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Adult education is deeply rooted in national territories, but these spaces for the education of adults are now increasingly disturbed by global transitions. Increased mobility has significant effects on adult education and adult educators, many of whom are themselves on the move. So what are the implications of this increased mobility of adults for adult educators? We use the concept of ‘really useful knowledge’ to understand how mobility is affecting adult educators. We report on an analysis of three reflexive autobiographical commentaries written by Australian adult educators who consider the effects and implications of mobility, learning and identity work on their own learning and their work with adults. Analysing these commentaries, we show how they are positioned by merely useful knowledge expectations and how they also actively pursue really useful knowledge for themselves and their adult learners. These cases each highlight the interplay between knowledge and identity and how this kind of identity work is ordered by, within, and between relational knowledge spaces. Tracking these adults’ movement through different knowledge spaces reveals the kinds of knowledge and skills that enable adult learners to navigate the uncertainties in working lives framed by global transitions. We argue that ‘Really Useful Knowledge’ provides a way of naming adult learning that is oriented towards democratic politics rather than capitalist utility. In global transitions, this kind of knowledge and learning goes beyond understandings of political relations within national territories. Instead, it requires adults to learn how to recognise ‘merely useful’ knowledge and its domesticating effects that encourage compliance rather than democratic citizen engagement. It also requires adults to take up the discipline of critically contextualising everyday events and making meanings reflexively to inform action. When adult educators enact this kind of adult education, they engage in knowledge and identity work that forms actors, rather than victims.


School of Education

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Book Chapter

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