07 SES 11 C, Citizenship and Democratic Education
Under the global influence of neoliberalism, European universities are rapidly transforming as are universities in Australia. Beset by decades of underfunding, the latter increasingly comport themselves as entrepreneurial corporations focussed more upon branding, world rankings and quantifiable performance measures than, or often in preference to, education for social justice (Cowden & Singh, 2013; Thornton, 2015). These conditions are opening doors of universities to outside corporations in search of business; for instance, voluntourism is one such industry that is ever more present on Australian campuses advertising ‘once in a lifetime opportunities’ to potential consumers (McGloin & Georgeou, 2016). Simultaneously, pressure between institutions is seeing international service (i.e. outbound mobility, global education or study abroad) programs advertised as value-added or core parts of numerous degrees, programs designed to attract students-as-consumers and boost their CVs, while universities claim them as vehicles by which they produce ‘global citizens’ (Stein et al, 2016; Kuleta-Hulboj, 2016).
This confluence of forces raises questions concerning the role and capacity of academics to deploy socially equitable and inclusive international service programs, while a broader context of competitive individualism permeates almost every facet of the field. For instance, like Heron and Tiessen (2012) we might ask who is included or excluded in the construct of the ‘global citizen’? Moreover, how are participants and hosts transformed by these encounters in ways that challenge or reproduce existing global relations of oppression and exploitation? How are academics supported to engage in cross-cultural endeavours in ways that disrupt neoliberal logics? Speaking most broadly, what are the consequences of a worldwide shift in higher education from public good to private investment, especially considering that the rationalities underpinning these moves are arguably the same to have fuelled Brexit, the ascendancy of Trump, and the rise of right-wing nationalism in various European sites?
This paper explores parallels between voluntourism and university-led international service within the context of global neoliberalism. It does so to investigate how critiques of the former may provide a lens for critically rethinking our approach to the latter, particularly as academics with a commitment to education for social justice. The paper investigates what relations are mobilised in the production of Western ‘global citizens’, with specific reference to one university-led program (partly funded by the Australian government New Colombo Plan), which enables undergraduates to travel to neighbouring locations in the Indo-Pacific to engage in ‘transformative’ development work – ‘transformation’ being one of the stated conditions of funding, albeit that this ‘deliverable’ remains incoherently outlined by the funding body. These investigations are mobilised through a poststructuralist orientation to photo-diary and elicitation methods, along with pre- and post-travel interviews and in situ observations.
Ultimately, the paper raises the question of how participants (who in this case constitute undergraduates drawing primarily from Australia’s Anglo-dominated, White, middle-class mainstream) make sense of their international service, and in what ways these ventures are transformative. While the findings are not intended to be generalisable per se, they do share significant resonances with international research into voluntourism and tertiary student mobility, which indicate some of the global tensions, consequences and possibilities offered by these local, university-led schemes.
The study is a poststructuralist analysis of Australian undergraduate students’ involvement in an international service experience in India, set against the complex local-global relations that frame cross-cultural encounter. The study follows two cohorts of participants (in 2017 and 2018 respectively) tasked with delivering sports development programs to Indian school students. This paper reports on findings from the initial cohort. To critically analyse participants’ experiences, a theoretical framework comprising overlapping fields is employed; of interest to this paper is voluntourism studies (Mostafanezhad, 2014; Wearing, 2001), and southern/postcolonial theory (Andreotti, 2011; Connell, 2007). This framework provides latitude for discerning how mobility encounters between members of developed and developing contexts, while potentially mutually beneficial, remain complicated by periphery-centre relations borne of colonisation as well as by the broad context of global neoliberalism, which colours all specific sites. Given the difficulty of capturing participants’ situated experiences, visual methods are deployed. Photo-diary method involves participants utilising a personal smart phone camera to document their experiences, with the overarching directive remaining broad to engage participants’ sociological imagination by identifying when moments of learning or interest surface in everyday life. While in situ, participants choose what to photograph and record weekly reflections in a personal diary, thus extending the researcher’s capacity “to see-through-participants’-eyes” (Allen, 2011, p. 764). Pre- and post-travel interviews are incorporated to elucidate the beliefs, aims and cultural baggage brought to the placement. Post-travel interviews are informed by photo elicitation (i.e. using photographs to stimulate conversation), which helps sharpen participants’ memories and aid in the articulation of complex events or phenomena while connecting “core definitions of the self to society, culture and history” (Harper, 2002, p. 13). Photo elicitation aligns with poststructuralism when it is accepted that “‘the real’ in a photograph is taken as the effect of discourses of the real” (Allen, 2011, p. 762), thus, discourse is conceived as providing participants with multiple means of constructing reality. Modes of critical and visual discourse analysis are used to examine all research materials. This involves reading the materials against the broader socio-political and historical contexts framing their production. Interview transcripts and photo diaries are hence considered alongside theoretical and historical materials to make sense of the data within a broad, multi-layered, historically constituted field. This enables insight into what constitutes a global citizen? How participants make sense of their experiences? And, how these encounters are transformative?
While voluntourism and university-led international service are complex phenomena that cannot be straightforwardly reduced, they share similarities insofar as targeting individuals with racial and economic capital to participate in short-term travel that follows a Global North-South flow – i.e., those in wealthier, whiter parts of the world travel to help ‘those in need’. Rather than transcend or transform the modes of hegemony embedded in these well-worn colonial paths, it is argued that under the influence of neoliberalism, these experiences are formed through dynamics that reduce structural inequalities to questions of ‘individual’ entrepreneurism, benevolence or bravery, qualities that global citizens are encouraged to consume. This highlights the ease of Western participants to cross the physical boundaries of international travel, but not to negotiate the invisible borders of culture and race, which is required of a decolonising orientation to global citizenship (Townsin & Walsh, 2016). This problematic has potential to be challenged via critical pedagogy (Andreotti, 2016); however, the ‘neoliberalisation’ of higher education appears to mitigate against academics’ capacities to do so. Spaces and funding for critical inquiry are progressively curtailed in Australian universities in favour instrumentalism. Federal funding for undergraduates’ overseas experiences stretches to cover certain travel costs. In the absence of adequate educational funding, first round data indicates that ‘transformative’ aspects of overseas service are primarily conceptualised by participants in ways that reproduce colonial logics. There is widespread presumption, for instance, of the universal value of Western ways of living and being, while non-Western orientations are positioned as developmental impediments. ‘Transformation’ materialises in the form of gratitude for being born into a ‘civilised’ country, or ‘sorryness’ for ‘the needy’. Most commonly activated in the construction of these global citizens is thus the expansion of existing privilege in the form of enhanced CVs, while host communities remain unchanged.
Allen, L. (2011). The camera never lies?: Analysing photographs in research on sexualities and schooling, Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 32(5), 761-777. Andreotti V. (2011). Actionable postcolonial theory in education. New York, London: Palgrave Macmillan. Andreotti, V. (2016). The educational challenges of imagining the world differently. Canadian Journal of Development Studies/ Revue canadienne d'études du développement, 37(1), 101-112. Connell, R. (2007). Southern theory: The global dynamics of knowledge in social science. Cambridge, UK: Polity. Cowden, S. & Singh, G. (Eds) (2013). Acts of knowing: Critical pedagogy in, against and beyond the university. London: Bloomsbury. Harper, D. (2002). Talking about pictures: A case for photo elicitation. Visual Studies, 17(1), 13-26. Heron, B. & Tiessen, R. (2012). Creating global citizens? The impact of volunteer/learning abroad programs. Unpublished report. Ottawa: IDRC. Kuleta-Hulboj, M. (2016). The global citizen as an agent of change: Ideals of the global citizen in the narratives of Polish NGO Employees. Journal for Critical Education Policy Studies, 14(3), 220-250. McGloin, C. & Georgeou, N. (2016). ‘Looks good on your CV’: The sociology of voluntourism recruitment in higher education. Journal of Sociology, 52(2), 403-417. Mostafanezhad, M. (2014). Volunteer tourism: Popular humanitarianism in neoliberal times. Surry, UK and Burlington, USA: Ashgate Publishing. Stein, S., Andreotti, V. & Suša, R. (2016). ‘Beyond 2015’, within the modern/colonial global imaginary? Global development and higher education. Critical Studies in Education, DOI: 10.1080/17508487.2016.1247737. Thornton, M. (Ed) (2015). Through a glass darkly: The social sciences look at the neoliberal university. Acton, ACT: ANU Press. Townsin, L. & Walsh, C. (2016). A new border pedagogy: Rethinking outbound mobility programs in the Asian Century. In D.M. Velliaris & D. Coleman-George (Eds), Handbook on study abroad programs and outbound mobility (pp. 215-247). Hershey, PA, USA: IGI Global. Wearing, S. (2001). Volunteer tourism: Experiences that make a difference. Oxon, UK: Cabi Publishing.
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