This article explores representations emergent in discourse about service learning in an effort to understand what gives the notion special value. A job presentation of a candidate for dean of faculty, articles published in a college newspaper, descriptions posted on a college website and commentary offered in an interview with a student demonstrate that representations of service learning are salient in multiple contexts and presuppose the potential to transform the lives of everyone involved. This article identifies one of the discursive constructs making transformation possible – even inevitable – in reflections on service learning, and uses the construct to explore how it shapes a single instance of service learning's failure.
Olive Pickers in Palestine
This article focuses on the way in which olive-picking volunteers in Palestine become transformed into 'accidental pilgrims', and unconventional ones at that, by virtue of their participation in the olive harvest. Undergoing the difficulties of mobility that constrain the Palestinians and witnessing holy sites through the eyes and narratives of Palestinian guides, they are exposed to an alternative knowledge and affect regarding the Holy Land, unlike the experience offered by more conventional religious pilgrimage. Several vignettes reflect the diverse backgrounds of olive-picking pilgrims, who come from many different religions, class positions, and nationalities. Drawn together in a communitas of sorts through their shared commitment to learning about Palestine, they try to do what they can to further the Palestinian cause on their return home. Instead of a 'moral geography', they perceive a profoundly 'immoral geography' of occupation and oppression, which has a powerful transformative effect.
A Brief Anatomy of Racing
Franz Fanon and Elva Cook point out that race is more than simply a cognitive system of classification. Race is also inscribed on bodies and realized in geographies of space (Williams 1989). David Harvey (2001) has developed the latter theme in his account of the ‘moral geographies’ that symbolize relations between nation-states. His discussion calls attention to the ways in which a state gives value to place across various types of terrain. Spatializing race and class in the towns and cities of a state involves creating stigmatized zones that are naturalized. These zones are described as ‘slum’, ‘ghetto’, ‘fringe camp’, and the like. They suggest detritus and morass, islands of disturbed moral order residing within the state. ‘Reserve’, ‘homeland’, ‘quarter’, and ‘hinterland’ may seem more benign but can be turned to similar effect in any national discourse. Both in cities and interstate, these are spaces to ‘go around’. It becomes appropriate to know such places only through received knowledge and without the contaminating risk of actual engagement.