Educational theory as rhythmic action: From Arendt to Agamben

N. Davids, Y. Waghid


Traditionally, educational theory has been couched as modes of human action through concepts such as poiesis and praxis. Inasmuch as poiesis and praxis have significantly shaped educational theory, we argue that such modes of action – if considered as mutually exclusive – do not sufficiently explain the interrelationship between educational theory and practice. Firstly, we extend the notion of action as explained by Arendt. Next, we offer an account of Agamben’s ‘opening of rhythm’, which integrates the notions of poiesis and praxis to pave the way for an understanding of educational theory as creative will that moves human action from enacting the unexpected into ‘an increasingly free and rarified atmosphere’. Secondly, in re-examining the Aristotelian concepts of poiesis and praxis, we argue that Agamben’s ‘opening of rhythm’ extends the Arendtian notion of action to perform the unexpected, and offers an as yet unexplored lens through which to understand the nexus between educational theory and practice.


poiesis; praxis; educational theory; practice; rhythmic action

Full Text:



Agamben, G. 1999. The man without content, trans. Georgia Albert. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Agamben, G. 2002. Remnants of Auschwitz: The witness and the archive, trans. D Heller-Roazen. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press.

Arendt, H. 1958. The Human condition (2nd edition). Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Aristotle, 2004. The Nicomachean Ethics, trans. J.A.K. Thomson. London: Penguin Books.

Carr, W. 2006. Education without theory. British Journal of Educational Studies, 54(2): 136-159.

Dewey, J. 1916. Democracy and Education. New York: Macmillan Free Press.

Lenz, C. 2011. The key role of education for sustainable democratic societies (In Huber, J. & Mompoint-Gaillard, P. (eds.) Teacher education for change: The theory behind the council of Europe Pestalozzi Program. Strasbourg-Cedex: Council of Europe Publishing.

Lewis, T.E. 2011. The Poetics of Learning: Whitehead and Agamben on Rhythm, Philosophy of Education, 249-256.

Lewis, T.E. 2014. Education as Free Use: Giorgio Agamben on Studious Play, Toys, and the Inoperative Schoolhouse, Studies in Philosophy and Education, 33(2): 201 – 204.

MacIntyre A.C. 1981. After virtue. London: Duckworth.

MacIntyre, A.C. 1988. Whose justice? Which rationality? Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press.

MacIntyre, A.C. & Dunne, J. 2002. Alasdair MacIntyre on education: In dialogue with Joseph Dunne, Journal of Philosophy of Education, 36(1): 1-19.

Thomas, G. 1997. What’s the use of theory? Harvard Educational Review, 67(1): 75–104.



  • There are currently no refbacks.

eISSN: 1753-5913

Copyright © 2016 South African Journal of Higher Education

Hosted by Stellenbosch University Library and Information Service since 2016.

Creative Commons License -CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

This journal is hosted by the SU LIS on request of the journal owner/editor. The SU LIS takes no responsibility for the content published within this journal, and disclaim all liability arising out of the use of or inability to use the information contained herein. We assume no responsibility, and shall not be liable for any breaches of agreement with other publishers/hosts.