Experiencing Developmental Crises in Critical Times/ Sheffield EdD Residential Weekend


Sheffield EdD Residential Weekend, 2017

Sheffield EdD Residential Weekend, 2017

Most theories of psychological development refer to a crisis that takes place in adolescence due to physical, cognitive and psychosocial changes. Little research has however explored how young people experience this psychological crisis in the context of today’s broader financial, geopolitical and ecological crises. While a crisis indicates a period of intense difficulty, it can also be understood as the turning point when a difficult or important decision must be made – which involves the possibility for the emergence of radical novelty. My lecture at the EdD Residential Weekend at the University of Sheffield (17-18 February, 2017) drew on post-vygotskian and post-structuralist grounds as to explore the challenges and possibilities regarding youth development in this frame. I proposed a differentiation between two modes of human development: development of concrete skills (potential development) and development of new societal relations (virtual development, which is at the same time individual and collective). I also reflected on the significance of this differentiation by exploring research materials from my recent projects with disenfranchised youth in Greece, Germany, US and Brazil. Last but not least, I expanded on the notion of virtual development to consider recent technological developments that enable the multimodal communication and transnational collaboration among young people from diverse linguistic and geographical contexts. The powerpoint presentation is available HERE

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Collaborating on Facebook: Teachers Exchanging Experiences Through Social Networking Sites

cultural-hist-psyJust published by Fernando Rezende da Cunha Júnior, Bert van Oers & Michalis Kontopodis: Our study explores the use of Facebook for educational purposes, as a collaborative online space for enabling communication among teachers from different schools. The article describes how a group of 43 teachers on Facebook, from various schools in the southeast region of Brazil used a group on Facebook as a collaborative space for communicating among each other. On the group, these teachers shared experiences about the use of digital technologies in their secondary education classes. This study is based on Cultural Historical Activity Theory, considering the group on Facebook as a tool for mediating communication. The objective of this study is to explore why and how teachers collaborated with each other on Facebook, and to study how communication among them evolved in the process. We examined the posts on that group from 2012 to 2014, and two questionnaires responded online by the teachers in June 2012 and in December 2013. Our findings suggest that teachers tend to critically collaborate in smaller groups and that further online communication evolved outside the group of teachers, with the creation of smaller groups on Facebook inside their schools. In: Cultural-Historical Psychology 2016. Vol. 12, no. 3, pp. 290-309. Open access HERE.

Posted in Journal Articles

Research with Transformative Agendas: ISCAR Pre-Conference Workshop in Quebec, August 28 2017

The next ISCAR conference takes place from the 28th of August to the 1st of September 2017 in Québec, Canada. Our pre-conference workshop on “Research with Transformative Agendas: Increasing Equality in Education and Beyond” offers opportunities to critically examine how theory and research can push the boundaries to centrally integrate transformative agendas premised on ideals of equality and social justice. iscarTaking on and expanding upon Vygotsky’s passionate commitment to equality, the directions to be examined are focused on inserting activism into the key considerations about human development and education at the intersection of theory, methodology, research, and practice. This opens up the space for dialogue and collaboration among cultural-historical, sociocultural, and activity scholarship on the one hand, and critical approaches in ethnography, pedagogy, work studies, and Critical Race Theory, on the other. The notions of objectivity, validity, warrants for knowledge, and researchers’ standpoints, as these can be premised on non-neutral ideals of equality and justice, will be explored. The overarching goal is to discuss how to move forward in conducting research that takes on an active role in the world in turmoil and crisis where neutrality is not an option. For further details visit: http://iscar17.ulaval.ca/pages/anna-stetsenko-and-eduardo-vianna

Great thanks to Anna Stetsenko and Eduardo Vianna for setting this up!

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José at Escola Porto Alegre

José (pseudonym) is there again, as usual poorly dressed. He looks up for a moment when I enter, then returns to his work. His patience has always been remarkable to me. Now again I observe him standing, his whole body turned to the desk, as his hands, gently or firmly as necessary, glide across the pieces of paper, glue, metal cords, scissors, dried leaves, and other materials he works with. He then moves quickly but lightly across the wooden floor, searches through a drawer, and takes what he needs; he does so without looking to me or the others in the room, quickly returning to his work.

José is there almost every day – the work has now progressed, and notebooks with nicely decorated hardcovers have been produced. Marcia, the teacher, remains invisible for most of the time, but she sometimes might help for a moment or two, commenting on or arranging the newly made notebooks. The room is not very well-lit and everything there is old – tables, cupboards, desks, chairs. Even the walls should have been painted a long time ago. Quite a lot of tools and some machinery (to cut or press paper etc.) are lying around, but there is no particular decoration. I am impressed how well he deals with all the tools and materials and like his products very much – hardcovers for books and notebooks in all possible shapes and colors, decorated with ink drawings and dried flowers.

Arts constitute one of the most important subjects at this school, which is based on the principles of communitarian therapy and Freireian pedagogy. José still has to learn mathematics, Portuguese, and history as well as computers, environmental and political education, and other subjects that are decided by the general assembly and taught in thematic project mode. He is a 16-year-old student. Similarly to all other students – who are between 13 and 24 years old – José is offered a basic level of education that correlates more to what in other contexts would be primary school knowledge. About 100 students are registered, and half of them participate regularly.

The school, where we are, is a quite well known school for homeless students in Porto Alegre, Brazil: the Escola Porto Alegre (EPA). The Escola Porto Alegre emerged in the context of educação popular – a broader Brazilian movement for public education for all. This school is in many regards an open school (escola aberta): it is first of all open in the sense that a student is welcome at the school, but is not obliged to stay there; the school is also in many regards open for students who would elsewhere feel marginalized; it is open for the residents of the school’s neighborhood during the afternoon; it is open in the sense of its direct participation in the city’s councils as well its collaborations with many other institutions – even international ones.

Where José slept the night before is an open question: according to his teachers and his own narrations, he does not have a family, he does not have a home, and he does not currently belong to a certain gang or some other group that would provide him with food and security. When the school doors open for students, he goes quickly through the schoolyard to the rooms at the right to take a shower.

José has just received the amount of 50 Reais for the notebooks he sold through the school last month. He must still collect cans and other recyclable materials from the streets and sell them to supplement his income. I am not sure what his expenses are. He does not have a home and cannot afford a mobile phone; he gets food at the school, as well as some used clothes or other things that might be donated to the school from the neighborhood. Drug-dealing for male students and prostitution for the female ones are quite common activities among the students of this school – but not for José, who is very enthusiastic about the paper cover construction and is slowly creating a network of clients for his paper products. Perhaps some day he will earn his whole living with it.

But before that it will be night again, the school (home?) will be closed, and the night is hard. I continue to observe how he cuts the paper, he looks like so concentrated, intense moments of silence pass by…

More details & stories on Sept, 15, 9.00-11.00, SS 10.05 BERA Innovative Session “Youth in Movement in Contemporary Brazil: Moving Stories of José, Carlos, Raquel, and Werá Mirim” – Storytellers : Ali Messer, University of Roehampton & Dr Michalis Kontopodis, University of Sheffield

See also the recently printed book: Kontopodis, M., Magalhaes, M. C., & Coracini, M. J. (Eds.). (2016). Facing poverty and marginalization: 50 years of critical research in Brazil. Bern, Oxford and New York: Peter Lang.

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Exploring Youth in Contemporary Brazil at BERA Annual Conference 2016, Leeds, 15 Sept 9.00-11.00, SS 10.05

peter_lang_coverAs Brazil enters a new phase of socio-economic and political turmoil, Dr. Michalis Kontopodis, will explore four everyday life scenes from contexts of youngsters involved in a variety of social and political movements in contemporary Brazil in an “innovative” storytelling session at BERA Annual Conference 2016 in Leeds. Playing with the word “movement” Dr. Kontopodis, who has recently been appointed director of the MSc in Psychology and Education at the University of Sheffield, will introduce the term youth in movement to refer to youth as constituted by and constitutive of broader social movements and transformations as well as to the “moving”, i.e. emotionally touching, aspects that their stories entail. At the same time, Dr. Kontopodis will provide broader, relevant information with regards to Brazil’s ongoing urban and rural youth and social movements and their educational dimensions. Michalis Kontopodis is currently launching a whole relevant book series with Peter Lang:  “(Post) Critical Global Studies” – the first volume has just been printed and will be presented at the BERA Conference: Facing Poverty & Marginalization: 50 Years of Critical Research in Brazil (edited in collaboration with M.J. Coracini & C. Magalhaes).

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Youth Development in Critical Times: Doing Collective Pasts & Futures

How to conceptualise youth development in critical times? What is the role of memory and imagination in doing development? My presentation at the South & Central European ISCAR Conference: “Cultural-Historical, Activity and Sociocultural Research at Times of the Contemporary Crisis: Implications for Education and Human Development” which took place at the University of Crete, Rethymnon in Crete, Greece (June 16-19, 2016) addressed these issues – the powerpoint slides are available here & your feedback will be appreciated: Kontopodis_Crete2016B

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Invited talk by M. Kontopodis in Oxford: Experiencing developmental crises in critical times

Let me kindly invite the readers of this blog to my talk on June 08, 2016 17:00 – 18:30 in Seminar Room G, School of Education at the University of Oxford on “Experiencing developmental crises in critical times: from realising potential futures to actualising virtual possibilities?”.

Summary: Most theories of psychological development refer to a crisis taking place in adolescence due to physical, cognitive and psychosocial changes. Little research has however explored how young people experience this psychological crisis in the context of today’s broader financial, socio-political and ecological crises. While a crisis indicates a period of intense difficulty, it can also be understood as the turning point when a difficult or important decision must be made – which involves the possibility for the emergence of radical novelty. Drawing on post-Vygotskian and post-structuralist grounds I aspire to explore in my presentation the challenges and possibilities for youth development in this frame. I will propose a differentiation between two modes of human development: development of concrete skills (potential development) and development of new societal relations (virtual development, which is at the same time individual and collective). I will reflect on the significance of this differentiation by exploring research materials from my recent projects with disenfranchised youth in Greece, Germany, US and Brazil. Last but not least, I will expand on the notion of virtual development to consider recent technological developments that enable the multimodal communication and transnational collaboration among young people from diverse linguistic and geographical contexts.

See also here: http://www.education.ox.ac.uk/research/osat/events/

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Materialities & Sensuous Media in Learning & Development

Neuchâtel 2016It has just been a pleasure for me to give a talk on “Biopedagogies, Materialities & Sensuous Media in Learning & Development” to colleagues and PhD students at the University of Neuchâtel in Switzerland. We spend a great day discussing the notions of “distributed agency”, “materiality”, “translation”, “doing” and “multiplicity” and their importance for understanding educational and developmental practices in a variety of pedagogical settings. Great thanks to F. Gfeller, & A. Iannaconne for the fantastic organisation!

You can access the powerpoint of my presentation HERE


Further suggested readings (in French): https://mkontopodis.wordpress.com/francais/

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New book series on (Post-) Critical Global Studies in Spanish, Portuguese & English

We are very happy to announce our new book series on (Post-) Critical Global Studies. This book series focuses on critical and post-critical research in the broader area of social sciences. It aims to establish a vivid movement of ideas between Latin America and the rest of the world on contemporary social issues as to explore the possibilities for local and global social change. Furthermore, we aim to explore, situate and possibly deconstruct the systems of reason that govern social problems and global change – including deconstructing Euro-American critical paradigms. The series explores innovative theoretical and methodological approaches to emerging phenomena in fields such as: urban, countryside and indigenous studies; human rights; social policy and social movements; intersectionality; media and technology; education; community organization; political economy; ecology; migration and globalization. It will discuss issues such as the geopolitics of knowledge, Paulo Freire’s legacy and post-Freirean approaches, feminisms in Latin America and other areas of the majority world, anthropologies of the state and civil society, de-/post-colonial perspectives among others.

The series will include publications in English, Spanish and/or Portuguese. It is addressed to social scientists from Latin America and all over the world as well as to global policy-makers and international organization and NGO workers who are interested in theoretical and methodological innovation in social studies.

The first book “Facing Poverty and Marginalisation in Brazil” is going to be published soon & we welcome proposals for edited volumes – please contact us for further details. 

MNLMLa serie se centra en las investigaciones críticas y post-críticas en el área amplia de las ciencias sociales. Busca establecer un movimiento de ideas rico y fluido entre Latinoamérica y el resto del mundo sobre cuestiones sociales contemporáneas, así como indagar sobre las posibilidades para el cambio social local y global. Más aún, busca explorar, situar y, si fuera necesario, deconstruir los sistemas de razonamiento que gobiernan los problemas sociales y el cambio global, incluyendo la deconstrucción de los paradigmas críticos euro-americanos. La serie indaga en perspectivas teóricas y metodológicas innovadoras sobre fenómenos emergentes tales como cuestiones urbanas y rurales, grupos indígenas, derechos humanos, políticas sociales, movimientos sociales, interseccionalidad, medios y tecnologías, educación, organización comunitaria, economía política, ecología, migración y globalización. Entre otros temas, incluye discusiones sobre la geopolítica del conocimiento, el legado de Paulo Freire y las perspectivas post-freirianas, los feminismos en América Latina, las antropologías del estado y la sociedad civil, y las perspectivas de-coloniales y poscoloniales. La serie contendrá publicaciones en inglés, español y/o portugués. Se dirige a cientistas sociales de América Latina de otras partes del mundo, así como a quienes trabajan y toman decisiones en organizaciones internacionales y ONG, que están interesados en la renovación teórica y metodológica en las ciencias sociales.

Esta série de livros tem como foco a pesquisa crítica e pós-crítica no amplo campo das Ciências Sociais. Seu objetivo é estabelecer um movimento vívido de ideias entre a América Latina e o resto do mundo no que tange às questões  sociais contemporâneas com o intuito de explorar as possibilidades de mudanças sociais locais e globais. Além disso, objetivamos também explorar, situar e, se necessário, desconstruir sistemas de racionalidade que governam os problemas sociais e a mudança global – incluindo a desconstrução dos paradigmas críticos euro-americanos. A série explora abordagens metodológicas e teóricas inovadoras em relação aos  fenômenos emergentes em áreas  como: estudos urbanos, rurais e indígenas, direitos humanos, política social e movimentos sociais, intersetorialidade, mídia e tecnologia, educação, organização comunitária, economia política, ecologia, migração e globalização. Serão discutidas questões como a geopolítica do conhecimento, o legado de Paulo Freire e abordagens pós-freirianas, feminismos na América Latina e outras áreas dos países em desenvolvimento, antropologias do estado e da sociedade civil, perspectivas decoloniais e pós coloniais – entre outras. Esta série de livros incluirá publicações em inglês, espanhol e/ou português. É direcionado a cientistas sociais da América Latina e de todo o mundo, bem como aos pensadores de políticas públicas globais e colaboradores de organizações internacionais e ONGs, interessados na inovação teórica e metodológica nas Ciências Sociais.

The editors – Prof. Marcia Mascia (Brazil), Dr Silvia Grinberg (Argentina) & Dr Michalis Kontopodis (International Coordinator, UK)

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Young People, Participation & Media: Report on Invited Talk by S. Banaji at the University of Roehampton

There has been widespread concern in contemporary Western societies about declining engagement in civic life; studies find that people are less inclined to vote, to join political parties, to campaign for social causes, or to trust political processes. Young people more than other groups are frequently described as disenchanted with elections, alienated or apathetic. Some scholars have looked optimistically to new media – and particularly the Internet – as a means of revitalizing civic life and giving young people a voice.

Governments, political parties, charities, NGOs, activists, religious and ethnic groups, and grassroots organizations have created a range of youth-oriented websites that encourage widely divergent forms of civic engagement and use varying degrees of interactivity. But are young people really apathetic and lacking in motivation? In what circumstances does the Internet have the power to re-engage those disenchanted with politics and civic life? And what role do social class, political and media literacy play in motivating sustained participation?

These among other contemporary issues of youth, participation and media were discussed during the invited talk and virtual pedagogy seminar which was organised at the University of Roehampton on the 2nd of March. The seminar was hosted by the Paulo Freire Institute/RISE  and the invited speaker was Dr. Shakuntala Banaji from LSE (London School of Economics and Political Science).


Michalis Kontopodis welcoming the participants.

Dr. Michalis Kontopodis presented the invited speaker after introducing the audience to related concepts of Virtual Pedagogy and his research project titled “Hyperconnecting Youth”.


Shakuntala Banaji presenting her work.

Dr. Shakuntala Banaji gave a lively presentation focusing on the findings of three major research projects funded by the European Commission between 2006 and 2016. The presented
findings of these projects offered useful insights into understanding the role the internet and media more generally play in young people’s participation in democracy and the civic sphere. After presenting her work and drawing on examples from various countries and data collected from online sites related to youth’s civic participation a discussion followed up with the participants of the seminar about crucial issues concerning youth civic participation and the role of media.

More information about the aforementioned research projects can be found in Dr. Shakuntala Banaji‘s publications. The books based on this research – ‘Banaji, S &
Buckingham, D. (2013) ‘The Civic Web: Young People, the Internet and Civic
Participation’ and Cammaerts, Bruter, Banaji et al. (2015) ‘Young People and Democratic
Life in Europe: Between Hope and Disillusion’ – address broader questions about the
meaning of civic engagement, inclusion and exclusion, the nature of new forms of
participation, and their implications for the future of civic life.

Myrto Nikolopoulou, PhD student, University of Roehampton

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