19 SES 01 B JS, Challenges of Educational Ethnographies in the Context of Social Inequality
Joint Paper Session NW 07 and NW 19
Stories about peoples and cultures from North America to the Pacific region have become very popular in German-speaking Central Europe during the last two centuries. Today teaching about these ‘distant places’ and ‘foreign cultures’ is a regular topic in German non-/formal education. As we might expect mass media and education influence young people’s perception of other people and cultures (cp. Hong and Halvorsen 2010). During their education children and youngsters receive the opportunity to expand their notions of the world and to learn about what might be ‘less familiar’. All of these activities may have good intentions: They are supposed to promote diversity, cultural awareness and respect. However, sometimes teaching about ‘distant places’ and ‘foreign cultures’ could result in teaching a rather simple form of cultural and religious differences, which does not necessarily include a critical approach to the post-/colonial epistemic power. Gorski (2008) argues that the good intentions of “intercultural” learning activities are not enough; without a reflection of the underlying postcolonial relations, the focus on simple differences could reinforce images that might fail to question the “dominant hegemony”. As Taylor (2014: 277) illustrates, strategies of “teaching about distant place” influence pupils´ framings of diversity. She states that teaching about “place” could be challenging, because “any representation of a place is a power-full act, involving decisions on what to include and what to leave out”. Teaching has to avoid resorting to stereotypes – Taylor points out that “multiple images” and “direct or indirect contact” could lead to “more nuanced understandings of diversity within and between countries” (ibid.: 296). Referring to both arguments learning strategies can range from an affirmation of clichés and an epistemic hegemony to a transformation through democratic and dialogic forms of (shared) knowledge. The latter is consistent with current anthropological approaches: Here, simplistic representations of peoples and cultures as well as the (body of) research that degraded the ‘other’ to the role of an ‘object’ were criticized (Clifford and Marcus 1986; Zenker and Kumoll 2013). Smith (1999) further argues that the term “research” is “probably one of the dirtiest words in the indigenous world´s vocabulary” and she therefore calls for a decolonizing methodology. The question of who can (not) speak is relevant for the presence and absence of topics and perspectives, in both today´s science and education.
The study presented in this paper investigates the (shifting) representational practices in non-/formal education. It takes into account how ‘distant place’ and ‘foreign culture’ is represented in (German) non-/formal education resources and activities, and discusses how the ‘other’ is constructed by various pedagogical conceptions. Some core questions are: (1) Concerning representational practices, how do mass media and corresponding (public) pedagogies form their ‘objects’? (2) What are the strategies of teaching ‘distant place’ and ‘foreign culture’ (e.g. regarding relations between Europe and North America or the Pacific region). (3) What are educators’, teachers’ and pupils’ perceptions of ‘distance’ and ‘foreignness’ and what are their understandings of ‘truth and knowledge’? The paper connects various sites from school curricula to non-formal education in museums or social work to informal learning through mass media like children’s books, movies and toys.
This project uses ethnographic methods. I follow the ideas of George Marcus’ “multi-sited ethnography” which “(…) moves out from the single sites and local situations of conventional ethnographic research designs to examine the circulation of cultural meanings, objects, and identities in diffuse time-space” (Marcus 1998: 79). To investigate how the ‘distant place’ is represented in various educational institutions and activities I have combined a net of fieldwork locations. To find my field, I am referring to different modes of construction (ibid.). According to Marcus such modes are contoured by movement: follow the things, the plots, the people etc. (ibid.). The study aims to make connections by following the circulation of ideas and objects. Plenty of data has been collected, for example children´s literature about the so-called “Indianer”, “Aborigines”, “Entdecker” and the children of the world as well as school textbooks and learning resources. The data consists of interviews with educational experts working in schools, kindergartens, leisure centres or museums. The research is complemented by participant observation in selected educational fields. Some important aspects of data collection are material culture and playing ‘culture’. Thus, a focus is on the (representation of the) material, and on re-enactment. This also includes the collection of a lot of auditory and visual resources (e.g. images, photos, drawings, handicraft work, movies, podcasts). The project is conducted by the University of Heidelberg. It started in May 2017 and will end in 2019.
The main focus was on representations of ‘places’, ‘peoples’, and ‘cultures’ from North America to Australia in non-/formal education. One of the most popular plots is the story set among people denoted as “Indianer”; during the last two centuries performing North American ‘indigeneity’ became a kind of a spectacle in Germany, from the hobbyist scene to formal classrooms. The paper illustrates how concepts like truth, knowledge or authenticity is negotiated in informal and non-/formal education and demonstrates how both mass media and different pedagogical ideas and strategies define forms of the ‘other’. Learning strategies have in common that they tend to prefer simple images over multiple images. Pedagogical ideas and strategies stress different fields of interest like nature and adventure, costume and carnival, reading and literature, history and anthropology, human rights and critical ‘race’ approaches, and even physics; thus, the plot traverses through various scopes and various scopes define the image of peoples and cultures. In general there appears to be a lack of representations of direct or indirect contact as well as of polyphonic interactions. However, there are also some attempts to involve multiple perspectives and various voices.
Clifford, James and Marcus, George (Eds.) (1986). Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography. Berkeley: University of California Press. Gorski, Paul C. (2008). Good intentions are not enough: a decolonizing intercultural education. Intercultural Education, 19, 6. Hong, Won-Pyo and Halvorsen, Anne-Lise (2010). Teaching Asia in US secondary school classrooms: a curriculum of othering. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 42, 3. Marcus, George (1998). Ethnography in/of the World System: The Emergence of Multi-Sited Ethnography (1995). In George Marcus, Ethnography through thick and thin. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Smith, Linda Tuhiwai (1999). Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples. London: Zed Books Ltd. Taylor, Liz (2014). Diversity between and within: approaches to teaching about distant place in the secondary school curriculum. Journal for Curriculum Studies, 46, 2. Zenker, Olaf and Kumoll, Karsten (2013). Prologue: Opening Doors Beyond Writing Culture. In Olaf Zenker, Olaf and Karsten Kumoll (Eds.), Beyond Writing Culture: Current Intersections of Epistemologies and Representational Practices. New York/ Oxford: Berghahn.
00. Central Events (Keynotes, EERA-Panel, EERJ Round Table, Invited Sessions)
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