NW 17: Back/On to What, for Whom and Where? Historicising Ambiguous, Uneven Currents in Education from Situated Perspectives

NW 17 Histories of Education

Back/On to What, for Whom and Where? Historicising Ambiguous, Uneven Currents in Education from Situated Perspectives

Over the past three centuries, in reconfiguring worlds, education in its most diverse forms has been increasingly positioned as a key change agent, while, paradoxically, continuity has been shown to be at the core of its DNA. Histories of education have thereby increasingly highlighted “awkward knowledge”, or unwillingness on the part of education phenomena studied to stay within presupposed (e.g., national) borders, as well as “unevenness” of (i.e., diversity and inequalities across) education “space-times”. So, how to understand – through presents/futures past – commonalities and particularities of phenomena and change and continuity affecting current education? Back/on to what, for whom and where?

The Call
For the past three centuries, in ever-reconfiguring worlds, education in its many and diverse forms has been framed and promoted increasingly as a key agent of change, while continuity has paradoxically been shown to make up the core of its DNA, or its “grammar” or “semantics” (Cuban & Tyack 1995; Depaepe 2000/2012).                   

Education at the formal institutional or systems level (not least that of “school”, e.g., Lenz & Gardin, 2018; Tröhler & Lenz 2015), as well as the non-formal level (among other places, via world exhibitions, e.g., Dittrich 2019), has been deemed central to the emergence and development of the “communities” nation-states were imagined to be (Anderson 2016). Across both levels, as well as that of informal education (for instance, via pupils’ families, cf. Thyssen 2021), non-state agents too have come to “imagineer” (e.g., Van Gorp 2018) societies in internationally similar yet nonetheless idiosyncratic ways. The nation has not figured as the only key actor (and factor) in education and in fact has always needed to expend efforts at manifesting itself over and above regional, local, and increasingly international or transnational configurations – and vice versa. Scholars like Joyce Goodman (2017, 2021) and Martin Lawn (2014) in this respect have hinted at “awkward knowledge”, or unwillingness on the part of phenomena in education studied to stay within presupposed boundaries at whatever level, with Goodman having used anything from decorative objects to the medium of newsreels and cinematography, to explore historiographically situated configurations of the local, national, international, Empire, etc., as well as the kinds of subjectivities enabled to co-emerge with these.

As Julie McLeod, Noah Sobe and Terri Seddon (2017, i) have rightly highlighted, an ‘unevenness of educational space-times’ has come to characterise such texturing of ‘our worlds [as, at first sight increasingly so, they] globalise, [and as] horizons shift and familiar points of reference melt and are remade’. A key question they (Seddon, McLeod & Sobe, 2017, 3) have urged scholars to address is that of ‘how space-times of education and forms of educational knowledge and practice are being, and have been, disturbed by … globalising phenomena and with what effects on reconfiguring education’. It is about acknowledging not just commonalities but also differences (or more precisely, effects of differences) of education’s materialising and being affected by world phenomena – of whatever scale – in temporally and spatially situated ways, such that diversity and inequalities in terms of its impacts – on societies, authorities, teachers, students, parents and other stakeholders – can be accounted for.

So, how to understand, through presents and futures past, commonalities and particularities of phenomena, and change and continuity, affecting present-day education? Back or on to what, for whom and where (e.g., Somogyvári, Bittar & Hamel, 2021)?

Network 17, from its inception, has developed core interests, for instance in the role of visual and other materials in education; emotions; senses; “new”, including digital media, archives or “heritage”; diversity e.g., in terms of regional differences, colonial or minority ethnic experiences. It favours contributions engaging with this tradition.

Contact Person(s)
Geert Thyssen (geert.thyssen(at)hvl.no)
Christian Ydesen (cyd(at)hum.aau.dk)
Iveta Kestere (iveta.kestere(at)lu.lv)

Anderson, B.R.O. (2016). Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (Revised edition). London: Verso.

Depaepe, M. et al. (2000). Order in Progress: Everyday Education Practice in Primary Schools – Belgium, 1880-1970. Leuven: Leuven University Press.

Depaepe, M. (Ed.)(2012). Between Educationalization and Appropriation: Selected Writings on the History of Modern Educational Systems. Leuven: Leuven University Press.

Dittrich, K. (2019). Bilingual primary schools, decorative art and psychotechnics: Luxembourgian education at international exhibitions and congresses, 1870s-1930s. History of Education, 48 (3), 317-335.

Goodman, J. (2017). Circulating Objects and (Vernacular) Cosmopolitan Subjectivities. Bildungsgeschichte: International Journal for the Historiography of Education, 17, 115-126

Goodman, J. (2021). Concentric Circles and Magnetic Currents: Moral Disarmament at the League of Nations International Institute of Educational Cinematography, 1931-34. In: S. Van Ruyskensvelde, G. Thyssen, A. Van Gorp & P. Verstraete (Eds.). Folds of Past, Present and Future: Reconfiguring Contemporary Histories of Education. Oldenbourg: De Gruyter, pp. 34-81.

Van Gorp, A. (2018). Gary, Ind., B&W: The Quest for Social Imagineers. Paper of the symposium “Timespacematters of Education: Re/Imagining Time in Schooling through Places, Materials and People (past_present_future) Part 2” presented at the ECER 2018 in Bolzano.

Lawn, M. (2014). Awkward Knowledge: The Historian of Education and Cross-Border Circulations. In: M. Caruso, T. Koinzer and C. Mayer, Zirkulation und Transformation: Pädagogische Grenzüberschreitungen in historischer Perspektive. Cologne: Böhlau, 15-27.

Lenz, T. & Gardin, M. (Eds.)(2018). Die Schule der Nation: Bildungsgeschichte und Identität in Luxemburg. Weinheim: Beltz.

McLeod, J., Sobe, N.W. and Seddon, T. (Eds.)(2017). World Yearbook of Education 2018: Uneven Space-Times of Education: Historical Sociologies of Concepts, Methods and Practices. London: Routledge.

Seddon, T., McLeod, J. and Sobe, N.W. (2017). Reclaiming Comparative-Historical Sociologies of Education. In: McLeod, J., Sobe, N.W. and Seddon, T. (Eds.). World Yearbook of Education 2018: Uneven Space-Times of Education: Historical Sociologies of Concepts, Methods and Practices. London: Routledge, pp. 1-22.

Somogyvári, L., Bittar, M. and Hamel, T. (2021). Observatory for the History of Education: Looking at the Past, Analysing the Present and Reflecting on the Future – A Transnational Perspective, Paedagogica Historica, iFirst,DOI: 10.1080/00309230.2021.1962927.

Thyssen, G. (2021). ‚Ineinandergreifende Rädchen in der Schmiede’ von Zugehörigkeitsgefühlen? Industriebezogene Wald- bzw. Freiluftschulen in Luxemburg und Belgien. Mutations – Mémoires et perspectives du Bassin Minier, 12 (in press).

Tröhler, D., Popkewitz, T.S. and Labaree, D.F. (2011). Introduction. Children, Citizens, and Promised Lands: Comparative History of Political Cultures and Schooling in the Long 19th Century. In D. Tröhler, T.S. Popkewitz and D.F. Labaree (Eds.). Schooling and the Making of Citizens. Oxon: Routlege, pp. 1-25.

Tröhler, D. and Lenz, T. (Eds.)(2015). Trajectories in the Development of Modern School Systems: Between the National and the Global. London: Routlegde

Tyack, D. and Cuban, L. (1995). Tinkering toward Utopia: A Century of Public School Reform. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

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Interview with Link Convenor 2019