(Un)learning Aesethetics

Pedagogy and the Perceptual Ecology of Class Struggle


  • Derek R. Ford DePauw University
  • Daniela Chaparro DePauw University




unlearning, marx's aesthetics, perceptual ecology of capital, political pedagogy, marx and education, the actuality of revolution


Materialist approaches to aesthetics historicize our sensuous capacities, orientations, and objects by attending to their ongoing production. This article begins by articulating capital not as an “economic” system but as a broader perceptual ecology that produces particular correspondences between subjects and the world. In response to the clear limits of ideology critique we argue that not only is capitalist ideology reproduced educationally but that pedagogical challenges to capital need to generate experiences with alternative collective perceptual realities that exist in the present. In our current conjuncture, such experiences are political insofar as they help rejuvenate the belief in the possibility and reality of revolutionary transformation. We offer the pedagogy of unlearning as one potential educational philosophy and practice that interrupts our inauguration into capital’s sensuous regime. Moreover, we read Marx’s Capital as a text that is guided by an aesthetic pedagogy to help us understand capital as a totality in shifting and partial ways and that, more importantly, produces a gap in the reader between our presumed sensuous certainty and other possible perceptual configurations.

Author Biographies

Derek R. Ford, DePauw University

Derek R. Ford is associate professor of education studies at DePauw University and an instructor with the People’s Forum. They’ve written or edited 13 books, including Encountering Education (2022) and Marxism, Pedagogy, and the General Intellect (2021). In addition to serving as the editor of Liberation School, they’re education department chair at the Hampton Institute, associate editor of Postdigital Science and Education, and deputy editor of the Journal for Critical Education Policy Studies.

Daniela Chaparro, DePauw University

Daniela Chaparro is a Mexican American visual artist born in the border city of El Paso, Texas. She grew up on the Mexican side of the border in Cd. Juárez, Mexico, and her practice investigates both border cities. She graduated from DePauw University in 2021 with a degree in Education Studies and Studio Art. She later completed the Efroymson Fellowship where she assisted in teaching undergraduate studio classes. Chaparro has exhibited in Texas, Indiana, and New York City. She has participated in the 100 W Corsicana residency in Texas, completed the New York Arts Program based in Manhattan, and later pursued an apprenticeship under the conceptual artist Lucia Hierro Based in the Bronx, NY.