Learning in Womanist Ways

Narratives of first-generation African Caribbean women

Paperback / softback, 180 pages, 234 mm x 156 mm
11 May 2016
Trentham Books

Price: £20.00

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Learning in Womanist Ways explores the benefits of lifelong learning for black Caribbean women who came to Britain in the 1950s and 1960s. The book features interviews of these women about their experiences of formal and informal learning, uniquely set out as dramatic scenes that reveal the women’s authentic voices as they are in their communities.

This insightful account challenges the notion that being black, female and older means deteriorating health, poverty and isolation. Presenting a different and positive reality, the book combines contemporary narrative study with black feminist epistemology, exploring the social and cultural identities brought to learning.

Set against a backdrop of shifting policies and diminishing resources for adult learning, this book acknowledges the global challenge of an ageing society and demonstrates the crucial role of informal learning in widening educational opportunities.

  • Jan Etienne

    Dr Jan Etienne is a Lecturer in the School of Social Sciences, History and Philosophy at Birkbeck, University of London.

CONTENTS: 1. Introduction; 2. Lifelong learning in womanist ways; 3. Speaking up for sisters; 4. ‘The heart of the race’; 5. In search of our Carnival Spirits; 6. Spreading our wings; 7. Reflections on the (mis) education of the black sister; 8. Conclusion

This is no ordinary book on ageing, migration and education; it is a hopeful and empowering story of the wisdom of ageing and learning through lifelong struggle. Paying tribute to the African Caribbean women of her mother’s generation, Etienne sensitively reveals the power of shared ‘other ways of knowing’ that lies at the heart of their ‘matriarchal learning hubs’. Her careful crafting of their rhythmic voices into scenes in a play is a tribute to the black womanist philosophy she herself has been gifted by these women. Etienne puts Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed into action, showing us the transformative power of education if it is grounded in generosity, love and experience. A must read for educationalists and social scientists who want a better world.

Heidi Safia Mirza, Professor of Race, Faith and Culture, Goldsmiths, University of London

This book breaks new ground by making central the experiences of African Caribbean, older women – a group usually rendered silent in social theory and research. It foregrounds their voices and situates them as active, lifelong learners whose narratives illuminate their creativity in negotiating structural constraints and contributing to their communities. The word innovative is frequently overused, but this book forges new and engaging ways of bringing together the author's reflexivity and the drama of the women's everyday lives. It deserves to be widely read.

Ann Phoenix, Professor of Psychosocial Studies, UCL Institute of Education

Anyone wanting to understand the power of collective experience in constructing a better world will find this book invaluable. It vividly illustrates the transformative power of learning communities constructed by older black women, posing a much needed challenge both to conventional ideas of community organizing and to policy and research around communities and diversity. Etienne’s writing is theoretically informed and grounded in powerful narratives, which present a complex weave of past and present aspirations, struggles and social responsibilities. It reveals how creative movements to pursue social change can be constructed differently through the solidarity of older black women’s shared experience.

Dr Linda Milbourne, Associate Fellow, Third Sector Research Centre, University of Birmingham