Constructing difficult knowledge and self: Teaching literary texts in Kenya

Research output: Book chapter/Published conference paperChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


The construction of teaching and learning subjectivities in tertiary education institutions takes place within postcolonial dynamics where, desires, emotions and conscious and unconscious processes need to be read against the particular social and historical conditions of Kenyan material and political realities. Curiously, Indigenous language texts could be argued as constituting the ‘difficult knowledge’ (Britzman 2003) of the Kenyan education aims. Britzman’s concept of ‘difficult knowledge’ refers to knowledge that helps to deal with ‘traumatic history’. In the Kenyan context, traumatic history would include dealing with remembering and forgetting imperialism, reconciliation (tribal and/or political violence), loss and death, and the ambivalence of re-imaging the notion of Being in an interconnected global community. Therefore, in order to present a viable analysis of the extent to which teachers’ reading positions (perspectives and perceptions) in Kenya have never been fully appreciated or fully incorporated in teaching and learning, there is a need to explore in-depth studies in this area. This will act as a starting point to an understanding of complex intricacies of preparing teachers in tertiary education institutions in Kenya. The focus in this chapter includes rethinking meaningful culturally responsive pedagogy in tertiary institutions from a global perspective. The chapter explores the shifting and complex relationship between theory and practice with regard to preparing teachers in tertiary education for a changing world. It reviews and reflects on teaching and learning of English language and literature in postcolonial contexts. Using personal insights, both as an insider (former secondary school teacher in Kenya) and outsider—teacher trainer at a tertiary institution, what Kenyan teachers want from the teaching of English literary texts will be discussed. The contestations regarding best teaching practices, the effects of teaching on the development of self, and resistances in teaching and learning also emerge as issues of relevance to teaching and reading English literary texts in Kenyan education and are useful as departures for critical analysis.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTeaching and learning in higher education
Subtitle of host publicationThe context of being, interculturality and new knowledge systems
EditorsMargaret Kumar, Thushari Welikala
Place of PublicationBingley, UK
PublisherEmerald Group Publishing Limited
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9781800430068
ISBN (Print)9781800430075
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021


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