In the opening decades of the 21st century, educators have turned toward cosmopolitanism to theorize teaching and learning in light of increasingly globalized relationships and responsibilities. While subject to extensive debates in disciplines like political science, philosophy, anthropology, and sociology, cosmopolitanism in education has primarily been explored as a moral framework resonant with educators’ efforts to cultivate people’s openness to new ideas, mutual understanding through respectful dialogue, and awareness of relationships to distant and unknown others. Scholars have recently called for more critical cosmopolitan approaches to education, in which the framing of cosmopolitanism as a neutral, essentializing form of global togetherness is subject to critique and includes analysis of systems of power, privilege, and oppression. However, while scholarly efforts to articulate critical cosmopolitanisms (in the plural) are still in nascent form in terms of educational practice, recent work in other disciplines offer promise for forwarding such a critical agenda. In sociology, for example, a focus on cosmopolitics foregrounds the labor of creating a shared world through ongoing, often conflictual negotiations that take into account the historical and contemporary political exigencies that shape that process. A framework of cosmopolitics for educators, particularly as a counterpoint to liberal understandings of cosmopolitanism as a form of ethical universalism, will be explored. Such a critical approach to educational cosmopolitanism not only foregrounds the local, everyday actions needed to build connections with others and create common worlds—but also acknowledges the historical and sociomaterial conditions under which such actions take place. A cosmopolitical approach to educational practice thus recognizes multiplicity and contingency—the mobility that locates people and ideas in new relations can just as easily lead to prejudice and bias as tolerance and solidarity—but does so in an effort to understand how social, political, and economic structures produce inequality, both in the present moment and as legacies from the past.
Amy Stornaiuolo and T. Philip Nichols
Postcolonialism emerged after World War II as a broad school of thought covering a variety of disciplines, such as politics, sociology, history, and culture; however, postcolonial educational perspectives have risen to prominence as one of the main themes in postcolonialist theory because of the important role that education played as the vehicle through which western cultural hegemony and assumptions about knowledge were promoted, protected, and maintained in Africa. Although independence may have granted more groups access to education and deepened human resource capital, education policies were still heavily steeped in Western traditions and dismissive of indigenous cultural, linguistic, ideological, and philosophical ethos. Postcolonial orthodoxy maintains that African education systems must be understood within the broader political, cultural, economic, and social institutional contexts of Africa. Afrocentric scholars, who form part of the larger postcolonial discourse, call for contextually relevant education, and a return to “the African experience,” as the source and foundation of all forms of knowledge. Comparative and international education scholars advocate for globalized education policy perspectives that take into consideration the actions of multilateral agencies such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, UNESCO, and UNICEF, since these organs determine the economic life sources of many countries and increasingly shape policy debates and agendas in Africa. Africa must also contend with global forces such as the spread of information and communication technologies, the inescapable spread of capitalism from western European countries, the economic expansion of Eastern countries like China, Japan, and India, and the migration of Africans into the metropole. These factors forge shared ecological spaces among nationals in a global village, dramatically shaping lives and changing the purpose of education. If the goal of education is the full development of human personality to live successfully and peaceably with others in a world that is interconnected, then a hybrid education paradigm could be the solution to the education policy conundrum for postcolonial Africa. Hybridity is the combination of Western education ethos and indigenous African philosophies; a dynamic process of strategic integration and the adaptation of a variety of cultural patterns and understandings from both worlds.
Maropeng Modiba and Sandra Stewart
Postcolonial ethnographic studies in Africa and, specifically, in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region tend to demonstrate varying sensitivity to local knowledge systems and culture. Ethnographers, both local and international, differ in the ways in which they engage with these aspects. Studies expose shifts, or lack thereof, in the mindsets of researchers. In general, researchers take for granted their cultural ideals and how to embrace broader responsibilities beyond the education or development initiatives they are studying. Although rhetorically supportive of the education/development of the subaltern, some studies selected and reviewed in this article indicate the researchers’ missionary dispositions and reliance on preconceived notions in making sense of the behavior and environments studied. To varying degrees fragmentations in perceptions, anthropological empathy, reluctance to acknowledge African contexts and ways of living as adequate in themselves stand out rather than deliberate efforts to preserve the internal cultures and knowledge systems of the communities and expand their knowledge and skills in sustainable ways.
Radhika Viruru and Julia C. Persky
Although there have been attempts to relate postcolonial theory to teacher education, those attempts have been somewhat limited. Analyses of the corpus of research on teacher education reveal a focus on defining how to become a teacher, how to judge whether what teachers are doing is effective, how to ensure that theories of learning guide what teachers do, and how to ensure that the teaching profession becomes more diverse and more like the population of children they teach. Although these areas are certainly important, what is striking are the losses they conceal and the absences that are revealed. Postcolonial theory has offered powerful commentaries on how most of the world has yet to engage with its colonial past and with endemic issues such as racism. Issues such as how the production of knowledge has been carefully restricted and defined to privilege Western ideologies, the creation of binaries that have systematically marginalized groups of people, the marriage of racist and colonial ideologies, and the creation of institutional structures such as schools that have imposed flawed knowledges on children have yet to be widely acknowledged in teacher education research.
Since the late 1960s and early 1970s, there has been a great deal of criticism of the colonial heritage of early ethnographic research. In the first decade of the twenty-first century, scholars have also raised concerns also about the colonial heritage of comparative education. Erwin Epstein defined comparative education as “the application of the intellectual tools of history and social sciences to understand international issues of education.” Hence it is important for comparative education as a global field of study to engage with the recent debates in social sciences to generate deeper understanding about educational problems embedded within specific international contexts. The dominance of Northern theory in analyzing research data from the Global South has been increasingly critiqued by scholars in a number of scholarly publications since Raewyn Connell published her book Southern Theory in 2008. They have argued that Northern theory arising out of the colonial metropole is provincial in nature and, therefore, provides incomplete interpretation of data and generates misunderstanding or limited understanding of social phenomenon occurring in the hybrid contexts of the Global South. Therefore, lately scholars have been debating about postcolonial comparative education to argue for the relevance of Southern theory in conducting postcolonial comparative education research for both analytic (ideological), as well as hermeneutic (affective historical) engagement with research data. Drawing on the methodological insights from an empirical case study, this article demonstrates why Southern theory drawing on Tagore’s philosophy of education was found more suitable to analyze research data arising out of a case study designed to conduct an institutional ethnography in a particular international context. It demonstrates how contextually relevant Southern theory helped to provide deeper comparative understanding (verstehen) of a social phenomenon, i.e. inclusive pedagogic work of an old colonial school within a particular historical, geopolitical and cultural context in postcolonial India.
Lisa Farley and Debbie Sonu
Childhood studies is an interdisciplinary area of theory and research comprised of intersecting fields that have evolved since the inception of childhood itself. Despite the pervasiveness of psychological frameworks that predominate early studies of childhood and that continue to dominate within teacher education programs, paradigmatic shifts within childhood studies have opened critical questions about the exclusive social norms, racial privileges, and unequal life chances maintained by the idea of childhood as a biologically determined and universal stage of life. Across a range of perspectives, critical scholarship in childhood studies begins with the idea that childhood is a social and historical construction tied to colonial discourses and ongoing injustices that have material effects on children’s lives. Drawing on the fields of history, sociology, postcolonial studies, psychoanalysis, and educational theory, scholars of childhood show how childhood is inextricably bound to philosophical ideals, political forces, social constructs, and emotional conflicts. In identifying and interrogating the ways that race, class, ability, gender, and sexuality affect and limit meanings of childhood, scholars open new metaphors for rethinking social life, development, belonging, relationality, and existence as such.
The field of transnational childhood and education emerges under intensifying mobilities. These global conditions disrupt universalist educational treatments of childhood as a fixed developmental stage of human being. Transnationality shows childhood to be a psychosocially constructed experience that takes myriad form across diverse cultural, historical, educational, and political contexts. The lives of actual children are caught in colonial and national constructions of childhood and subject to its discourses, politics, and normative enactments through public schooling. The emerging field of transnational childhood and education represents a potentially critical intervention in colonial and national enactments of childhood worldwide. Despite interdisciplinary efforts to reconceptualize childhood, Western educational institutions continue to hold to and reproduce hegemonic and colonial understandings of childhood as monocultural, heteronormative, familial, innocent, and protected. Mass global flows of people, culture, and ideas compel policy-makers and educational experts worldwide to consider transnational childhood as the dominant situation of children in and across multicultural nations. The fluidity of malleable childhood experience is poised to generate new educational arrangements and innovations. Transnational lives of children de-stable normative categorizations and fixed situations placed upon children in and through the mechanisms of early childhood education and national schooling. Researchers of transnational childhood and education engage a range of educational experiences and arrangements of children moving within, across, and outside of formal and national schooling institutions. Increasingly children and families are caught in experiences produced by global, geo-political conditions including: war, forcible migration, detainment on borders, internal colonization, and environmental catastrophe. To respond to the times, families and communities seek out and/or are forced to provide opportunities and alternatives for children outside of school. Increasingly children use emergent digital and other forms of remote and inventive means of education. As research in this area is new, transdisciplinary, and ground-breaking, the study of transnational childhoods and education has the potential to radically innovate and deepen the meanings and possibilities of both childhood and education in a rapidly globalizing, uncertain, and changing world.