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Loyola University Chicago

Center for Comparative Education

January 2013 Webinar

January 2013 Webinar “Locating the ‘global’ in education”

On January 16, 2013 in partnership with the CIES Globalization & Education SIG the Center for Comparative Education at Loyola University Chicago co-hosted a webinar titled Locating the ‘global’ in education and ethnography: conceptual considerations and practical applications for comparative education research.  The aim of this 90 minute webinar was to foster an open discussion on conceptualising the ‘global’ in education research, and its implications for and applications in research.  Key questions included: how do we research the ‘global’ in education? How do we locate the ‘global’ in ethnographic education research? What are the implications for conceptualising a comparative education research programme/project, and what are some practical applications?  The webinar began with short presentations from scholars working on these issues Liz Boner (UC Berkeley, Center for African Studies), Amy Stambach and David Mills with Zuki Karpinska (Department of Education, University of Oxford), and Gita Steiner-Khamsi (Teachers College, Columbia University).  Titles and abstracts for their presentations are available below.  Click here to access a recording of the event.

Tracing Global Discourses within an Educational Contact Zone: The Contributions of Discourse Analysis to Ethnographic Studies of Globalization and Education

Liz Boner (UC Berkeley, Center for African Studies)

This presentation draws from theories of discourse and social practice, which conceptualize the global and local as mutually constitutive and realized in (rather than separate from) social practice. Given the critical role of language in constituting and negotiating social practice, I discuss the potential contributions of critical discourse analysis and sociolinguistic approaches to studies of globalization and education.

Drawing from a year-long ethnographic study of efforts to build entrepreneurial capacity through global-local partnerships and participatory education in Tanzania, I’ll show how I used critical discourse analysis to trace relationships between a single educational intervention in Tanzania and a larger global neo-liberal project.  Rather than assume that global entrepreneurial discourses and practices were simply imposed on a complacent local, however, by considering entrepreneurial education as a contact zone and site of struggle, I’ll show how discourse analysis provides a lens to examine what actually happens when real people engage with each other and their different socio-cultural and economic orientations in practice.   I then show how I used sociolinguistic approaches gave to illuminate how diverse Tanzanian and American interlocutors negotiated, contested, subverted, and strategically made use of global entrepreneurial discourses according to competing logics and contradictory material interests on a micro-linguistic level.  I conclude by discussing the continued importance of ethnography and attention to inequality at multiple scales to bring critical context and specificity to our understanding of local interactions and individual agency. 


Theory in the Interest of Analysis: Summing Up and Moving On, With Reference to Field Research

Amy Stambach and David Mills with Zuki Karpinska (Department of Education, University of Oxford)

The classically established “Oxford Model” of comparative and international studies of education, which focuses on policy borrowing and transfer, must be expanded to account for dialectical and recursive aspects of what Halliday calls “global norm-making.” This new conceptualization of education as norm-making enables analysis of aspects of education that currently remain under-theorized, including a) how people, working within institutions, embody and construct competing ideas of education; b) how context matters but not in ways that devolve infinite possibility to all cases; and c) how history is a matter of understanding temporality (including the future) within settings that must be empirically analyzed.  Drawing on field research conducted in the different settings of 1990s Tanzania and the 2010s mid-western United States, Stambach examines how people create and advance transnational networks of religion, trade, and diplomacy through different yet naturalized assumptions about education. Exploring the emergence of global standards around education in emergencies (INEE standards), David Mills discusses with Zuki Karpinska the role that advocacy politics and transnational networks play in legitimating, stabilizing, and standardizing a nascent set of global institutional norms guiding educational professionals. The work highlights the highly contested knowledge politics that standardization relies upon.


Ethnography: A Method for Contextual Comparison but not Necessarily an Interpretive Framework for Understanding Globalization

Gita Steiner-Khamsi (Teachers College, Columbia University)

The presentation attempts to problematize the inflationary use of ethnography for understanding globalization processes. Ethnographical accounts—whether bottom up, top down, vertical, horizontal, or 360 degrees—are not much different from a solid case study or from contextual comparison. In fact, it is argued that other research paradigms are much better suited to focus on the analysis of a bounded system and advance theory on globalization and change. The presenter shares the focus on contextual comparison but questions whether ethnography is more than merely a method that allows for in-depth contextual comparison.

More often than not, ethnographic studies end with statements that globalization, technology, student-centered learning, or any other phenomenon mean something different and is given different meaning by different actors.  Many studies also uncritically select quotes from a few actors to demonstrate authenticity of voices. What such quotes demonstrate is the situatedness of knowledge and experience. Quotes are in no means more authentic or “closer to people” than other forms of data, such as for examples numbers or statistics. The larger question is also: what are we supposed to learn about the broad conclusions and how do they help us to theorize globalization and change? In other words, ethnographies are strong on description and analysis, but weak on interpretation. To make the discussion provocative and open up a lively debate: ethnographical accounts of globalization are often “stuck” in description and analysis, and do not sufficiently help us to theorize how change occurs in educational systems.

The presenter proposes the alternative perspective of system theory (theory of self-referential systems) in which the focus is also on bounded systems but the system is not, as is the case in ethnographies, by default equated with a particular locality or community. It is argued that a system’s approach is much more sensitive to discursive power and how the semantics of globalization is actively induced to shift power relations in a given system. The proposed interpretive framework is also much more dynamic in that it allows to measure how actors actively create environment (“globalization”) and re-enact themselves over the course of that act of boundary setting.


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