Original Research

Exploring shame and pedagogies of discomfort in critical citizenship education

Elmarie Costandius, Neeske Alexander
Transformation in Higher Education | Vol 4 | a73 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/the.v4i0.73 | © 2019 Elmarie Costandius, Neeske Alexander | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 29 May 2019 | Published: 30 September 2019

About the author(s)

Elmarie Costandius, Department of Visual Arts, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa
Neeske Alexander, Department of Visual Arts, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa


Background: Social transformation in South Africa is a sensitive issue because of the historical realities of segregation and past injustices.

Aim: To address transformation, Visual Communication Design students were asked to design an exhibition, event, sculpture or garden to memorialise the forced removals that took place on the site of the current Arts and Social Sciences Building of Stellenbosch University and to thereby contribute with their own ‘voices’ to an event or exhibition.

Setting: The focus of the project was to memorialise the forced removals that occurred on the place known then as Die Vlakte. The aim was to investigate the reactions of students and community members to explore how a visual communication project prepared them or failed to prepare them for dealing with social injustice.

Methods: A case study research design was applied, and inductive qualitative content analysis was used in processing and organising data. The theoretical framework included critical citizenship education, social justice, pedagogy of discomfort, shame and white shame.

Results: Critical citizenship education may form part of pedagogies of discomfort, and shame may be used positively as we ask students to negotiate emotionally charged subjects through visual communication.

Conclusion: As the case studies have shown, students are capable of identifying sources of discomfort and growing from them to perceive a local historic event in a more sensitive and inclusive way.


critical citizenship education; shame; pedagogies of discomfort; community engagement; group work


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