Throughout the duration of the conference, CIES 2020 Program Committee planned to feature a series of conference keynotes. As in music, these keynotes set the tone for the conference and highlight various aspects of the conference theme “Education beyond the Human: Toward Sympoiesis.” They weave in and out through the entire duration of the conference, inviting the participants to explore alternative ways for thinking about and experiencing life – and education – on a damaged Earth.
The premise of this keynote session is to explore the extent to which international aid – as an organizational field and as a practice – has engaged with the three pillars of sustainability (i.e., the environmental, social, and economic). Although the international community introduced the concepts “sustainable development” and “sustainability” more than 30 years ago and even after the UNESCO’s Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2014), there seem to be multiple definitions and understandings of these terms, with the priority given to economic development at the expense of environmental concerns. Furthermore, it is unclear whether the three pillars of sustainability are congruent with each other. We will begin the session with an interactive activity with the audience to facilitate a shared and broad definition of the term. Following that, panelists will engage in a conversation around current practices and the barriers that prevent international aid from taking sustainability seriously. We hope to have a lively discussion on what it means for international aid to be responsive to the most important challenges of our times.
David Edwards is General Secretary of Education International, a federation of 32 million teachers and other educators affiliated with unions and associations in 173 countries globally. Dr. Edwards was named to the position in 2018 after seven years as EI’s deputy general secretary directing education policy, advocacy, research and communications. Prior to joining EI, David was an Associate Director and head of international relations department at the National Education Association (NEA) of the United States. He has worked as an Education Specialist at the Organization of American States and began his career as a public high school teacher.
Gita Steiner-Khamsi, Professor of Teachers College, Columbia University, New York (fall semesters) and The Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva (spring semesters). She is Director of NORRAG, a global network of close to 5,000 researchers, policy makers, and practitioners committed to promoting the voices of the global South/East and to advancing equity and quality in educational development. She is a well-published scholar (12 books, numerous journal articles, 3 book series) in the field of comparative policy studies and her work has been published in several languages.
Dirk Hastedt is the Executive Director of the IEA (International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement). He oversees the IEA’s operations, studies, and services, and drives the IEA’s overall strategic vision. Moreover, he develops and maintains strong relationships with member countries, researchers, policy makers, and other key players in the education sector. Dr Hastedt also serves as co-editor in chief of the IEA-ETS Research Institute (IERI) journal ‘Large-scale Assessments in Education.’
Kristen Molyneaux, Vice President Social Impact, Lever for Change an affiliate of the MacArthur Foundation. Kristen leads the Social Impact team for Lever for Change which provides programmatic and technical supports to applicants and grantees. Kristen also co-developed, designed, and launched MacArthur Foundation’s inaugural 100&Change competition for a single $100 million grant to help solve a critical problem of our time. She currently manages various aspects of the competition including scope of initiative, the provision of technical support to competition participants, and due diligence processes. Currently, Kristen oversees the Foundation’s $100 million investment in Sesame Workshop and the International Rescue Committee.
Oren Pizmony-Levy (moderator) is Associate Professor of International and Comparative Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. Trained as a sociologist, his research focuses on global educational movements – including international large-scale assessments, environmental and sustainability education, and LGBT education – and their impact on policy/practice. Oren is the founding director of the Teachers College Center for Sustainable Futures. He leads a research-practice partnership with the New York City Department of Education to promote and advance sustainability education.
Anthropologists have something to say about “Education beyond the Human” which is different from the views of educators and other discipline-based researchers. In this panel, they are invited to speak about how their research tools and theories have informed their study of human beings in their own particular ecological niche. If we are living in a period of crisis in regard to our environment and our relationship to the Earth, then it behooves us to examine how various cultures in various present, historic, and prehistoric eras have adapted their cultures and their education and socialization to the circumstances in which they find themselves. In industrial societies, we have tended to take our educational model for granted. Now that the Earth’s climate has become “strange” to us, we are uneasy about how to adapt to it, and the “familiar” educational models may no longer serve our needs or even allow us to survive in the very long term.
We are also able to study such adaptations comparatively in the past and in the present. The creation of systems of institutional schooling and the later spread (or imposition) of global standards for educational data-gathering and achievement have led to an unquestioning assumption of the superiority of the Western liberal (democratic) model. This model was supposed to solve the goals of creating citizens to provide knowledge, skills, values and attitudes appropriate for economic development nationally and globally, creating equality, and alleviating poverty. The educational model has been in direct contradiction with the structural propensities of national and global capitalism to further social inequality and to create massive environmental destruction and waste of resources. These structural forces are largely ignored by those who want to ascribe to the formal education systems the chimerical goal of fulfilling individuals’ hopes and dreams.
These developments in the last four centuries or millennia, depending on one’s time-frame, are comparatively recent when compared with the history of human culture or with the history of the Earth itself. Because of the success of formal education globally, many languages and cultures have been lost, marginalized, ignored, or deliberately destroyed. It is anthropologists who have a much longer time perspective to imagine what other forms of child socialization and education might be developed to respond to the current environmental crisis. It is not just the broad time and space dimension that anthropologists are familiar with; they also want to discuss the utility of ethnographic field methods and other more human-centred forms of inquiry where researchers are willing to blur the subject/object divide, to speak to people in their own language, to study other ways of knowing and indigenous epistemologies, to spend long periods of time in the field, and to eschew large-scale impersonal or alienating forms of research.
The presentations for this panel fall into two groups. The first three give a theoretical overview of various types of research questions that can be addressed by anthropologists when considering Education beyond the Human. The second group consists of three ethnographic studies which illustrate some of the compelling issues faced in today’s world. They all focus in some way on the topic of borders and environment: the intersectionality of gender and religion across a border, the movement of children across borders, and the attempt to move children’s knowledge across the border of traditional subsistence working in weaving with looms to compulsory formal schooling. All of the discussion will take place around the anthropologists’ quest to make sense of the lived lives of peoples within their defined environmental context and their contribution to a more pluralistic model of Education beyond the Human.
Vandra Lea Masemann is an anthropologist who has researched girls’ education in Ghana, secondary students’ aspirations, bilingual programs in the USA, and global education in Canadian schools. She has studied immigration and multicultural, intercultural and anti-racist educational policies in Canada, as well as theory and methodology in comparative education.
Lesley Bartlett is an anthropologist who works in the field of Comparative and International Education. Her research and teaching interests include multilingual literacies, migration, and qualitative research methods. She has co-authored several books, including Rethinking Case Study Research and Additive Schooling in Subtractive Times.
Gabrielle Oliveira is an assistant professor of foundations of education at the Lynch School of Education and Human Development at Boston College. Her research focuses on immigration and mobility—on how people move, adapt, and parent across borders. She is the author of Motherhood Across Borders: Immigrants and their Children in Mexico and New York.
Nancy Kendall is professor and chair of Educational Policy Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research focuses on the experiences of children, youth, and communities who are marginalized by economic, social, health, educational, environmental, and political relations, primarily in Malawi and the US.
Payal Shah is an associate professor of foundations of education and qualitative inquiry at the University of South Carolina. Her research and teaching interests include gender and education, specifically in South Asia, and critical ethnographic methods. She is the author of articles across the fields of comparative education, women’s and gender studies, and qualitative inquiry.
Ayesha Khurshid is an Associate Professor of International and Comparative Education and Gender and Education at Florida State University. She employs ethnographic methods to examine the issues of education, gender, and modernity in different Muslim communities.
Karishma Desai is an assistant professor at the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers University. Her research employs anthropological and transnational feminist lenses to study gendered subjectivities, discourses and practices across various scales with particular attention to the politics of knowledge and aspiration.
The plenary panel “Socialisms in Fascist Times: Intersectional Struggles in the Global South and Global North” will highlight how grassroots organizations in the United States and globally are fighting for economic justice within the context of the global rise of authoritarian populism. In particular, the panel focuses on struggles for radical alternatives to capitalism, which also contest oppressions along the lines of race, gender, sexuality, caste, and other inequities. Rethinking and remaking education for a more just egalitarian and ecologically balanced society is the challenge before us. The plenary will present contemporary struggles and imaginaries of 21st Century Socialisms in the U.S. and internationally and the pivotal role of education in forging alternatives to racial capitalism, patriarchy and climate crisis. The plenary speakers are two nationally known scholar-activists who will share their experiences of building concrete socialist alternatives in very different contexts in the Global South and Global North, and both the challenges and possibilities of progressive social change in the current political moment. They will also speak to the role of education within these broader intersectional struggles.
Kali Akuno is co-founder and co-director of Cooperation Jackson that is committed to building a solidarity economy in Jackson Mississippi based on Black self-determination. Kali served as the Director of Special Projects and External Funding in the Mayoral Administration of the late Chokwe Lumumba of Jackson, MS. His focus in this role was supporting cooperative development, the introduction of eco-friendly and carbon reduction methods of operation, and the promotion of human rights and international relations for the city. Earlier in his career, he co-founded the School of Social Justice and Community Development (SSJCD), a public school serving the academic needs of low-income African American and Latinx communities in Oakland, California. He is co-author of Jackson Rising: The Struggle for Economic Democracy and Black Self-Determination in Jackson, Mississippi with Ajamu Nangwaya (Daraja Press, 2017).
Tithi Bhattacharya is Associate Professor of Global Studies and South Asian History at Purdue University. She is known for her work on social reproduction theory and has edited Social Reproduction Theory: Remapping Class, Recentering Oppression (Pluto Press, 2017). She is also co-author of Feminism for the 99% A Manifesto (Verso Press, 2019) with Nancy Fraser and Cinzia Arruzza. She is an active advocate for the teacher strikes in the US, participating and documenting the recent strikes around the country. She is a historian of education in India and has published Sentinels of Culture: Class, Education and the Colonial Intellectual in Bengal (Oxford University Press, 2005). As a scholar-activist, she is engaged in solidarity work with social movements and worker struggles in India and other parts of the Global South.
Sangeeta Kamat (moderator) is Professor of Comparative and International Education at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. An interdisciplinary scholar, she has published critical essays on NGOs, international aid, neoliberalism, educational inequality and the rise of Hindu nationalism in India. She is co-author of ‘Profiting from the Poor: The Emergence of Multinational Edu-businesses in Hyderabad, India‘ and PI of a collaborative project ‘Inclusive Universities: Linking Diversity, Equity and Excellence for the 21st Century‘. She is author of ‘Development Hegemony: NGOs and the State in India’ (OUP, 2002) and is working on a new book on ‘New Geographies of Power: Globalization, Education and Uneven Development in Hyderabad India’.
This keynote panel is co-sponsored by the thematic track “Education for 21st Century Socialisms: Alternatives to Racial Capitalism, Patriarchy and Climate Crisis”
Roberto Aguilar Gomez, Bolivia’s Minister of Education from 2008 – 2019 oversaw an unprecedented time in the expansion of educational access, indigenous rights, educational quality and power for marginalized populations in the landlocked Andean nation. He oversaw the building of schools in rural areas at unprecedented rates, opened intercultural bilingual teacher training programs and ensured that significant increases in domestic revenue went directly to education. However, with the forced departure of President Evo Morales in November 2019, which many refer to as a coup, and the ensuing military rule, the future for Bolivian education hangs in the balance.
The policies seeking to redistribute opportunities and prosperity from Bolivia’s unprecedented economic growth have halted and multinational companies and IFIs are positioning for their moment to continue austerity and privatization reforms.
This keynote panel/moderated discussion will provide a firsthand account from someone who was on the frontlines of shifting educational power within his country as well as taking on the assumptions and biases of the Global Education Reform Movement in the broader space of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). This will be his first public appearance since the military takeover to share research and insights from the Bolivian experiment.
Moderated by Rebecca Tarlau
Rebecca Tarlau is Assistant Professor at The Pennsylvania State University affiliated with the Adult Education and Lifelong Learning program, Comparative and International Education Program, and Center for Global Workers’ Rights. Her research focuses on theories of the State and state-society relations, social movements and critical pedagogy, and Latin American education and development.