Videos of Conference Panel II: “Global Knowledge Asymmetries and Education”

Chair: Barbara Göbel (Ibero-Amerikanisches Institut, Berlin)116_3059


Neeladri Bhattacharya (Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi)

Peter Kallaway (University of Cape Town)

David MacDonald (University of Guelph)

Hebe Vessuri (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Morelia)

The question of which forms of knowledge are recognized as education – or in German “Bildung” – can be fundamentally contested. Therefore, the process that renders certain forms of knowledge education while excluding others needs to be problematized as an arena of (implicit) political struggle and as a way of wielding social power. Moreover, many regions outside Europe have been affected by colonial pasts. This panel seeks to address the complex topic of global knowledge asymmetries, by asking questions such as: What is the relationship between indigenous knowledge/education and external influences? To what extent have colonial legislation, the associated institutional structures and ideas of education, elite, etc. been impacting on (post-) colonial systems of education? What influence does the formation of the (nation-) state and subsequent politico-economic developments have on ideas and practices of inequality and education?

Neeladri Bhattacharya: “From Access to Politics: Some Reflections on the Idea of Asymmetry”

Neeladri Bhattacharya addresses the relationship between access and asymmetry in the field of education. He acknowledges that access to education is a vital component to overcome knowledge asymmetries. Using the example of India, however, he argues that universal access to education alone does not suffice to overcome asymmetries in knowledge. Looking at developed nations, postcolonial countries may suggest that governmental efforts to ensure universal education are sufficient. Bhattacharya, on the other hand, states that education 103_3006and knowledge create new asymmetries. He suggests that the debate should focus instead on the politics of education and how it is carried out. Textbooks, for example, can include notions of knowledge that reinforce stereotypes and recreate asymmtries. Bhattacharya calls the idea that knowledge simply removes asymmetries a “liberal illusion”.


Peter Kallaway: “The Ambiguities of Colonial Education”

In his talk, Peter Kallaway explores the complexities of the colonial legacy in the South African educational system. With the spread of colonialism, indigenous knowledge and languages were 107_3019often marginalized in schools. Nevertheless, he argues that while cultural heritage is an important issue in education, attempts to tailor education to the cultural specificities of certain groups of the population have taken sinister forms in the age of fascism, culminating in a system of educational apartheid in South Africa. Reflecting such ambiguities, Kallaway reveals surprising coalitions of proponents and opponents of culturally differentiated educational systems.

David MacDonald: “Colonising Education: Canada’s Indian Residential Schools and the Promotion of Structural Inequality”

David McDonald offers insight into the historical educational practices targeted at Aboriginal children in Canada. In 1920, a law was passed that made it obligatory for Aboriginal children to attend the Indian Residential School (IRS) system. The legislation was often forcefully asserted, which in effect meant kidnapping the children from their families. At the boarding schools, 110_3029abuse was wide-spread, while the educational quality in basic fields such as literacy and numeracy was low. MacDonald concludes that the main goal of the IRS was not to educate but to assimilate the Aboriginal population. Since this effort massively traumatized generations of indigenous people and damaged their cultural heritage, the IRS system is today being discussed as a form of cultural genocide.


Hebe Vessuri: “The Role of Science in the Ideology of Five Models of Latin American Modernity”

According to Hebe Vessuri, until the last quarter of the 20th century, the predominant form of social organization in Latin America was based on the model of endogenous development, the “compromise state”, social movements, social integration and the exclusion of peasants as well as the urban poor. 129_3110As public goods, education and research were a crucial factor in this formula. Since the 1980s, however, Vessuri observed a change in the development model in Latin American countries. That meant that economic policies were closely linked to the policies of international organizations such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. As a result, poverty and inequality increased while the state and social actors drifted apart. Vessuri sheds light on the role of science in different models which aim at a renewed state-society-relationship.


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