NotesFAQContact Us
Search Tips
Peer reviewed Peer reviewed
Direct linkDirect link
ERIC Number: EJ774705
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2004-Sep
Pages: 12
Abstractor: Author
Reference Count: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-0826-4805
Useless Suffering: Learning from the Unintelligible and the Re-Formation of Community
Farley, Lisa
Interchange: A Quarterly Review of Education, v35 n3 p325-336 Sep 2004
This paper draws on the philosophical works of Emmanuel Levinas--namely, his notion of "useless suffering"--in order to open up questions of learning and community beyond typical configurations that structure (and sometimes limit) social attachments according to a requisite degree of commonality. It is argued that while discourses of knowledge and emotion enable a sense of understanding and feeling with others, they nonetheless cast differences in a universalized discourse of enlightenment, wherein the other is reduced to a version of the same. Turning to the Levinasian notion of "useless suffering," I consider instead the conditions of possibility opened up paradoxically because the other cannot be rendered in pre-given terms. In so doing, I hope to contribute to on-going discussions in the context of feminism and education interested in theorizing the conditions of possibility for coming together across differences, neither consuming the other as an object of information, nor reducing her or his experience to a version of the self. My argument is structured around Lourdes Portillo's (2001) most recent film, "Missing Young Women," which documents the disappearance, rape, and murder of over 200 women working in Juarez, Mexico. One scene in particular is referenced as a way to underscore how the Levinasian notion of "uselessness" might orient a mode of attentiveness that renders one responsible before understanding, concerned before feeling. Constituted as "a prior" responsibility for the other, it is suggested that "useless suffering" shifts the dominant terms of education and feminism away from the formation of common bonds (in knowledge and emotion) to underscore the conditions of possibility that might lie beyond meaning and being itself.
Springer. 233 Spring Street, New York, NY 10013. Tel: 800-777-4643; Tel: 212-460-1500; Fax: 212-348-4505; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Mexico