeans to the joys of teaching. Maybe not with Diogenes's derision, but the same fearlessness is here, the same subversive spirit, ever-searching for authentic answers to what we are to our students. What do they really learn? And whatever that is, how much, really, is it from anything we do or say? This is a loving, brilliant, and brave exploration.
An extraordinary book that refuses to tell us how to teach but instead takes us by the hand through an encounter with the author, his students, and his remarkable method, honed across decades in the classroom. The book’s challenge extends far beyond pedagogy to our very grasp of being, and shows what a life that accepts the gift of impossibility might be. If, as mine does, your heart rebels against much it contains, the book will not let you escape the question of why. Read it if you dare.
Few scholars of International Relations have considered teaching as a practice of international politics rather than as a conveyor of disciplinary wisdom. For Naeem Inayatullah, the impulse to teach is a puzzle, an imperial gesture at that, and not a vocation or a mission. Through beautiful autobiographical vignettes - odes to his students, teachers, and colleagues - Inayatullah demonstrates in this book what openings can be created if teaching were treated as an encounter and not a mere pedagogical tool.
All of us who wear the label ‘teacher’ should strive to be as thoughtful about its meaning as Naeem is. These deeply evocative personal narratives challenge us to disassemble the professor/student antinomy, to ground the agency of learning where it belongs, and to live out our pedagogical convictions in the classroom environments for which we are responsible.
Inayatullah’s book is a demonstration of immanence, the bringing together of everyone and everything into the experience of learning. In this series of vignettes, like a great piece of music, all the pieces fit together and support each other. Take one away or break the parts up, and the whole no longer exists. Try to put your finger on, or pin down, or name it, and you’ve immediately lost it. It’s the circling around the subject that reveals its shape. As Inayatullah shows, this is also what happens in the classroom when teachers let go of the desire to teach, and instead create a more hopeful space for encounter and healing.
Naeem Inayatullah takes us on his journey of pedagogical risks, frustrations and all, undoing goals like teaching and learning to make space for encounter. He takes encounter seriously, not as serendipity but as method, recognizing how everyone’s insatiable curiosity is entangled in resistance to learn from teachers, who are imperialists. Naeem Inayatullah turns teaching into listening…. and pedagogy on its head. “Anything might happen if we treat pedagogy as encounter.” Worth the adventure.
You may not be ready for the central premise in Pedagogy as Encounter - teaching is impossible, learning is unlikely - but read it anyway. Naeem Inayatullah’s stories stay with you. They speak to you and say something different every time. And it is not because they are beautifully written, although they are. It is because he is willing to share something of himself, thereby inviting us to seek something of ourselves that we might be willing to share.
This book is both a moving teaching memoir and a thoughtful and original reflection on meta-pedagogical issues by a great International Relations scholar who has more than 30 years of teaching experience and has produced pioneering work on pedagogy, narrative forms of writing and autobiography in IR. While most of the works about teaching IR are interested in how teaching and learning can be made more effective (according to different objectives), this book engages with the question of whether teaching and learning are possible at all. Dr. Inayatullah’s rigorous and generous reflections on the purpose of teaching will be of interest to International Relations scholars and students and to anyone who teaches and learns (which is all of us, as the author says).
This is a courageous confrontation of colonial counter-insurgency in the classroom. Naeem Inayatullah's refusal to pacify either himself or his students unearths vital resources not only for enlivening our learning spaces, but also for living well with otherness, both of ourselves and of others.
If we accept the premise that teaching and learning are impossible, then what happens in the classroom? Pedagogy as Encounter: Beyond the Teaching Imperative is a book about one educator’s high-stakes experiments in how to be in relation to his students without domination, imposition, or expectation. The book is a series of stories and vignettes of radical openness to encounter, grounded in political philosophy, that are brimming with doubt, risk, tension, humor, and love. This is not just a book about teaching. It is, thinking analogically, a book about how to be in the world.
If Naeem Inayatullah’s thesis — that teaching and learning are impossible — were true, then how would I account for everything that I have learned in encounters with him over the years? If the thesis were false, then how would I account for this remarkable pedagogical text, which steadfastly refuses to teach in any conventional sense? Don’t throw dialectics at me. Just read this fantastic book, listen to the words and to the music, and walk away from the encounter changed.
The terms curiosity and meaning acquire a special tonality and richness in the ‘pedagogical encounters’ that Naeem Inayatullah so deftly scrutinizes in this account. Premised on over four decades of teaching and learning, there is a palpable self-reflexivity and welcome candour in ample evidence on every page here when Inayatuallah probes the depths of the possible and the impossible in these interconnected realms. Anyone who cares about teaching must take a dip into this pond and not hesitate to get drenched intellectually and affectively in the best sense of the term.
Teaching’s claim to innocent education is only outmatched by its emancipatory heroics. In this book, Naeem challenges both self-images by boldly proposing that “teaching is impossible and learning is unlikely”. At once a theoretical work on pedagogy and imperialism, and the narrative of a path of abandoning hopes of both conventional and liberation pedagogies, this book is an implicating confession that can neither be dismissed nor accepted without grave implications to our work as educators. In exchange, it offers a bottomless source of inspiration and energy for those trailing the teaching journey.
These evocative confessions trace a life in the classroom via richly woven tapestries of encounter. Insisting on the impossibility of learning and teaching, these meditations upend easy narratives of knowledge transfer or liberatory education and embrace instead the difficult pedagogical work of co-presence. Important, provocative and moving, this book’s strength lies in its vulnerability: readers bear witness to the frustration, anger, shame, joy, laughter, and love that accompany a pedagogy of encounter and emergence.
I love this book. Rich with personal vignettes and deep theoretical insight, this book offers an honest account of teaching that serves to inspire. Professor Inayatullah calls on us to critically think about our vocation as teachers. By placing his encounters with his students as inspirational moments for self-reflection, Inayatullah demonstrates the ups and downs, the challenges, and the wonderous moments of teaching. Pedagogy as Encounter is a must read for anybody teaching in a university environment.
Pedagogy as Encounter offers us the rarest of gifts: a method for inhabiting a profession whose purpose is to support and excuse Empire. By exposing teaching’s complicity in the imperial project, Inayatullah guides us through critique as a process of our own un-doing. His courage in exposing himself returns to us the negative as a resource, as a gift for us to open. This is a work of fierce compassion, built on the rift of our crushed hope and sustained with the critical love that both ruptures and liberates us.