Post-foundational approaches to comparative and international education blog
Our February reading will be:
Sardar, Z. (2003). What chaos? What coherence? Across the river I called. In S. Inayatullah & G. Boxwell (Eds.). Islam, Postmodernism and Other Futures: A Ziauddin Sardar Reader (pp. 333-349). Pluto Press.
Here's the description from our member Rozena Raja who recommended this piece:
"I especially like this piece because of its treatment of chaos and coherence as Western ways of understanding the world. The world has always been complex, there have always been parts of the "system" that are outside the grasp of human perception and reason. I also like how the article ends on a hopeful note and a good way forward, including humility."
The synchronous discussion of this piece will take place on Friday, Feb 28, 2020 1:00 pm | 1 hour | (UTC-05:00) Eastern Time (US & Canada).
Please email email@example.com for the log in information and to request access to the reading if needed.
The PfA Reading Group is back with the following book chapter:
Escobar, A. (2017). Conclusion. In Designs for the pluriverse: Radical interdependence,
autonomy, and the making of
worlds (pp. 202-228). Durham, NC:
Duke University Press.
With a new year upon us looking to a new decade, it is a season of transition. The group's organizer, Hang has asked us to think about the following:
"In the spirit of a new year/decade, I picked this January reading to get us thinking about transitioning to alternative future(s): the thorny question of social change. This book rethinks the role of design in transitioning towards alternative world(s) and is a timely contribution to our current moment of acknowledging that everything has to change, while still figuring out how to go about doing this. The concluding chapter selected here offers more questions than answers, but I think these are important questions to contemplate as we continue to think about education and social change.
It is clear that we need to re-design our institutions and ways of being, but how should we do this?"
Want to join in on the synchronous discussion? Fill out this poll by tomorrow, January 17th to weigh in on times which accommodate your schedule. Even if you are not available to take part in the synchronous discussion, we welcome your thoughts in the comments below.
If you need assistance accessing the reading, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can help.
Happy reading all!
Above is the author of this month's reading group, Eduardo Viveiros de Castro. We will be discussing his piece:
Eduardo Viveiros de Castro's (2004) Exchanging Perspectives: The Transformation of Objects into Subjects in Amerindian Ontologies. Common Knowledge, 10(3), 463-484.
Post your thoughts and questions this reading inspires in the comments below! We look forward to discussing these thoughts and other contributions live on Friday, December 6, 10am - 11am EST (UTC -5).
Join us for the October Reading Group on the following reading:
Tsing, A. (2015). ‘Prologue: Autumn Aroma’ and ‘Arts of Noticing.’ In The mushroom at the end of the world: On the possibility of life in capitalist ruins (pp. 1-26). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Throughout the month of October, as you engage with this piece by Anna Tsing, please contribute your thoughts and commentaries in written form in the comments below (especially if you have signed up for the meeting via the Doodle poll that Hang Le has sent out, but feel free to comment even if you have not).
Here are a few questions for you to consider as you read:
Lê Minh Hằng is an advanced doctoral student in International Education Policy at the University of Maryland-College Park with interests in decoloniality, ‘development,’ and thinking about worlds otherwise. This blog post hopes to be the first in a series of thematic reading curations that bridge hot topics in CIE and post-foundational approaches.
As refugee education and education in emergencies rise further in global education policy agenda, one cannot help but notice how ubiquitous the numbers become. Visit the front page of Education Cannot Wait, the new global fund for education in emergencies, for example. Scroll down a bit and the numbers will overwhelm your eyes:
* 1 in 4 of the world's school-aged children and youth live in countries affected by crisis
* Education receives only 2 to 4% of humanitarian aid
* 75 million children and youth are in need of educational support
This is a common technique in education development and intervention discourses. "262 million - or 1 out of every 5 - children, adolescents and youth between the ages of 6 and 17 out school." "If 10 percent more adolescent girls attend school, a country's GDP increases by an average of 3 percent." Short, memorable, to the point, these numbers and indicators package complex situations of social injustice with long historical and political economic roots into bite-size pieces for easier consumption by the international humanitarianism/development community. These numbers allow for an innocent sense of moral outrage and drive to action, without having to pay attention to the complicity of the world/Global North in producing this situation in the first place. Numbers can easily serve as the ultimate tools of distancing.
In certain academic disciplines and fields, it seems quite the popular thing to castigate numbers, statistics, and quantification. These critiques of numbers tend to be about the lack of contextualization or about the inaccuracy of numbers. In many cases, the critique stems not only from an epistemological difference on how to discover truths, but also from a place of indignation and desire to recover the marginalized subject (Dixon-Román, 2017; Gorur, 2015). Yet very rarely do they look at the world-making powers of numbers themselves (Gorur, 2015). Numbers do not only represent reality, they act on it and re-construct it. From an affective lens, I want to ask what do numbers make us feel, think, do, as well as not feel, not think, and not do.
The practice of counting seems innocuous enough, but counting is often already a practice of standardization and transformation. For example, we can count 1 apple and 1 orange together to have 2 pieces of fruit, rather than just an apple and an orange that are irreconcilable into the same unit. In the case of children and youth in conflict-affected settings that need education support, we add distinct individuals with incommensurate backgrounds and life paths together to make up a neat number of 75 million. The individuality is ignored, because for these particular human beings, it seems that individuality can always be ignored. The moral distance of numbers and quantification has always worked particularly well as techniques to capture the realities of ‘less important’ people (Porter, 1995).
Standardization is also a practice of organization, and organization is a practice of governance. Many historians and philosophers of science and statistics have pointed out the historical contingency of modern statistical practices. In many cases, the dominant practices of statistics and accounting were designed and popularized explicit to make the world intelligible to the modern state, especially democratic systems. The discipline of mathematics is rigorous because it operates on pure deductive logic; the process is designed to remove any elements of human flaws and biased interpretations. Thus, the numbers produced are seen as objective evidence for decision-making and impart a sense of fairness. In fact, the political aspect of public decision-making, of wrestling with power differentials and moral concerns, appears to be rendered irrelevant altogether by numbers and what numbers support. There is no alternative choice but that which is supported by the numbers. In other words, “quantification is a way of making decisions without seeming to decide” (Porter, 1995, p. 8).
And now in the era of big data: Our behaviors, our lives, are being transformed into tiny data points – singular numbers – that are used to guide complex algorithms that change the ads we see on our screens, the stories we see on our feeds, the very choices that we make through ‘nudge’ behavioral economic policies (Boyd & Crawford, 2012). Let the algorithms make the decision; no one has to be in charge anymore.
Except of course, algorithms are algorithms really neutral? (Noble, 2018). Share your thoughts in the comments.
Some starting places to explore numbers, data, and governmentality:
Gorur, R. (2015). Producing calculable worlds: Education at a glance. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 36(4), 578–595.
Porter, T. (1995). Trust in numbers: The pursuit of objectivity in science and public life. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.
Dixon-Román, E. J. (2017). Inheriting possibility: Social reproduction and quantification in education. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.
Boyd, d., & Crawford, K. (2012). Critical questions for big data: Provocations for a cultural, technological, and scholarly phenomenon. Information, Communication & Society, 15(5), 662–679.
Noble, S. U. (2018). Algorithms of oppression: How search engines reinforce racism. New York, NY: New York University Press.
and the subversive potential of math:
De Freitas, E. (2016). Calculating matter and recombinant subjects: The Infinitesimal and the fractal fold. Cultural Studies - Critical Methodologies, 16(5), 462–470.
Also check out our 2018 webinar The Datafication of Comparative Education.
We are pleased to announce the opening of the reading and writing groups for the 2019-2020 academic year. Given the questions, possibilities, and puzzles the theme raises, we are opening a space for scholars in a variety of settings to read and reflect together, but asynchronously.
The theme of the Reading Group this year will match the CIES 2020 conference theme 'Education Beyond the Human.' Each month, members will discuss a selected text (no more than 30 pages) to collectively explore different aspects of the theme 'Education Beyond the Human.' We imagine potential topics to include alternative ontoepistemologies, posthumanism, multi-species relations, artificial intelligence, etc., but members are also invited to take over proposing topics, readings, and leading discussions in future months. Our dialogue will mostly take place through blog posts and comments on our this PfA blog platform, with the option to organize virtual meetings if members are interested.
If you wish to participate in the Reading Group and/or Writing Group, we encourage you to sign up on this Google form by Friday, September 27th. Please also feel free to write on the form your expectations and preferences for the Reading Group and/or Writing Group. We look forward to beginning our scholarly engagement in October. If you have any questions or suggestions, please direct them to Hang M. Le (email@example.com).
Stay tuned for news from Hang about October's theme. She has suggested Tsing, A. (2015). ‘Prologue: Autumn Aroma’ and ‘Arts of Noticing.’ In The mushroom at the end of the world: On the possibility of life in capitalist ruins (pp. 1-26). Have you read this work? What are you curious about? What questions does it inspire for you in terms of thinking about you and others may take education beyond the human?
In the meantime, we look forward to hearing your thoughts on this Google form
The title could be interpreted at least two different ways. Readers who are already orienting their scholarship with a post-foundational approach, perhaps you are wondering what another post on the ever-growing blogosphere can do. Readers who are perhaps PfA curious may be wondering where to look for this approach amongst the scholarly repertoire of “posts.” Rather than provide an answer to either of those queries, this blog is a place for serious epistemological play.
Of course, we are not the first or last group with a special interest in this questioning. For instance, scholarship with various “post-” labelling or post- affinity (e.g., post(-)colonial scholarship, post-structural, post-modern) could all be considered post-foundational in some way. Two questions could be- which foundation most interests scholars in these approaches and in which historical moment and anxieties in which they have risen to prominence. These are fair questions to ask of PfA as well! What if several moments at different time periods in different places have contributed to this style of questioning the concepts, categories, and reasoning of education? We consider the future potential of this approach to reflect on inherent limitations pointed out to us by a variety of currents, not only the social sciences, but the natural sciences, cultural studies, and rising modes of disciplinarity (e.g., queer studies, new media studies, mobility studies, post-Soviet studies, fat studies). For instance, PfA are attuned to a variety of “turns” in social sciences- mobilities, affective, and, of special relevance for this year’s upcoming CIES theme, ontological. What does it mean when we re-orient categories in our research and thinking to consider processes and conditions of “being human” in education rather than taking a “human being” for granted? PfA are innovative, not in the trendy sense, but in the sense of questioning the inherent limitations of the “foundations” of Comparative and International Education in Western ideas of modernity, society and development.
As a SIG, we recognize that the conversations our members have at CIES are too important and interconnectedto be limited to a meeting at year at one venue. That’s why we’ve opened up new venues beyond our existing website: Twitter, Facebook, and this blog with weekly updates. We embrace a community beyond the walls of who can attend a business meeting at CIES, including scholars and scholar-practitioners scattered across the globe who are interested in PfA and who are already using these approaches [for instance,check out this volume edited by Daniel Friedrich & Erica Colmenares (2017); as well as the recent monographs by Irving Epstein (2019), and Susanne Ress (2019)].
Envisioning the SIG is not the privilege of a very few. Keep sharing your thoughts in the comments and on Twitter or Facebook--in English or any language . We also encourage you to join the SIG; however, we are not limiting our content to official SIG members. Anyone can sign up for our mailing list here. That said, the dues our members pay also will do much to continue developing this and other platform, and we do rely upon this form of expressing commitment to our community.
So in this blog, we can’t answer for your yet “why another [blog] post?” because we don’t know yet what you will make of our upcoming content. We can give you a sense of some ideas we’re thinking about and which will begin to appear in our upcoming newsletter
Our aim is to open up new conversations in the study of education and schooling globally. Imagined as fostering exploration and exchange, the SIG with all of our input can be a space where we stretch the conventional means by which education and schooling have been studied: e.g., through disciplinary bodies, regional divisions and cross-national comparisons. Whether you are a long-time member of PfA, PfA-curious, or interested in putting post-foundational approaches into relation with other critical traditions, or just wondering about the CIES theme this year, you’ve come to the right place. It’s not just another post.
The SIG was founded in 2014 to open and foster new areas of inquiry within the field of CIE. In this blog, we aim to convene the curious who want to (and are) challenging and transcending limitations inherent in the field's traditional "foundations" (Western ideas of modernity, society, and development). We can open new conversations in the study of education and schooling globally, going beyond the brick and mortar CIES venue. Less about the topics themselves, this blog features exploration and exchange that allows us to stretch the conventional means by which education has been studied (e.g. disciplinary bodies, regional divisions, cross-national comparison). We are weaving in some of those ongoing conversations from PfA perspectives, with the hope that you, our readers/writers, will pick up threads and (re)conceptualize, (re)theorize, and (re)frame together.