October 4, 2016, by Paula Akpan

Learning in Womanist Ways

Dr Jan Etienne, author and associate lecturer at the School of Social Sciences, History and Philosophy at Birkbeck, discusses her upcoming event based around her new book.

I teach on the MSc Education, Power and Social Change programme at Birkbeck, University of London and will present key themes from my new book: Learning in Womanist Ways: Narratives of first-generation African Caribbean Women. I am interested in transformational learning as a force for personal and social change and my research explores the benefits of lifelong learning for black Caribbean women who came to Britain in the 1950s and 1960s with the expectation of a better life.

I observed that older black women learners appeared to have developed enormous coping mechanisms when dealing with ‘endemic race and gender inequality’ – perhaps as a result of their long years of experience of marginalization in both the UK and Caribbean education systems. I felt a strong desire to get to the root of such coping mechanisms and to understand the nature of resilience – and why there was a ‘persistent expression of educational desire among black women?’

This event for Black History Month will: Celebrate the achievements of these women learners (how they work to transform their lives and the lives of others); depict experiences of formal and informal learning, uniquely setting these out as dramatic scenes in a play (revealing the women’s authentic voices);  introduce the nature of Black Matriarchal Learning hubs where the women provoke, coerce and challenge each other in lively banter – and where formidable attitudes and the originality of West Indian colloquialisms generate confidences and inspire others.

The event will also engage with the concept of womanist learning, a black feminist perspective where women demonstrate their primary concern for the wider black community and prioritise their efforts to combat racism.  Solidarity in black sisterhood is revealed as the women remain energised in their social settings and rise above past and current oppression.

Come to learn more about my research, take part in dramatized readings and engage in discussion on the power of learning in later years. I welcome your participation.

‘Learning in Womanist Ways’ takes place at 6pm on Friday 7 October. This event is free and all are welcome. Book online.


Posted in People & Culture Events Programme