The International Journal of Critical Pedagogy

Subversion in Education: Common Misunderstandings & Myths

John-Peter Portelli, Ardavan Eizadirad


This paper argues that subversion is a necessary tool for survival and opening up of new possibilities in the context of the 21st century where neoliberalism and its extreme market-driven ideologies and institutional practices permeate and impact all social settings public and private. Subversion is defined as subtle mechanism(s) of resisting abusive forms of power that create and/or maintain oppression and harm. At the heart of subversion and engaging in subversive acts is a hope for creation of new possibilities, imaginable and unimaginable, to facilitate attaining social justice and implementing justice-oriented practices that have moral implications. It is within the context of neoliberalism, and its ability to control power relations yet appear undetected, that we argue for a necessity of subversion and subversive acts as a form of resistance, as a tool and a grassroots action-oriented mechanism(s), to challenge abusive and immoral forms of power. The paper argues that subversion is, in many instances, the most moral and integral way to act in the face of abusive and exploitive practices that cause harm to certain social groups through policies that are normalized and perpetuated by social institutions. This paper identifies and critically challenges some common misunderstandings and popular myths about subversion in education. 


subversion; social justice; education; resistance; neoliberalism

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