Learning in Womanist Ways

Narratives of First Generation African Caribbean Women

Jan Etienne
Foreword by John Field
July 2016
More details
  • Publisher
    Trentham Books
  • Published
    6th July 2016
  • ISBN 9781858567785
  • Language English
  • Pages 180 pp.
  • Size 6.125" x 9.5"
  • Images photos

Learning in Womanist Ways explores the benefits of lifelong learning for black Caribbean women who came to Britain in the 1950s and 1960s in the expectation of a better life. It features interviews with these women, set out as dramatic scenes that tell us about them, their social interactions and their informal learning.

This insightful account challenges the notion that being black, female and older means deteriorating health, poverty and isolation. Presenting a different and positive reality, the book combines contemporary narrative study with black feminist epistemology, exploring the social and cultural identities brought to learning. It shows the solidarity in Caribbean sisterhood as the women rise above past oppression.

Set against a backdrop of shifting policies and diminishing resources for widening participation and adult learning, this book acknowledges the global challenge of an ageing society and shows how provision of informal learning enriches lives.

"This is no ordinary book on ageing, migration and education; it is a hopeful and empowering story of the wisdom of ageing and learning through lifelong struggle. Paying tribute to the African Caribbean women of her mother’s generation, Etienne sensitively reveals the power of shared ‘other ways of knowing’ that lies at the heart of their ‘matriarchal learning hubs’. Her careful crafting of their rhythmic voices into scenes in a play is a tribute to the black womanist philosophy, she herself has been gifted by these women. Etienne puts Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed into action, showing us the transformative power of education if it is grounded in generosity, love and experience. A must read for educationalists and social scientists who want a better world."

Heidi Safia Mirza, Professor of Race, Faith and Culture, Goldsmiths, University of London.

"This book breaks new ground by making central the experiences of African Caribbean, older women – a group usually rendered silent in social theory and research. It foregrounds their voices and situates them as active, lifelong learners whose narratives illuminate their creativity in negotiating structural constraints and contributing to their communities. The word innovative is frequently overused, but this book forges new and engaging ways of bringing together the author's reflexivity and the drama of the women's everyday lives. It deserves to be widely read."

Ann Phoenix, Professor of Psychosocial Studies, UCL Institute of Education

"Anyone wanting to understand the power of collective experience in constructing a better world will find this book invaluable. It vividly illustrates the transformative power of learning communities constructed by older black women, posing a much needed challenge both to conventional ideas of community organizing and to policy and research around communities and diversity. Etienne’s writing is theoretically informed and grounded in powerful narratives, which present a complex weave of past and present aspirations, struggles and social responsibilities. It reveals how creative movements to pursue social change can be constructed differently through the solidarity of older black women’s shared experience."

Dr Linda Milbourne, Associate Fellow, Third Sector Research Centre, University of Birmingham

1. Introduction
2. Lifelong learning in womanist ways
3. Speaking up for sisters
4. "The heart of the race"
5. In search of our Carnival Spirits
6. Spreading our wings
7. Reflections on the (mis) education of the black sister
8. Conclusion

Jan Etienne

Dr. Jan Etienne is Associate Lecturer in Social Policy and Education at Birkbeck, University of London.