Educational theory as rhythmic action: From Arendt to Agamben

  • N. Davids Stellenbosch University
  • 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.


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Author Biographies

N. Davids, Stellenbosch University

Nuraan Davids is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Education Policy Studies in the Faculty of Education at Stellenbosch University. She holds a doctorate in Philosophy of Education. Her interests include democratic citizenship education, Islamic education and ethics in education, with a particular focus on educational policy, gender, theory and practice, management and leadership inquiry. She is an Associate Editor of the South African Journal of Higher Education; and is an Editorial Board Member of Ethics and Education – the international journal of the International Network of Philosophers of Education. Book publications include: Women, cosmopolitanism, and Islamic education: On the virtues of education and belonging (New York & London: Peter Lang, 2013); Citizenship, education and violence: On disrupted potentialities and becoming (co-authored) (Rotterdam/Boston/Taipei: Sense Publishers, 2013); Ethical dimensions of Muslim education (co-authored) (New York & London: Palgrave Macmilllan, 2016); Educational leadership-in-becoming: On the potential of leadership in action (co-authored) (New York & London: Routledge, 2017).

Y. Waghid

Yusef Waghid is Distinguished Professor of Philosophy of Education in the Department of Education Policy Studies at Stellenbosch University in South Africa. He joined Stellenbosch University almost two decades ago as Director of the Centre for Educational Development and has been full Professor of Philosophy of Education in the Department of Education Policy Studies since 2002. He was also Chair and, Dean of the Faculty of Education. He holds doctorates in the areas of Philosophy of Education (Western Cape), Education Policy Studies, and Philosophy (Stellenbosch). He is a fellow of the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf), executive member of the International Network of Philosophers of Education, internationally acclaimed scholar with the National Research Foundation. He is Editor-in-Chief of South African Journal of Higher Education. He has 321 research publications – 24 books and collections, 209 journal articles, 58 book chapters, 22 conference proceedings & 13 book reviews. His latest books that accentuate his research foci, include


African philosophy of education reconsidered: On being human (London: Routledge, 2014);  


(co-author with Davids, N.) Citizenship education and violence in schools: On disrupted potentialities and becoming. (Rotterdam/Boston/Taipei: Sense Publishers, 2013);



Pedagogy out of bounds: Untamed variations of democratic education (Rotterdam/Boston/Taipei: Sense Publishers, 2014);


(co-editor with Chapman, J., McNamara, S. & Reiss, M.) International handbook for learning, teaching and leadership in faith-based schools (Dortrecht: Springer Press, 2014);


Dancing with doctoral encounters: Democratic education in motion (Stellenbosch: Sun Press, 2015);


(co-author with Davids, N.) Ethical Dimensions of Muslim Education (New York: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2016);


(co-author with Davids, N.) Educational Leadership-in-Becoming: On the Potential of Leadership in Action (London: Routledge, 2017);


(co-author with Waghid, F. & Waghid, Z.) Educational Technology and Pedagogic Encounters: Democratic Education in Potentiality (Rotterdam/Boston/Taipei: Sense Publishers, 2016); and


(co-author with Davids, N.) Education, assessment and the desire for dissonance (New York: Peter Lang, 2017);


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How to Cite
Davids, N., and Y. Waghid. 2017. “Educational Theory As Rhythmic Action: From Arendt to Agamben”. South African Journal of Higher Education 31 (5), 1-13.
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