Beyond the Western Horizon in Educational Research: Toward a Deeper Dialogue About Our Interdependent Futures


 Presenter (s) Iveta Silova, Arizona State University
Jeremy Rappleye, Kyoto University
Yun You, East China Normal University

This open access Special Issue ‘Beyond the Western Horizon in Educational Research‘ (edited by Silova, Rappleye, and You, 2020 and was published by ECNU Review of Education) is inspired by, and aims to further, Mignolo’s (2011) work and thinking of alternative future trajectories. Shifting away from the currently dominant trajectories of  ‘Rewesternization’ and ‘Dewesternization’, the special issue instead focuses on alternatives, including ‘Decolonial’ and ‘Spiritual’ (Ontological) trajectories for the future. The ‘Decolonial’ one attempts to delink from Western epistemic and subjective starting points, with the goal of “contributing to building a world in which many worlds co-exist” (54). The ‘Spiritual’ option can open up new ontological possibilities and metaphysical universes (Silova, Rappleye, and Auld 2019). At the heart of the latter two options is a recognition and proposed reconstruction of the cultural, epistemic, and ontological foundations of modern Western thoughts, and, by extension, modern education. This is not seen as a substitute, but rather a starting point, for any subsequent political, economic, and environmental action. The general aims and resulting questions were already captured by Bowers (1995, 2), specifically advocating for an ‘ecologically sustainable culture’ more than a generation ago:

“In effect, the locus of deep and long lasting change is at the preconscious level of a culture’s symbolic foundations that provide answers to how human purposes and relationships are the be understood. Yet…the deepest assumptions of the culture, in effect, often go unrecognized even in the face of the most radical political action…How fast can a culture change itself? What are the leverage points for affecting fundamental changes that are needed if we are to achieve the goal of an ecologically sustainable culture? What is the nature of an ecologically sustainable culture?”

While Bowers’ focus is on the environment, the same questions arguably face a broad range of other social movements – from feminist to decolonization movements among others – as all seek “deep and long lasting change” but have often floundered by failing to reach deep enough. To these overarching questions, this panel proposes a new methodological approach to educational research, one that answers the Decolonial and Spiritual (ontological) calls to build a world in which many worlds co-exist and both human and non-human are deeply interconnected. This approach brings into an explicit conversation among diverse projects that are in general agreement about what must be opposed, but aim to elaborate new, generative directions for the future. Against this larger backdrop, we specifically focus the panel discussion on three specific dimensions: the onto-epistemic, subjectivity, and modes of learning/pedagogy, through the methodological advance of “sympoiesis” (Haraway, 2016). All papers are convergent upon: (1) an alternative view of the metanarrative of the kosmos (Cowen, 1996), or what we might call the onto-epistemic building blocks of our worldview, (2) an alternative view of the human ‘subject’, and, as consequence, and (3) a divergent view of learning/pedagogy from Western liberalism. Drawing upon eco-feminist, Japanese, and Chinese perspectives, these papers illustrate varied worldviews that stake out alternative paths to the Rewesternization/Dewesternization narrative of resurgent liberalism. Toward this end, they commonly explore the following four sets of questions: 1. (1a) In relation to what set of dominant assumptions or narratives – i.e., implicit symbolic foundations – does this alternative project, in its current form, speak?, and (1b) What alternative questions is it aiming to answer? Or what alternative ‘state’ is it aiming to reach? 2. (2a) On the road to this alternative question/state, in what ways must we reconstruct both onto-epistemological arrangements (knowledge) and subjectivity?, and (2b) To accomplish this, what new forms of learning, or change in methods of how we learn, are necessary to bring it about? 3. (3a) What are the connections, similarities or resonances with the other alternative projects represented in this panel, and (3b) What are some of the key divergences, differences, and disagreements? 4. (4a) Against this larger backdrop, what are the specific implications for education and/or schooling in its current form?, and based on this (4b) What sorts of philosophical and empirical research projects can be unfolded to bring these alternative insights into mainstream educational research domain?”

Contributions by Iveta Silova, Jeremy Rappleye, Hikaru Komatsu, Keita Takayama, Huey-li Li, Affrica Taylor, with discussants Sachi T. Edwards and Yen-Yi Lee.

For more information, please see editorial introduction and short interviews with editors and authors. You can download all articles here and join the ‘live’ session with authors/discussants on April 21, 2020 (6 pm EDT) to explore these ideas further. Please check ‘live’ calendar for more information. 

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