07 SES 04 C, Analysing and Shaping Educational Discourses
As Europe is facing growing concerns about far-right nationalistic as well as anti-democratic movements (Osler & Lybaek, 2014), the traditional role of education in constructing national identity and social cohesion comes under scrutiny. In the Norwegian context, the school has played a central role to nation-building and democratic patriotism in a culturally homogenous imagined community from the 19th century and onwards (Lorentzen, 2005; Telhaug & Mediås, 2003). At the core of state-building, the mandatory subject of social studies is also the main avenue of citizenship education. Today, its goals includes encouraging participation, inclusion and democratic values in an increasingly multicultural society. This Janus-appearance illustrates the a priori dilemma in all democratic education between adjustment and emancipation (Freire, 2000). Although educational policy in Norway recently have shifted towards a more inclusive and political notion of citizenship, lived experiences and practices are more ambiguous. Much research implicates a Norwegian national imagery still strongly invested in monoculturalism (Biseth, 2012; Svendsen, 2014). More subtle processes of racialization and epistemic violence hidden in hegemonic discourses accentuate this (Røthing, 2015). Applying two significant cases as examples, the aim of this paper is to shed light to how national identity and the construction of Norwegianess and otherness is articulated through social studies. Our guiding research question is:
- What role do the portrayal of minorities have in constructing and reinforcing images of the nation in social studies education?
The analysis is approached through a postcolonial lens. In the Nordic context, postcolonial theory has been operationalized through the concept Nordic Exceptionalism (Loftsdottir & Jensen, 2012). Nordic Exceptionalism points towards two different ideas about the Nordic societies. Firstly, it can express an idea about the Nordic countries´ peripheral status in relation to the broader European colonialism and contemporary globalization. This despite the fact that the Nordic countries participation in colonial practices and processes of globalization is well documented (Eidsvik, 2012; Mikander, 2015). This colonial complicity also includes state-led discriminatory politics towards the indigenous Sami in Norway, Sweden and Finland. The other aspect is that Nordic self-perception is disparate form the rest of Europe. This notion of Nordic exceptionalism has been especially spelled out in relation to research on current forms of internationalization, where it's usually taken to revolve around the notion of Nordic countries as the global good citizens, conflict resolution-oriented and rational (Browning, 2007). The Norwegian nation is thus constructed as victim of colonialism and war, and as anti-racist, peace-loving and solidary (Gullestad, 2006). Such discursive patterns might function as channeling affect, projecting negative aspects onto the Other (Ahmed, 2000; Said, 1995; Svendsen, 2014). However, our goal is not solely to shed light on the well-acknowledged role of education for fostering nationalism (Gellner, 1983), but also to explore what opportunities social science might provide for inclusive and democratic education.
The first case in focus is a study of how the indigenous Sami population in Norway is included in national imaginary (Anderson, 1991) in social studies textbooks for primary school. The analysis point to how the exclusion of the state-led discriminatory politics towards the Sami in the 19th century from the educational narrative reinforces the idea of Norway as a representative of Nordic exceptionalism, innocent of colonialization. The second case is the analysis of an educational encounter during a social science project about the Norwegian Constitution of 1814 at a secondary school. We argue that the hegemonic discursive notion of the pure Norwegian democracy affects which narratives can be told about the constitution. Notably, the so- called “Jews-paragraph”, proclaiming Protestantism and excluding Jews from the Norwegian state, is actively negotiated as irrelevant for the narrative.
The empirical material for this paper are excerpts from two PhD.-projects exploring constructions of national imaginary and the position of majority and minority perspectives within social studies education in Norwegian primary and secondary schools. Working within the epistemological perspective of critical pedagogy (Apple, Au, & Gandin, 2009; Freire, 2000), the main goal is to critically examine and expose how unjust power relations are manifest and challenged within educational narratives. When engaging in critical studies of the social, we aim to produce knowledge that can contribute to social change. The “political-intellectual work” these fields aspire to stretches across established academic disciplines (Svendsen, 2014), and the methodological approach is multidisciplinary. The projects are based on the concept of comparative case study approach (CCS), a recent criticism of traditional case studies that is focused at tracing the phenomenon of interest across scales (Bartlett & Vavrus, 2017). Thus, the approach entails a triangulation of different methodological tools, including classroom observations, semi-structured interviews with teachers and pupils, and analysis of teaching materials such as textbooks. The first case presented in this paper is based on an analysis of eight textbooks for social studies in primary school. The textbooks were analyzed applying basic principles of CDA (Dijk, 1998; Fairclough, 2010) . The analysis focuses on the use of vocabulary and pronouns signaling inclusion and exclusion, and specific attention is paid to the hidden curriculum. As the books are intended for primary school pupils, they are rich in photos and illustrations. Working with multimodal texts, it is imperative to pay attention also to the visual grammatics. As the analysis focus on conceptualization, the categories of narrative and conceptual representations (Kress & Van Leeuwen, 2006) was applied for shedding light on these. The second case is retrieved from observation in a secondary school classroom during a more extensive period of fieldwork. The project is situated within a narrative framework and presents theoretically informed interpretations of data (Røthing, 2017), where postcolonial and affective (Ahmed, 2000) perspectives are important. The analysis of the educational encounter focuses on deconstructing the narratives of the Norwegian Constitution of 1814 according to three main themes; the placement of the Jews-paragraph, the notion of the exceptional Norwegian democracy and shame and resistance linked to the Jews-paragraph. The analysis therefore highlights how feelings and affect is connected to collective imaginaries of the nation (Ahmed, 2000).
This paper presents some preliminary findings from two phd.-projects focusing on constructions of national imaginary, majorities and minorities in social studies in Norwegian primary and secondary education. The chosen cases exemplify how the discursive patterns informed by hegemonic notions of Nordic exceptionalism leads to repudiation of negative aspects of the nation. By leaving out crucial parts of the recent history of minority groups such as the state-led discrimination towards the indigenous Sami or the outlawing of Judaism in 1814, the national self-esteem as “Nordic exceptional” is reinforced. This also fortifies the othering and exclusion of citizens outside the monocultural majority frame of reference from the educational narratives. Moreover, the study of the indigenous Sami reveal how the Sami is actively portrayed as the postcolonial Other, as a representative of a mythical, unspecific and reified culture. Although working within a critical tradition, it is an explicit goal for our inquiry to be both critical and also constructive. Through the examples, we also thematize and shed light to what kind of critical classroom conversations existing as possibilities within the material. This is especially located in managing and deconstructing difficult narratives as a tool in critical citizenship education. Counter-hegemonic narratives are also located within the material.
Ahmed, S. (2000). Strange encounters : embodied others in post-coloniality. London: Routledge. Anderson, B. (1991). Imagined communities : reflections on the origin and spread of nationalism (Rev. ed. ed.). London: Verso. Apple, M., Au, W., & Gandin, L. s. A. (2009). The Routledge international handbook of critical education. London: Routledge. Biseth, H. (2012). Educators as custodians of democracy : a comparative investigation of democracy in multicultural school environments in the Scandinavian capitals. (no. 150). Oslo: Faculty of Educational Sciences, University of Oslo. Browning, C. S. (2007). Branding nordicity: Models, identity and the decline of exceptionalism. Cooperation and Conflict, 42(1), 27-51. doi:10.1177/0010836707073475 Dijk, T. A. v. (1998). Ideology : a multidisciplinary approach. London: Sage Publications. Eidsvik, E. (2012). Colonial Discourse and Ambivalence: Norwegian Participants on the Colonial Arena in South Africa. In K. Loftsdottir & L. Jensen (Eds.), Whiteness and Postcolonialism in the Nordic Region. London: Routledge. Fairclough, N. (2010). Critical discourse analysis : the critical study of language (2nd ed.). Harlow: Longman. Freire, P. (2000). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Continuum. Gellner, E. (1983). Nations and nationalism. Oxford: Blackwell. Gullestad, M. (2006). Plausible prejudice : everyday experiences and social images of nation, culture and race. Oslo: Universitetsforl. Kress, G., & Van Leeuwen, T. (2006). Reading images : the grammar of visual design (2nd ed. ed.). London: Routledge. Loftsdottir, K., & Jensen, L. (2012). Introduction. In K. Loftsdottir & L. Jensen (Eds.), Whiteness and Postcolonialism in the Nordic Region (pp. 1-12). London: Routledge. Lorentzen, S. (2005). Ja, vi elsker- : skolebøkene som nasjonsbyggere 1814-2000. Oslo: Abstrakt forl. Mikander, P. (2015). Colonialist "discoveries" in Finnish school textbooks. Nordidactica(2015:4), 48-65. Osler, A., & Lybaek, L. (2014). Educating "The New Norwegian We": An Examination of National and Cosmopolitan Education Policy Discourses in the Context of Extremism and Islamophobia. Oxford Review of Education, 40(5), 543-566. doi:10.1080/03054985.2014.946896 Røthing, Å. (2017). Sexual orientation in Norwegian science textbooks: Heteronormativity and selective inclusion in textbooks and teaching. Teaching and Teacher Education (67), 143-151 doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tate.2017.06.005 Said, E. W. (1995). Orientalism (Repr. with a new afterword. ed.). London: Penguin Books. Svendsen, S. H. B. (2014). Affecting change? : cultural politics of sexuality and "race" in Norwegian education. (2014:19), Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Faculty of Humanities, Trondheim. Telhaug, A. O., & Mediås, O. A. (2003). Grunnskolen som nasjonsbygger : fra statspietisme til nyliberalisme. Oslo: Abstrakt forl.
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