Beyond the Western Horizon in Educational Research: Towards a Deeper Dialogue About our Interdependent Futures


 Presenter (s) Yun You, East China Normal University
Affrica Taylor, University of Canberra
Keita Takayama, Kyoto University
 Discussant (s) Sachi T. Edwards, The University of Tokyo

(Click here to download a PDF of the session transcript)

This panel includes a selection of papers from a Special Issue of ECNU (East China Normal University) Review of Education, ‘Beyond the Western Horizon in Educational Research‘ (edited by Silova, Rappleye, and You, 2020, open access). The Special Issue is particularly 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?”

For more information, please see editorial introduction and short interviews with editors and authors. Click on the images below to download the power point presentations, which are narrated by the authors and our invited discussant. Please also join the ‘live’ session on April 21, 2020 (8 pm EDT) to discuss these ideas with authors and editors. 



About presenters

Yun You completed her PhD at the Institute of Education, University College London and is currently an associate professor in the Department of Education & Institute of Schooling Reform and Development at East China Normal University. She is also the assistant editor of ECNU Review of Education. Her research interests include destructing the Western dominant construction, representation and referencing of East Asian education, and moving further, elaborating Chinese educational ideas and practices from sui generis onto-epistemological lenses and amid the interplay of socio-politics and culture.

Affrica Taylor is an adjunct associate professor at University of Canberra and a founding member of the Common Worlds Research Collective. She has background in Indigenous Australian education and a PhD in cultural geography. Both have shaped her abiding interest in the relations between people, place and other species on damaged settler colonized lands and in the need to decolonise these relations in ecologically challenging times.

Keita Takayama is Professor at Graduate School of Education, Kyoto University. He is a father of three girls.

Sachi Edwards (discussant) is a JSPS Postdoctoral Research Fellow.

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  6. Beyond the Western Horizon in educational research refers to the exploration of educational research methods, theories, and practices that exist outside the Western world, including those from non-Western countries.

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