ASA14: Anthropology and Enlightenment

(P67)

Anthropology in and of education: implications for representations of human nature

Location Quincentenary Building, Wadsworth Room
Date and Start Time 21 June, 2014 at 14:00

Convenor

Brian Street (King's College, University of London) email
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Summary

Anthropology in education and the anthropological study of education: including 'the distinctiveness of sociocultural anthropology vis-à-vis the science of human nature', and the way Enlightenment ideas influenced the education systems imposed on Indigenous peoples.

Long Abstract

Anthropology's relations with Education, taking account of both anthropology in education and the anthropological study of education. We draw upon the RAI's experience in working for an anthropological presence in pre-university education from the 1980s to the present as an extended case-study, including the development of a new GCE A-level in anthropology. We review the implications of these initiatives for the future of the discipline, including the broader question of how anthropologists might 'engage' with the wider public and how the 'public' have 'learned' about anthropological issues. We will, in particular, address how a more professional input might help to challenge dominant and distorted perceptions both of the discipline and also of the peoples with whom anthropologists research, across the globe. In the context of the overall theme of the Conference, this will include addressing the way Enlightenment ideas influenced the education systems imposed on Indigenous peoples, who now want to use their own heritage which usually rejects the separation of humanity from the rest of nature; and the question of 'the distinctiveness of sociocultural anthropology vis-à-vis the science of human nature', an issue that arose in the design of the Anthropology A level Curriculum and to which the engagement with Education pre University has already suggested some responses. An anthropology of education, then, has a significant role to play in the larger role of the discipline, and this role will in fact , we argue, have to be closely linked with the work of anthropology in education.

Chair: Hilary Callan
Discussant: Joy Hendry

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Communicating anthropology in educational contexts

Authors: Brian Street (King's College, University of London)  email
Hilary Callan  email

Summary

We will look at 'anthropology in education', drawing on the UK experience of developing a new GCE A level; and 'anthropology of education' looking at the implications of this for international policy on education. Conclusions make connections with the Western Enlightenment tradition.

Long Abstract

Interest is growing internationally (see panel at IUAES World Congress in August 2013) in communicating anthropology outside the framework of University-level teaching and research, in education at pre-University level and among non-specialist audiences: 'anthropology in education'. Using the UK experience of developing a new GCE A level as a case study, the discourses involved in bringing the A level to fruition and acceptance by UK public and educational authorities will be summarised. Equally, educational processes and practice have themselves emerged as a focus of anthropological study: 'anthropology of education' and we will look at the implications of this for international policy on education, with specific reference to Unesco's Education for All and OECD's PISA Reports. These dominant policy perspectives tend to isolate learning from its social context and focus on 'schooling' and the skills that can then be ranked. An anthropological approach emphasises, rather, the social practices associated with learning out of school as well as in formal educational settings. How the rich research developed in this anthropological framework can contribute to the policy perspective and broaden the view of education is a key issue in contemporary international debate. Drawing on these fields, the Panellists will discuss issues encountered in representing anthropological concepts to non-specialist, audiences, ranging from pre-university, to international policy. Conclusions will be drawn on how anthropological ideas may connect with the (sometimes contested) aims and values of education within the Western Enlightenment tradition.

Indigenous education puts the human back into nature

Author: Joy Hendry (Oxford Brookes University)  email

Summary

Indigenous education systems around the world are putting the human back into nature and the environment by offering and introducing modifications to the Enlightenment-based science that was imposed on their peoples by governments and teachers originally sent out from Europe.

Long Abstract

This paper will report on an anthropological study of indigenous science which has identified a global movement of Indigenous peoples trying to enable their children to enter their national education systems – usually imported directly or indirectly from Europe -- through a basic understanding of their own languages and epistemologies. These usually refrain from separating humans and their social groups from the broader environment that we in Europe and the West have classified as “natural”. Progress has been variously successful in different countries and a selection of examples of bi-cultural education or “facing both ways” will be offered and explained, as children in several countries are becoming able to learn “Western knowledge” through their own linguistic and cultural categories, or to experience an education system that values both. The work of Indigenous scholars on the problems of reconciling the different epistemologies will also be reported.

Reflections on disability in the relationships of a special school of secondary education in Greek society

Author: Lazaros Tentomas (Greek Ministry of Education)  email

Summary

This ethnography examines the sociocultural and political influences in a special education school in Greece.

Long Abstract

This anthropological research was conducted in a special school of secondary education in Athens, a school which provides education to approximately seventy students with motor and/or cognitive impairments. The anthropologist and researcher is a disabled person as well as a teacher at the particular school, so teaching and research are interrelated with a higher aim of discussing and analyzing the most significant parameters of perceiving disability in Greece. In pursuit of this aim, a theoretical frame of the social model of disability is used critically combined with a phenomenological dimension of existence as it converses with Foucault's theory on authority. It concerns a complex theoretical effort which intersects with ethnographic data by demonstrating that to a large extent, experience of disability in Greece emerges under the prism of a subjective and personal experience. This results in that the special school is not led to collective actions which are different from the ones of descriptive logic. The special school reproduces reflections of common sense on disability where every resistance remains on a personal level of appreciation. Consequently, as public speaking is concerned, disability is presented partially in its sketchy details when referred to general predetermined images which conceal the impact of other parameters that are related to the characteristics of the educational system in Greece and how it converses with the general socio-political scenery of the country.

The end of the affair? Anthropology can initiate new methods for understanding

Author: Salma Siddique (University of Aberdeen)  email

Summary

Is it the end of the affair for teaching alternative discourses of understanding and treating ill-health in higher education? Anthropology can offer creative ways of blurring the boundaries of dualistic education to challenge this assertion.

Long Abstract

The title of this panel paper has been taken from Graham Greene's I951 novel of the same name. The narrative of text acts as an analogy for the love quadrangle between the wife, husband, lover and God and mirrors the complex relationship between the body, society, the medical profession and higher education. The colonizing discourses of medicine have served to reduce and normalize the body and our experience of it. The work and products of science (Latour and Woolgar, 1979) are creating degrees of intolerance and reducing the scale of diversity in teaching, research and learning of different indigenous and traditional knowledge. On the other hand socio-economic shifts and uncertainty about the future mean that more and more individuals are willing to make the 'leap of faith' away from the biomedicine of evidence based objectivity to complementary medicine. Humanistic disciplines can reconcile the split through methodological approaches of holism and cultural relativism since they build on existing cognitive landscapes of knowledge for new ways of understanding the world. Although some courses such as counselling and complementary and alternative medicine are being removed from the curriculum in higher education because of the perceived lack of an evidence base this does not mean 'the end of the affair'. Anthropology can offer creative ways of blurring the boundaries of eurocentric dualistic education.This paper will examine my experience of teaching anthropology/ psycho-social aspects to life science students.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.