Anti-Colonialism and Education Essay
Anti-Colonialism and Education
In Anti-Colonialism and Education: The Politics of Resistance, George J. Sefa Dei and Arlo Kempf have given us a stimulating intellectual account of the issues surrounding the active attempt for educational liberation. The authors who have contributed to the volume have been well chosen to present creative approaches to this abiding problem in most of the world. As we engage the legacies of colonialism we are more certain today that the nonmaterial legacies are as important in our thinking as the material ones when we engage questions of resistance and recovery. The colonizer did not only seize land, but also minds.
If colonialism’s in? uence had been merely the control of land that would have required only one form of resistance, but when information is also colonized, it is essential that the resistance must interrogate issues related to education, information and intellectual transformations. Colonialism seeks to impose the will of one people on another and to use the resources of the imposed people for the bene? t of the imposer. Nothing is sacred in such a system as it powers its way toward the extinction of the wills of the imposed upon with one objective in mind: the ultimate
subjection of the will to resist. An effective system of colonialism reduces the imposed upon to a shell of a human who is incapable of thinking in a subjective way of his or her own interest. In everything the person becomes like the imposer; thus in desires, wishes, visions, purposes, styles, structures, values, and especially the values of education, the person operates against his or her own interest. Colonialism does not engender creativity; it sti? es it, suppresses it under the cloak of assistance when in fact it is creating conditions that make it impossible for humans to effectively resist.
And yet there has always been resistance and there are new methods of resistance gaining ground each day. The intricacies of engaging colonialism are as numerous as the ways colonialism has impacted upon the world. Indeed, the political-economic, socialbehavioral, and cultural-aesthetic legacies of the colonizing process have left human beings with a variety of ways to confront the impact of those legacies. What we see in Anti-Colonialism and Education is a profound attempt to capture for the reader the possibilities inherent in educational transformation through the politics of resistance.
Professors Dei and Kempf have exercised a judicious imagination in selecting the authors for the chapters in this book. Each author is an expert in the area of the topic, skilled in presentation of the facts based upon current theories, and articulate in the expression of a need for educators to understand the pressures ix FOREWORD both for and against colonialism. However, they all take the position that it is necessary to explore all formulations that might achieve a liberated sphere of education. Since education normally follows the dominant political lines in a country where you have colonial political principles you will ?
nd colonial education. If you have the vestiges of past colonial practices, you will see those practices re? ected in the educational system. I remember a colleague from Algeria saying to me that when the French ruled the country the students learned that their ancestors were the Gauls. When independence came to Algeria, he said, the people were taught that their ancestors were Arabs. The fact that this was only true for those individuals who had Arab origins, and thirty percent did not have such ancestry, was uninteresting to the political agenda.
And so it has been in every nation where you have a political intention to mold a country on the basis of domination you will also have resistance. One seems to go with the other regardless to how long the process seems to take to commence. This is not just an exciting work intellectually; it is a beautiful book edited with intelligence and executed with the kind of research and scholarship that will bring us back to its pages many times. Each author seems to feel the same desire to teach us to be truly human; that is enough for us to inaugurate our own anti-colonialism campaign in our schools and colleges.
I shall gladly join the fray to make the world better. Mole? Kete Asante Elkins Park, PA 19027 USA x ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS This book could not have been completed without the political interest and will of the many people who shared their knowledge in this joint undertaking. While the task of re-visioning schooling and education for the contemporary learner and teacher may be daunting at times, we believe strongly that it is by no means insurmountable. In fact, we have a wealth of knowledge with which to help transform education into a process and practice that serves the needs of the collective.
We hope this book will contribute to the debate and discussion of how to address not only the imperialization of knowledge but also the various forms of intellectual colonization that mask themselves as everyday academic truth and valid knowledge. George Dei would like to thank the students of his graduate level course, SES 3914S: “Anti-Colonial Thought and Pedagogical Challenges” in the fall of 2004 whose insights and discussions helped propel the vision for this collection. Arlo Kempf would like to thank Lola Douglas, Meghan Mckee and Randy Kempf for their support and loveliness.
He would also like to thank George Dei and the contributors for their ideas and hard work over the duration of this project. We both owe a great deal of intellectual depth to our colleagues, peers and friends who constantly challenge us to think more deeply and avoid academic closure. It is in the actions and resistance of the people that theory is born and takes life – to all who struggle against colonialism without the privilege of a pen in hand, we thank and salute you. Our academic objective for the book was also shaped by a desire to let our community politics inform intellectual pursuits at all times.
We want to thank Geoff Rytell, who initially helped proofread sections of the book, as well as Cheryl Williams for her ongoing support. Finally we say “thank you” to Joe Kincheloe, Shirley Steinberg and Peter de Liefde who made this book a reality. George Dei Arlo Kempf xi GEORGE J. SEFA DEI INTRODUCTION: MAPPING THE TERRAIN – TOWARDS A NEW POLITICS OF RESISTANCE INTRODUCTION I begin this chapter with a question germane as to why and how we articulate anticolonial thought. Informed by Steven Biko’s (1978) earlier work, I ask: “Why is it necessary for us as colonized peoples to think and re?
ect collectively about a problem not of our creation i. e. , the problem of colonialism? ” This question is central since colonialism has not ended and we see around us today various examples of colonial and neo-colonial relations produced within our schools, colleges, universities, homes, families, workplaces and other institutional settings. It is often said that globalization is the new word for imperialism. History and context are crucial for anti-colonial undertakings. Understanding our collective past is signi?
cant for pursuing political resistance. Haunani-Kay Trask (1991) writes about the importance of the past to Indigenous peoples as a way to challenge the dominant’s call to amputate the past and its histories. For the people of Hawaiia, Trask notes that “we do not need, nor do we want [to be] liberated from our past because it is source of our understanding . . . [We] . . . stand ? rmly in the present, with [our] back to the future, and [our] eyes ? xed upon the past, seeking historical answers for present-day dilemmas” (p. 164).
In order to understand the knowledge and resistance of the past as it relates to contemporary politics of resistance, one has to know and learn about this past. As noted elsewhere (Dei, 2000, p. 11), for colonized peoples decolonization involves a reclamation of the past, previously excluded in the history of the colonial and colonized nations. They must identify the colonial historical period from the perspectives of their places and their peoples. Knowledge of the past is also relevant in so far as we as people must use that knowledge “responsibly”.
But our situatedness as knowledge producers and how we perform “the gaze” on subjects, at times accord power and privilege to some bodies and not others. Therefore, an anti-colonial struggle must identify and de? ne a political project and show its connections to the academic engagement. Franz Fanon and Karl Marx have both cautioned us that “what matters is not to know the world but to change it”. This assertion calls for a recognition of the multiple points/places of responsibility and accountability.
For example, what does it mean to talk of accountability as far as identity and subjectivity, however complex? It may well mean taking the stance that in political work for change, certain issues are not negotiable. In other words, we need to see there are limits and possibilities of “negotiating” in anti-colonial struggles and politics. As Howard (2004) asks: How much can be G. J. S. Dei and A. Kempf (eds. ), Anti-Colonialism and Education: The Politics of Resistance, 1–23. © 2006. Sense Publishers. All rights reserved. DEI accomplished if we decide to “negotiate” around domination or oppression?
Are we negotiating as part of a democratic exercise? Rabaka (2003) has argued that “one of the most important tasks of a critical anti-colonial theory . . . is to capture and critique the continuities and discontinuities of the colonial and neocolonial in order to make sense of our currently . . . colonized life and . . . worlds” (p. 7). Therefore as we begin to ? esh out anti-colonial theory and practice, it is ? tting to ask some critical questions (see also Butler, 2002): Is there still a colonized South? What about a colonized North?
Do we think of neo-colonialism/colonialism/post-colonialism as bridges, as new articulations, or as a continuation with no marked differentiation? What is “post” about/in the “post-colonial”? Is the theoretical distinction between neo-colonialism and colonialism spurious at best? What are the purposes and underlying intentions of making such distinctions? What are the convergences and the divergences in post-colonial and anti-colonial thoughts? Does “neo” in neo-colonial mean “new”, or “transformed”? What is neo-colonialism? What are its antecedents and its marked practices?
What are the mechanisms and institutions that constitute neo-colonialism? Why do we speak of neo-colonialism and not anti-colonialism? Are the structures, practices and ideas which enable colonialism really that different from those of neo-colonialism? Are the differences between neo-colonialism and colonialism more than theoretical? Whose interests are advanced in speaking of neo-colonialism/post-colonialism? What are the [dis]junctures and [dis]continuities between colonialism and neo-colonialism? How do discursive forces and material aspects interact to further our understanding of colonial?
How do we speak of power, coercion, subjectivity, agency and resistance in anti-colonial discursive practice? What are the relations between neo-colonialism and White supremacy? The book does not presume to offer full answers to all these questions. But it is hoped the discussions that follow offer some entry points into a new politics of engagement towards the formulation of a critical anti-colonial lens. The power of the anti-colonial prism lies in its offering of new philosophical insights to challenge Eurocentric discourses, in order to pave the way for Southern/indigenous intellectual and political emancipation.
In this discussion, anti-colonial is de? ned as an approach to theorizing colonial and re-colonial relations and the implications of imperial structures on the processes of knowledge production and validation, the understanding of indigeneity, and the pursuit of agency, resistance and subjective politics (see also Dei and Asgharzadeh, 2001). Colonialism, read as imposition and domination, did not end with the return of political sovereignty to colonized peoples or nation states. Colonialism is not dead.
Indeed, colonialism and re-colonizing projects today manifest themselves in variegated ways (e. g. the different ways knowledges get produced and receive validation within schools, the particular experiences of students that get counted as [in]valid and the identities that receive recognition and response from school authorities. The anti-colonial prism theorizes the nature and extent of social domination and particularly the multiple places that power, and the relations of power, work to establish dominant-subordinate connections. This prism also scrutinizes 2
INTRODUCTION and deconstructs dominant discourses and epistemologies, while raising questions of and about its own practice. It highlights and analyzes contexts, and explores alternatives to colonial relations. Loomba (1998) sees colonialism as signifying “territorial ownership” of a place/space by an imperial power, while imperialism on the other hand is the governing ideology for such occupation. Anti-colonial thought works with these two themes/projects – colonialism and imperialism as never ending. The colonial in anti-colonial however, invokes much more.
It refers to anything imposed and dominating rather than that which is simply foreign and alien. Colonialism reinforces exclusive notions of belonging, difference and superiority (Principe, 2004). It pursues a politics of domination which informs and constructs dominant images of both the colonizer and the colonized (Memmi, 1969). Colonialism is not simply complicit in how we come to know ourselves and its politics. It also establishes sustainable hierarchies and systems of power. Colonial images continually uphold the colonizers’ sense of reason, authority and control.
It scripts and violates the colonized as the violent “other”, while, in contrast, the colonizer is pitted as an innocent, benevolent and [imperial] saviour (see also Principe, 2004). This historical relationship of the colonizer and colonized continues to inform contemporary subject identity formation and knowledge production. It shapes and informs identities by recreating colonial ideologies and mythologies (Tuhiwai-Smith, 1999). In theorizing the anti-colonial discursive framework, I would highlight some key salient points. All knowledge can be located in the particular social contexts from which it emerges.
Such location shapes the ways of knowing and understanding the social and political relations at play in constructing social realities. The anti-colonial prism takes the position that all knowledges are socially situated and politically contested. The anti-colonial discourse is situated in colonial relations of power that are contested through resistant practices against domination and oppression. In working with resistant knowledges, the liberating in? uence of critical anti-colonial discourse becomes clear. The anti-colonial discourse works with the idea of the epistemological power of the colonized subjects.
The colonial knowing is situated and informed within particular social contexts (see also Harding, 1996). Such “situated knowledges” (hooks, 1991; Collins, 1990) also point to the importance of subjectivity, positionality, location and history. In this regard, the anti-colonial referent is to the epistemologies about, and of, marginalized, colonized subjects. Particular and different interests are served by knowledge systems, and the anti-colonial aim is to subvert dominant thinking that re-inscribes colonial and colonizing relations.
The ability and strength of the anti-colonial prism to draw upon different discursive traditions to explain social and political phenomena is an important strength for multiple knowings. But anti-colonial thought, while borrowing from other theoretical frameworks, is not constrained by dominant epistemologies. It calls for a critical awareness of the social relations and power issues embedded in the ways of organizing the production, interrogation, validation and dissemination of knowledge in order to challenge social oppression and 3 DEI consequently subvert domination. It also calls for acknowledging accountability and power.
Since the burden of oppression is not shared equally among groups, and that even among the oppressed we are not all affected the same way (see also Larbalestier, 1990), we must all be able to address questions of accountability and responsibility of knowledge. It is within such a context that one must evaluate the politics of anti-colonial thought, in its call for a radical transformation of the analytical and conceptual frames of reference, used both in the academy and in mainstream public discourse so that the minoritized, subjugated voice, experience and history can be powerfully evoked, acknowledged and responded to.
Unless we are able to articulate the grounds on which we share a dialogue and challenge the power relations of knowledge production, we will be shirking the responsibility of acting on our knowledge. The academic project of anti-colonial thinking and practice is to challenge and resist Eurocentric theorizing of the colonial encounter. Such Eurocentric theorizing is best captured in representations of minoritized/colonized bodies and their knowledges, and through the power of colonial imageries.
The anticolonial critique also deals with interrogations of colonial representations and imaginaries examining processes and representations of legitimacy and degeneracy through the mutually constitutive relations of power. Colonialisms were/are practised differently; they differ in their representations and consequently have myriad in? uences, impacts and implications for different communities. Colonial practices can be refracted around race, gender, class, age, disability, culture and nation as sites of difference. In many ways the “anti-colonial thought” is the emergence of a new political, cultural and intellectual movement re?
ecting the values and aspirations of colonized and resisting peoples/subjects. The Western academy cannot continue to deny the intellectual agency of colonized peoples. As resisting subjects, we will all have to confront and deal with the historic inferiorization of colonial subjects, and the devaluation of rich histories and cultures. What is required is critical educational praxis that is anchored in anti-colonial thought to challenge and subvert the “Western cultural and capital overkill”, and shed the insulting idea that others know and understand us [as colonized subjects] better than we understand ourselves (see also Prah, 1997, pp.
19–23). Colonized peoples require an anti-colonial prism that is useful in helping to disabuse our minds of the lies and falsehoods told about our peoples, our pasts and our histories (see also Rodney, 1982). We need to present anti-colonial discourse as a way to challenge Eurocentric culture as the tacit norm everyone references and on which so many of us cast our gaze (Kincheloe and Steinberg, 1998, p. 11).
This approach to anti-colonial discursive thought and practice is also informed by the academic and political project calling for knowledge that colonised groups can use to ? nd authentic and viable solutions to our own problems. In this struggle we can point to some positive developments. For example everywhere today, we (as colonized peoples) are reclaiming and reinvigorating our marginalised, and in some cases, lost voices and are speaking for ourselves. Within educational academies in North America and in the South, there 4