“Students Make History Every Day Just by Sitting on These Steps”: Performative Spaces and Re-Genring in the South

  • Aditi Hunma University of Cape Town
Keywords: online learning, performative spaces, re-genring, writing


Students’ call for decolonising the curriculum has triggered deep reflection about what we teach and how we teach it, but equally, about the role of pedagogic spaces in recognising students as agents in their learning. This paper is situated within the field of academic literacies, where students’ engagement with texts is seen as being context-specific, and involving assertions of agency to various degrees. The added dimension here is the embedding of digital literacies, defined as a set of customised online practices, into a writing-intensive, first year, foundational course at a South African university, to favour the acquisition of academic literacies. The analysis of different spaces becomes crucial in grasping how innovative forms teaching and learning may take place. In his trialectics of space, Lefebvre distinguishes between perceived, conceived and lived spaces. Butler would refer to lived spaces as “performative†ones, “congealing†into form through iterative use. Online learning spaces may well turn into performative spaces as students inhabit them, interact with online resources and explore their spatial boundaries. I perform a discourse analysis of students’ textual practices on the online and physical spaces, to explore how students reproduce or subvert genre categories through processes of “re-genring.†Furthermore, I share the extent to which such pedagogic spaces become performative, the power dynamics that emerge, and their effects on our traditional conception of teaching and learning in higher education.

Author Biography

Aditi Hunma, University of Cape Town
Humanities Education Development Unit, Lecturer