Active surveillance as a collateral practice of contemporary pedagogical devices of the present time


Carla Cardinaletti


“A collateral victim”[1] of the Spanish flu epidemic: these are the words that Edgar Morin uses to define himself in his “Preamble: One hundred years of vicissitudes” (2020, p. 9), written during the lockdown imposed to stem the spread of Covid-19. Over a handful of pages, the French philosopher and sociologist gives a first-person account of his own personal life in relation to the history of the great crises of the 20th Century. His preamble to the book Let’s change lanes: Lessons of Coronavirus reads as follows: “The reader can now understand why I find it normal to expect the unexpected and to foresee that the unpredictable may happen”[2] (p. 22). Over the course of the text, Morin’s readers are also brought to understand why the author has not “completely lost hope” (ibidem).

Hence, the beauty of the words of Morin, as a “transversal thinker” (Montuori, 2019, p. 408), is collateral: his lucid analysis does indeed retrace the catastrophic events that have arisen during the pandemic, underlining human beings’ predisposition to dystopian attitudes, yet it simultaneously highlights key steps towards fostering that humanism necessary to change the path.

If aesthetics, according to the definition given by its founder Baumgarten (1750), is the “sensory theory”[3] (Tedesco, 2020, p. 9), perhaps the key to grasping the collateral beauty of adverse events lies in implementing knowledge of sensibilities, i.e. that ability to envisage the unexpected (Morin, 2020, 2001), to understand that pain is part of life (Han, 2020), to “think emotions, feel thoughts”[4] (Mortari, 2017), to listen to the Other because it concerns us (Levinas, 2002).

This contribution aims to relate some findings of contemporary Italian pedagogy, which, in response to the Covid-19 crisis, are exploring those sensibilities able to deal with the unexpected, considering the concepts of uncertainty, margin and care from a phenomenological perspective (Mortari & Camerella, 2014). Educational practices, brought to the fore by the academic community in the field of education, become an active surveillance tool to provide a response to current issues that is not only theoretical, but also empirical and “operational”[5] – i.e. “capable of directing and orienting its choices in a strategic way in contexts where highly critical situations occur” (Isidori & Vaccarelli, 2013, pp. 16–17).



[1] Original text: “Vittima collaterale”.

[2] Original text: “Il lettore può capire ora perché trovo normale aspettarmi l’inatteso e prevedere che l’imprevedibile possa accadere”.

[3] Original text: “Scienza della conoscenza sensibile”.

[4] Subtitle of Mortari’s book (original text): “La sapienza del cuore. Pensare le emozioni, sentire i pensieri”.

[5] Original text: “Operativa”, “capace di indirizzare e orientare le sue scelte in modo strategico in contesti in cui si verificano situazioni fortemente critiche”.