07 SES 01 B, Students' Perceptions on (Inter)nationalism
It is a racism whose dominant theme is not biological heredity but the insurmountability of cultural differences, a racism which, at first sight, does not postulate the superiority of certain groups or peoples in relation to others but 'only' the harmfulness of abolishing frontiers, the incompatibility of life-styles and traditions (Balibar, 1991, p. 21).
European Higher Education has become more than ever a global market place with international student mobility high on the agenda (Khoo, 2011). However, while institutions strive to implement international policies and practices, notions of what it means to be ‘international’ are still considered through a narrow ‘set of nation-centric assumptions’ with ‘diversity’ defined within the understanding of a national framework (Ahmed, 2012; Rizvi, 2011). Educational institutions, particularly universities, play a key role in (re)constructing ‘particular notions’ of identity, citizenship and cultural heritage (Rhoads & Szelenyi, 2011). In recent times, financial crises and austerity measures have highlighted the frailty of the European Union’s imaginary of ‘cultural homogeneity’ and have exposed what Goldberg (2006) refers to as ‘exceptional racism’, which “reinforces the status quo of exonerated, guiltless institutional forms and responsible individuals more silently and invisibly structuring European societies at large.” (p. 353)
This paper presents a framework for recognizing and interrogating how scripts of cultural superiority and exceptionality are (re)produced or challenged in undergraduate students’ perceptions of the benefits and/or disadvantages of the internationalisation processes and policies of European Higher Education. The research is concerned with how such scripts can function, either to preserve the status quo, or to foster social responsibility. Examining the social, cultural, institutional and historical factors, which (re)produce notions of cultural superiority/exceptionality within Higher Education. This is particularly timely in the current context of what Delanty (2001) terms the “knowledge society” or, which Ball (2009, p. 125) refers to as ‘governing knowledge’, where knowledge as intellectual capital is replacing more tangible assets as “key drivers of economic growth”. In the current European economic climate, education as a commodity then becomes increasingly important. Thus, a critical understanding of the context of inequities and imagined ‘European homogeneity’ is a crucial contribution to the international discussion.
This research draws on bodies of literature related to cultural studies and in particular to theories of Deconstruction and Intersectionality (Crenshaw, 1994; Frankenberg, 1993; McIntosh, 1993; Mahwhinney, 1998). These theories provide useful lenses for understanding the interconnected effect of systems of oppression and exclusion: for examining our multiple, fluid positioning in terms of subjectivity and social location. They are connected through particular perspectives, and provide a grounding for this research through scepticism of grand narratives, a focus on subjectivity, of meanings as partial and multiple, on discourse, on processes of becoming, construction and deconstruction (McLeod, 2009).
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