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Variations on an Educational Theme

When the traditional educational system of colonizing societies was disseminated to indigenous societies, it was not accepted by the colonized “as-is,” but was adopted as merely an underlying framework. This hybridization led to a multitude of varied, yet similar, educational systems across the post-imperialized world. In the following excerpt from the Introduction of Connecting Histories of Education: Transnational and Cross-Cultural Exchanges in (Post)Colonial Education, to be published this month, editors Barnita Bagchi, Eckhardt Fuchs and Kate Rousmaniere further explain the connections within modern educational culture.



Connecting Histories of Education bears a double meaning. The volume connects historians of education from South Asia and other parts of the world to enhance a comparative perspective and create a wider research network beyond the Euro-Western world. In addition, it presents local, regional, national and transnational research, with the goal of highlighting the interconnectedness of histories of education in the modern world.


The volume thus upholds a commitment to the transnational history of education located in a non-Eurocentric framework, with encounters taking place between South Asia, Africa, Europe, Australia and the Americas.


Our argument for a volume on transnational exchanges and cross-cultural transfers in the history of education is that globalization processes require new research that goes beyond the traditional historical narratives based on the nation state. However provocative an approach, the ‘transnational turn’, often addressed in the historical, educational and political sciences, has with few exceptions attracted little attention in the field of history of education, which still tends to a national orientation geared to the modern period. Only gradually are historians of education taking small steps towards transnational and global concepts and approaches that have been developed in other disciplines.


Therefore, this volume aims at widening the arena of history of education by analysing transnational exchanges and cross-cultural transfers in the field of education between the Euro-Western world and Asia from the eighteenth century onwards. In doing so, it considers research trends in the historical scholarship of the past decade or so. Using various case studies, the authors explore educational transfers in different cultural settings, focusing on local-level transformations and reinventions of the meanings and forms of colonialism. Although the regional focus on South Asia means the majority of chapters focus on colonial issues, this is not a volume on the history of colonial education. Rather, the work as a volume emphasizes the ways in which a transnational perspective deepens and complicates our understanding of colonialism, the nation state and the responses of local communities, institutions and individuals. In this respect the colonial context is a particularly appropriate theme, as it allows scholars to highlight a variety of transnational and cross-cultural transfers.


All chapters presented in this volume move beyond nation-centric terms to explore what constitutes ‘transnational influence’ in various contexts. They also pay close attention to the transnational discourses that local actors mobilized to construct their own adaptation of colonialism. In this way they demonstrate that transnational and cross-cultural transfers have never been unidirectional but instead are characterized by adaptation, re-contextualization and hybridization. Indeed, rethinking the local, and how local communities engaged in resistance, adaptation or accommodation to colonial and transnational influences, is a core element of the collection.




Barnita Bagchi teaches and researches Comparative Literature at Utrecht University, Netherlands. Her numerous publications include many articles and an edited volume, The Politics of the (Im)possible: Utopia and Dystopia Reconsidered (2012) and a co-edited volume with A.K. Bagchi and D. Sinha, Webs of History: Information, Communication, and Technology from Early to Postcolonial India (2005).


Eckhardt Fuchs is Professor of History of Education/Comparative Education at the Technical University of Braunschweig and Deputy Director of the Georg Eckert Institute for International Textbook Research in Braunschweig (Germany). He is currently President of the International Standing Conference for the History of Education. He has published widely on transnational and global history of education, textbook and curriculum studies, and history of human sciences including Transnationalizing the History of Education (2012) and Contextualizing School Textbook Revision (2010).


Kate Rousmaniere is Professor of Social Foundations of Education in the Department of Educational Leadership at Miami University, Ohio, and past president of the International Standing Conference for the History of Education. She has researched and published on the history of American teachers and school principals, gender in education, and methodologies in the social history of education.