23 SES 04 D, Adult Education and Life Long Learning
Othering is a well-known terminology pointing at the process of defining others as not belonging (e.g. to a nation). Observing the expansion of the adult large scale assessment “PIAAC” to more and more countries, we had the impression that this process should be called Southering. This term refers to the postcolonial studies but takes into consideration that Southering does not necessarily mean individuals. Southering is applied to regions, countries, subpopulations and other groups. With regard to Literacy, this can be shown in publications, charts, maps and tables. New countries in the PIAAC rounds 2 (2016) and 3 (2018-19), not necessarily geographically South, mostly end up at the bottom of the table, significantly below average and are thus sketched out at the bottom and red end of a map. They are always compared to an average dominated by North, which they did not ask to be their benchmark.
Countries like Greece, formerly considered the cradle of literacy, rationality, democracy and the North, find themselves being part of the South and considered low-literate, with low knowledge, low income, large debt and – historical irony with regard to the Hellenic gods – dark skinned and colored.
This contribution shows findings on the process of Southering by dominant discourses of Adult Literacy.
- Theoretical Approach: South as a State of Mind (350 Words)
What is South? South never was strictly geographical, as Australia and New Zealand, southernmost countries, always belonged to the “North”. “South” is a social construct and not a geographical fact. “South is everywhere, but always somewhere” (Sparke 2007). South has several connotations, e.g. freedom for the North, the Subaltern for the south, urban and order as North, rural and chaos as South (Pagel et al. 2014), the South is always lacking knowledge, lacking wealth (Preciado 2017, p.1).
South is created by discourses. South can be Southern States of the U.S.A. or the European PIGS states (Portugal, Italy, Greece, Spain). South can point at marginalized groups inside a state (Pagels et al. 2014) and Preciado claims everybody has his and her own South (2017). The journal series “South as a State of Mind” started in 2012 in Greece and shows how Greece currently becomes “South” during the financial crisis. We call this procedure southering.
Southering relies on Northern conventions: “By convention, the bottom half of a map is South” (Martínez 2012). Among Northern conventions we find the definition of Literacy.
Literacy in the 1960ies has been ascribed to Greece, to ancient Europe, to rationality and democracy (e.g. (Goody et al. 1986 (engl. EA 1963); 1995 (en EA 1977). This led to the strong literacy thesis: Ancient Greece was understood as belonging to the North (if not even the cradle of the North), rational, literate, democratic. Critics rejected the strong literacy thesis and stated that Literacy is best understood as multiple literacies, varying by situation (Street 1992).
But Large Scale Assessments cover the OECD countries like the International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS 1994), the Adult Literacy and Lifeskills Survey (ALL 2003) and the recent Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competences (PIAAC 2012). More recent PIAAC rounds include more and more countries that do not belong to the OECD. For comparison, the definition of literacy has to be globally agreed, which leads to a “single story” (Addey 2018) with all the consequences of Northern definitions being applied to Southern countries(also: Richards 2014).
While scholars from the New Literacy Studies ( (Hamilton et al. 2015) focus on the mass media discourse after publication of new PIAAC results, the paper presented here relies on the publications and tools provided by the OECD. By using the OECD International Data Explorer, maps and charts are produced to investigate, how easily the hegemonic ascriptions of North and South are reproduced with the PIAAC data and tools. Automatically generated PIAAC Maps show how all new countries from Round 2 (e.g. Greece, Turkey, Chile, Singapore) turn into red color (significantly below average) while most Anglo-American countries turn to green color (significantly above average). Country reports with league tables and the definition of the “average” as a norm are used for the analysis.
Findings show, how South is created and re-produced by the presentation of PIAAC results in several ways. Techniques of southering are: • definition of (European!) geographical areas as South, e.g. Spain, France or Italy • Creation of South among the high income countries only (PIAAC doesn’t address middle or low income countries). • Production of maps with South at the bottom, colored in red. • Presentation of league tables where bottom equals low proficiency compared to OECD average, which positions most non-OECD countries below average and thus in the south of the table. • Presentation of extra sections for countries which do not buy all part so the tests • Exporting Northern definitions and instruments to the South: All definitions and test instruments are used for OECD countries and further “partners”. They also influence the worldwide Global Alliance for Monitoring Learning (UIL/UIS/OECD). • Ingnoring earlier tests and campaigns, e.g. the Cuban Literacy Campaign 1961 • Producing intra-national south by focusing sociodemographic variables, such as Religion (Israel) or Color (USA). The darker skin colors and the Islamic religions undergo southering. South is everywhere and Southering is the new “othering” (Castro Varela et al. 2005). Northern definitions of adult literacy as well as their test items and measurement instruments are expanded in an ongoing process in PIAAC rounds (Round 1, 2, 3). Further expansion takes place. Awareness of procedures that contribute to Southering countries, areas, regions and subpopulations are relevant in times of postcolonial criticism of Northern policies (Mbembe and Bischoff 2014, Sachs 2003)
Literaturverzeichnis Addey, Camilla (2018): Assembling literacy as global: the danger of a single story. In: Marcella Milana, John Holford, Susan Webb, Peter Jarvis und Richard Waller (Hg.): The Palgrave International Handbook of Adult and Lifelong Education and Learning, S. 315–335. Castro Varela; María do Mar; Dhawan, Nikita (2005): Postkoloniale Theorie. Eine kritische Einführung. Bielefeld: transcript Verlag (Cultural studies, Bd. 12). Goody, Jack (1990 (engl. EA 1986)): Die Logik der Schrift und die Organisation von Gesellschaft. 1. Aufl. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. Goody, Jack (1995 (en EA 1977)): The domestication of the savage mind. Reprinted. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Goody, Jack; Watt, Ian; Gough, Kathleen (Hg.) (1986 (engl. EA 1963)): Entstehung und Folgen der Schriftkultur. Frankfurt a. M.: Suhrkamp. Hamilton, Mary; Maddox, Bryan; Addey, Camilla (Hg.) (2015): Litereacy as Numbers. Researching the Politics and Practises of International Litereacy Assessment. The Cambridge Research series. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Martínez, Chus (2012): South remembers: Sour South. By convention, the bottom half of a map is South. In: South as a State of Mind (1), S. 34–38. Online verfügbar unter http://southasastateofmind.com/south-remembers-sour-south-chus-martinez/. Mbembe, Joseph-Achille; Bischoff, Michael (2014): Kritik der schwarzen Vernunft. 1. Aufl. Berlin: Suhrkamp. Pagel, Heike; Ranke, Karen; Hempel, Fabian; Köhler, Jonas (2014): The Use of the Concept „Global South“ in Social Science and the Humanities. Presented at the symposium “Globaler Süden / Global South: Kritische Perspektiven”, Institut für Asien- & Afrikawissenschaften, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, July 11, 2014. Online verfügbar unter http://www.academia.edu/7917466/The_Use_of_the_Concept_Global_South_in_Social_Science_and_Humanities. Preciado, Paul B. (2017): Let your South walk, listen and decide. In: documenta 14 Public Papers (2), S. 1. Richards, Patricia (2014): Decolonizing Globalization Studies. The Global South and/in the Global North. In: The Global South 8 (2), S. 139–154. Sachs, Wolfgang (2003): Nach uns die Zukunft. Der globale Konflikt um Gerechtigkeit und Ökologie. 2., durchges. und korrigierte Aufl. Frankfurt a.M.: Brandes & Apsel. Sparke, Matthew (2007): Everywhere but Always Somewhere: Critical Geographies of the Global South. In: The Global South 1 (1), S. 117–126. Street, Brian (1992): Sociocultural Dimensions of Literacy. Literacy in an International Context. In: UNESCO-Institut für Pädagogik (Hg.): The Future of Literacy and The Literacy of the Future. Report of the Seminar on Adult Literacy in Industrialized Countries (Hamburg, Germany, December 4-7). Hamburg: UNESCO Institute for Education (UIP-Berichte, 9), S. 41–53.
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