07 SES 10 A, Diverse Approaches to Intercultural Education
The population of the world is growing and moving. The population increase is most prevalent in the poorest regions of the world, even though Europe still is the most densely populated continent. Human mobility is a universal phenomenon, with most people moving within countries and toward cities. An estimated 3% of all people live outside their country of birth. The mobility of people tends to be depicted differently depending on whether the movers represent “us” (as in tourists) or “them” (refugees, unskilled migrants).
The Finnish school curriculum promotes key concepts such as democracy, human rights and equality as the underlying values for education. Equality, as in the equal value of all human beings, should mean portraying the world as a place of human beings of equal value, as opposed to othering, where Westerners are superior to others. When using the term othering, I refer to the postcolonial understanding of the word, meaning a constructed division between “others” and “us”, Westerners or white people as described by Frantz Fanon (1961) and Edward Said (1978) and later developed by for instance Stuart Hall (1992) and Etienne Balibar (2009). As Said noted in Orientalism (1978), attributing negative stereotypical features to people from the East was a way for Western scientists to construct their own superior identity.
Much of 20th century Europe has been marked by a racist understanding of the world, with the Westerners on top. Even without a colonial past, the situation in the Nordic countries, including Finland, can be described by colonial complicity. (Vuorela, 2009) Education and culture helped creating the colonial mindset. Today, the colonial mindset is eradicated as an official ideology, but it still shows, as in words chosen to describe human mobility and population growth. Zygmunt Bauman discusses the different values attributed to different people and to the fear of population growth, in Wasted lives (2004) by looking at the common understanding that the “planet is full”. On the topic of human mobility, Wendy Brown (2011) notes that there is nothing as effective as the illusion of “herds of immigrants” when it comes to evoking xenophobia and nationalist politics. According to Sara Ahmed, the concept ‘need for control’ becomes necessary when the nation is constructed as a subject that cannot put up with the presence of the threatening other, (Ahmed 2011). Using words such as “floods of migrants” create sentiments of losing control, besides differentiating between “us” and “them” as human beings.
The topic of my research has emerged from a curiosity about how and to what extent Finnish school textbooks explain the world in terms of “us” and “others”. I examine othering and the construction of "westernness”/whiteness in social science, history and geography. In this paper, the focus is on the descriptions of population growth, human mobility and urbanization (strongly linked to mobility).
Ahmed, S. (2011). Vithetens hegemoni. Hägersten: Tankekraft förlag Balibar, É. (2009). Vi, det europeiska folket? Reflektioner kring ett transnationellt medborgarskap. Hägersten: Tankekraft förlag Bauman, Z. (2004). Wasted Lives. Modernity and its Outcasts. Cambridge: Polity Fanon, F. (1961). The Wretched of the Earth. New York: Grove Press Hall, S. (1992). The West and the Rest: Discourse and Power. In Hall, S. & Gieben, B. eds. Formations of Modernity. Cambridge: Polity Press/Open University Laclau, E. & Mouffe, C. (2008). Hegemonin och den socialistiska strategin. Göteborg/Stockholm: Glänta produktion/Vertigo förlag Said, E. (1978). Orientalism. New York: Vintage Books Virta, A. (2008). Kenen historiaa monikulttuurisessa koulussa. Kasvatusalan tutkimuksia 39. Suomen Kasvatustieteellinen Seura. Turku: Painosalama Oy
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