Social Justice, Education and Identity

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A Walk in My Shoes: Social Justice in Education Full Documentary

NordForsk is an institution under the Nordic Council of Ministers. Advanced Search…. Journal Article published in Ethnography and Education volume 12 issue 1. Research funded by NordForsk.

Cultivate: Building Capacity to Lead for Equity

Facts about the project Project number: Programme Education for Tomorrow. Duration Venkatapuram labels this meta-capability as the "capability to be healthy". Given that Nussbaum's focus on capabilities is also termed human development, one could equate health with human development, although Venkatapuram does not frame it in this way 1.

From an ethical perspective, health has been proposed within a framework of defense of human rights beyond mere access to health services. The pragmatic proposal by Sen, that of not waiting for change in social institutions to act on specific injustices and placing the individual prominently, which doesn't mean a lack of awareness of social factors, is criticized by Venkatapuram because of the individualist emphasis he sees in Sen's works, which distances them from a structural analysis of the debate.

Social Justice Education

These critiques are shared by Latin American thinkers, including Jaime Breilh To counteract this shortcoming on Sen's work, Venkatapuram builds an argument employing the causal view used in epidemiology. He establishes a hierarchical causal chain for health that would be determined by interactive influence of changing biological endowments and necessities within the internal arena, the social and physical conditions in the external arena, and individual behaviors.

Social conditions. This view is in line with the concept of subsumption used in the theory of the social determination of health 1. Venkatapuram's causal and hierarchical conception, in line with the structural and intermediate determinants proposed by the World Health Organization WHO , has two problems that have been identified by some theorists of alternative trends in Latin American public health: the limitations of using a causal perspective for understanding health, and second, living the subject in the background, in light of the priority given to the social structural arena.

A causal and deterministic view of justice is problematic in accounting for matters of freedom and human flourishing. This problem is part of the ontological and epistemological debates that extend to concepts of the world, of science, and of the human being. They involve tensions between monistic and pluralistic views of the world on the one hand and between determinist and non-determinist positions on the other hand In the field of public health, the problems associated with a causal, determinist, and dualist view of the world were identified at the end of the s by Jaime Breilh, who proposed his idea of determination as an alternative, based on the works of Mario Bunje, who was influenced by Hegelian philosophy.

Hegel sought to reconcile the human being who had been separated from nature, for what he sought to return to a monist concept of the universe employing a dialectic perspective in which opposites were experienced and reconfigured as a whole Without plumbing the depths of Hegelian philosophy, below I will emphasize three concepts needed to advance the defense of the proposed theses The idea of determination has various related meanings. On the one hand, it refers to a being's way of being and becoming as a potentiality that develops through a dialectical process.

On the other hand, it refers to the constituents of a being that are expressed in its process of becoming. Within the dialectic as negation and mediation, identity requires otherness. One ceases to be in order to be the other: one is in the other. Each fact opposed to another is mediated by this other, where "mediated" means that one is traversed by the other, which one carries within oneself. Causality constitutes only one of the determinants in the dialectical development process of the self. The dualistic perspective of cause-effect disappears within a dialectical opposition.

Several Latin American health professionals have critiqued hegemonic public health trends related to the invisibilization of the subject. In particular, the dualistic view of Cartesian reasoning has led to proposing a sharp difference between public health as the health of populations and clinical health as the health of individuals.

Even more, Carvalho note how this duality in some Latin American social medicine and collective health proposals, responding to the emphasis of hegemonic public health practice given to a micro and biological perspective, have turned toward a deterministic and structuralist view in which the subject becomes a product of forces located in the social superstructure Costa and Costa, cited by Carvalho 20 , add that because of the confrontation with clinical discourse, these positions end up making a "tabula rasa" of individuality and singularity For this reason, Breilh emphatically states as follows: "From a dialectical perspective, there is no ontological primacy either for the individual or for society" In addition, Granda suggests that "an alternative public health goes from rescuing the subject and having its foundation on a perspective of health from a point of view of life" Below, I will explain the social justice perspective that I assume as the result of specific moral and epistemological positions, to then use a specific example to propose how this perspective affects the way public health and its field of action is conceived.

In the following section, I expound my view of social justice as a route for action.

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I understand social justice as a historical process related to guaranteeing social-cultural and individual conditions that allow all subjects to lead a life with dignity in which they are assured opportunities to develop their potential, which in turn requires the realization of their needs, aspirations, and interests.

I understand human flourishing as a holistic process, one that is synergistic, interactive, and iterative, which cannot be addressed in parts. I conceive of a dialectical world beyond a dualistic vision of reality and from which the subject in his or her singularity is recovered without ignoring the intervention of the structural and the social determination.

Social Justice in ELT

Following Sen, I assume equity as the equality of opportunities to be and do that which subjects and collectives have reason to value 8. Capabilities, then, are the realization of the opportunity required by the subject to construct and execute his or her life plan.

Thus, the struggle for human rights, understood as the struggle for dignity and recognition, is the struggle to guarantee the goods and conditions of a sociocultural nature that assure this opportunity, an opportunity that responds to the singularity of a subject who is also sociohistorical. In this way, I understand equity in the framework of a conception of justice based on respect for the difference among subjects and collectives, with diversity in their needs to and abilities for converting goods into a good life Reflecting on equity implies recognizing that the model of development based on capitalism has promoted forces and relations based on individualism, consumption, domination, and exploitation that have severely affected opportunities for subjects, collectives, and entire societies to flourish.

They have also threatened the sustainability of life beyond the human being and the degradation of the physical environment. This model of development, together with the reigning international order, has created an enormous socioeconomic gap between rich and poor, which constitutes a terrible injustice. A perspective of equity that begins by recognizing that we live in a finite world, that we are a part of nature in complete interdependence with other human beings and the socio-economic, biotic, and physical environment based on a dialectical and human-dignity perspective, requires a concept of justice based on the redistribution of wealth and goods, the limitation of private property, and progress toward the construction of just social institutions and procedures, all of which must recognize a global justice setting that demands a new supranational order.

However, transforming an unjust society is consubstantial with the development of the ability of the individual and the collective subjects to construct themselves and to construct society. It requires, thus, the strengthening of the capability to participate, understood as the skill and the socio-political conditions for this construction.

Participation and struggles for individual and collective rights will be framed within the tension arising between individual freedom and collective interests, a tension that will always be mediated by power relations and by struggles for the recognition of dignity. How does one apply these principles for social justice, human rights, and equity to the field of public health? I begin by exploring reflections on the concept of health as life, based on human flourishing within an iterative, synergistic, and interactive process, along with structural social transformation and the sustainability of nature.

Following de Sousa Campos, I affirm that health is a dialectical co-construction in which two contradictory poles participate, precisely because each one is mediated and traversed by the other One pole belongs to the immanence of the subject and is composed of his or her biological and subjective determinations, which are in turn configured by the tension between "desire" from the psychoanalytical perspective and interest.

The other pole corresponds to the universal pole that transcends the subject and is configured through social necessities, institutions and organizations, the economic, cultural, and social context, and finally, the environment. The contradiction of these two poles creates a singular synthesis that de Sousa Campos describes in the following way: 23 "[ For de Sousa Campos, this synthetic moment is educational and therapeutic to the extent that 23 "[ It would be like an education taking place throughout the course of life, a permanent form of therapy, a constant concern for the construction of [ I conclude by presenting the consequences for public health praxis of using a social justice perspective such as the one presented here.

I am interested in analyzing the microspace mediated by the face-to-face relationship in which the dialectic expression between clinical and public health is made real. I will use one of the so-called health promotion and disease-prevention programs as an example: the Program for Detecting Changes in Growth and Development in Children under Ten, presenting the results of research by our group over the past ten years.

This program - generally valued by those involved, the human health teams, and parenting adults - is also criticized because in spite of the important results that it has achieved, they also see its serious limitations related to resolving their needs, concerns, and interests. One explanation for these findings relates to the fragmentation, instrumentalization, and invisibilization of the concrete subject. This is a result of the biomedical orientation of the program, which medicalizes child rearing, bypassing the ontological, social, cultural, and historical dimensions of caring for the lives of boys and girls by parenting adults for the following reasons: parenting adults are made into instruments for attending to the children; the program is centered on children's diseases and not on their health and that of their parenting adults; and traditional education is based on symbolic control of the biomedical discourse and behavioral change leading to an imposition of culture and dependence on medical power.

This is a daily experience that is very limited in its ability to promote health that is conceived as human flourishing and progress toward social transformation.

A new direction in the program based on a concept of health as life and as a dialectical coconstruction of individual synthesis could be performed by aiming not at problems deseases in growth and development but on child rearing understood as an ontological, social, cultural, and historical process with two key functions: caring for children's lives and for their education. Given that child rearing requires the human flourishing children and parenting adults, it demands a holistic approach that overcomes its fragmentation and instrumentalization, requiring a transdisciplinary approach from which to address various types of interests, needs, and aspirations.

Thus, a liberating and problematizing education, such as the one proposed by Freire, is suggested, one based on collective reflection that gives participants, human health teams, and parenting adults a broader and more critical understanding of child rearing to strengthen their ability to take action This is an education oriented toward the development of abilities and the strengthening of students and educator autonomy and considers them as concrete subjects Thus, sessions in the program must be recognized as public spaces in which the anxieties, problems, interests, and aspirations of the participants are transacted.

In this sense, it is a space for sharing perspectives and positions within the framework of a process of debate and deliberation, in an enviornment of knowledge dialogue to establish collective agreements, both inside and outside of the sessions. Thus, group sessions are proposed to facilitate social mobilization and the construction of social networks. Nevertheless, a justice perspective requires accounting for the conditions of injustice in which many families conduct child rearing.

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Thus, the program would go beyond the sessions within the broader framework of an organizing and participatory process that boosts collective mobilization. It is in the community setting where acts of solidarity, collective management, inter-institutional coordination, and political mobilization are produced through the struggle to resolve day-to-day problems, to defend human rights, and to transform the conditions of life. It is evident that a health system, such as the Colombian system, which operates under market conditions, would be unsuitable for a social justice approach conceived in the terms proposed here.

Likewise, one must consider health education as a fundamental right and not as a strategy or tool, which has been the traditional way of understanding it in the health sector. One must recognize the transcendence of matters such as child rearing for public health, for its importance to each subject, for society as a whole, and particularly, for addressing health as life. Thus, from so-called programs of health promotion and prevention, one can also boost the political struggle that address both the State and civil society.

It is important to recognize that in intersubjective relationships in a clinical setting, subjects and subjectivities committed to the struggle for human rights, health equity, and a life with dignity are also constructed. Venkatapuram S. Health justice. An argument from the capabilities approach. Cambridge: PolityPress; Rawls J. Tornblom K, Vermunt R.


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Distributive and procedural justice: research and social applications. Burlington: Ashgate; Bourdieu P, Passeron JC. Foucault M. Selected interviews and other writings. Nueva York: PantheonBooks; Pieper AM. Sen A.