Education & Training

Southern theory and postcolonial comparative education

Southern theory and postcolonial comparative education
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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.

Author

Mousumi Mukherjee, Associate Professor, International Institute for Higher Education Research & Capacity Building (IIHEd), O.P. Jindal Global University, Sonipat, Haryana, India.

Summary

Since the late 1960s and early 1970s, lot of criticism has been made about the colonial heritage of early ethnographic research. In the past decade of the twenty-first century, scholars have also raised concern 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.

Published in: Oxford research encyclopedia of education. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 1-19.

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