Towards ex-centric theorizing of work and learning

Linda Cooper (School of Education, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa)

Journal of Workplace Learning

ISSN: 1366-5626

Publication date: 8 September 2014



This paper aims to highlight the value of research contributions that have focused on making visible the knowledge of those historically excluded from formal knowledge-making. It identifies key bodies of theory that have grounded these analyses, and questions whether we can fully do justice to this project if we continue to rely on established “canons” of social science theory.


The article reviews research contributions to Researching Work and Learning conferences over the past decade, aimed at identifying those who have been invisible as makers of knowledge. It then considers a body of critique that our dominant epistemologies within the social sciences are rooted in unequal global and local power relations.


In the literature on workplace learning, a few theoretical paradigms forged in the global north seem to predominate. The article concludes that we need to re-centre our sources of knowledge-making to what Homi Bhabha has called an “ex-centric” site, if we are to develop more inclusive theorizations of work and learning, and more socially just ways of working and learning in the future.


The article invites researchers to reflect critically on their use of theory, and to be more proactive in developing theories with an angle of vision outside of the geo-political centre, so as to better understand the diversity of work and learning globally.



Cooper, L. (2014), "Towards ex-centric theorizing of work and learning", Journal of Workplace Learning, Vol. 26 No. 6/7, pp. 474-484.

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