Dr. Jing Li has recently completed her PhD from the Faculty of Education, Simon Fraser University. Her research interests include sociolinguistics, critical pedagogies, critical multiliteracies in (non)formal educative contexts, and community research in art, culture, and education. She has more than ten years of teaching experience in the higher education sector of China and Canada. In conversation with the Spotlight Series, Dr. Li shared her doctoral journey, her research interests and the projects she is currently involved in. Dr. Li conceptualizes learning not just as a cognitive object to be attained, but more of something that is emerging and indeterminate and that occurs in diverse sites and modalities. Focusing on non-/formal sites such as the community festivals and community writing workshops, Dr. Li explores the rich learning experience and different dimensions of pedagogy that these sites can offer. Through her research, Dr. Li contributes to the increasing scholarship of public/critical pedagogy that expands our gaze from conventional to out-of-school settings for education and learning.
Many congratulations on completing your PhD Dr. Li. Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Jing Li. I come from Kunming, China. I am a passionate dream chaser. I teach and do research in Vancouver, Canada and in China. As a student, a researcher, a teacher, and a human, I am constantly being taught, constantly learning, and constantly unlearning. I have always been fascinated by the complexity, contradictions and diversity of education and pedagogies, and how, where, and when learning occurs.
Please briefly share your research with us.
My research expertise involves using qualitative/ethnographic research methods to examine pedagogical issues in relation to equity, power relations, and social justice in both school and non-school settings. I have a lasting interest in understanding the concept of pedagogy in its many theoretical, practical, and social-political contexts.
My PhD dissertation – entitled Community in the Making: Weaving Places of Learning, Cultural Production, and Community Building within a Community Festival Space in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside – draws on non-representational and sensory ethnography, community-based research, relational ontologies, and critical multiliteracies, to examine the interconnections between the community arts, embodied/sensuous learning, and community-building within an urban festival space.
This research largely challenges narrow conceptualizations of education and learning in mainstream educational discourses. With this research, I hope to make contributions to the greater understandings of the public pedagogical importance and roles of community festival – or public places of learning of similar sorts – in transformative pedagogies and embodied acts of resistance.
What drew you to explore community festivals as pedagogical spaces?
It was an organic, evolving process, and was tied to my research interests in critical pedagogy, multiliteracies, and social justice. My interest in the festival grew out of a serendipitous trip to Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside in 2013. Back then, I was doing my first graduate course in the program with Drs. Diane Dagenais and Suzanne Smythe. We were asked to do a small course project exploring the literacies and languages at the Festival in the DTES. The first festival event I attended was held in the Carnegie Learning Centre. Community Centre patrons and adult students shared with each other their struggles with mental illness, life stories as immigrants, and experiences of being homeless, etc. The experiences of that event and the various forms of literacy products and activities created by these people who are labelled as socially excluded or marginalized revealed a world to me that was previously hidden from my view.
My interest kept growing as I attended more festival events and received exposure to the intriguing educational and cultural experiences they offered. The longer I was involved in the Festival, the more I was convinced that the festival consists of dynamic performative spaces that are educational in many different ways.