Environmental education as epistemological imperialism : How Swedish exceptionalism is constructed through the Otherness Machinery.

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Environmental education as epistemological imperialism : How Swedish exceptionalism is constructed through the Otherness Machinery.

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Title Environmental education as epistemological imperialism : How Swedish exceptionalism is constructed through the Otherness Machinery.
Author(s) Ideland, Malin ; Malmberg, Claes
Date 2015
English abstract
Introduction: Sustainable development is often described as a global project, including everyone everywhere in the fight for a better ‘common future’. The aim of this paper is to problematize this inclusive project through an analysis of how good intentions in Environmental and Sustainability Education (ESE) construct and maintain differences between ‘Us’ and ‘Them’. We are interested in exposing social constructions of normality and otherness in the taken-for-granted good intentions within ESE. Objectives: The analysis focuses textbooks used in Swedish schools, how texts and pictures operate as cogwheels in what we call Otherness machinery, discursively constructing who is ‘normal’ and who is ‘the Other’. We examine how representations of race and nationality construct (un)desirable subjects inside the discourse of ESE. The theoretical framework builds on 1) critical race theory and whiteness studies and 2) theories on double gestures of inclusion and exclusion in education. When trying to help or foster the Orher, we are, at the same time, in a double gesture, constructing the ones in need as abjects, those who ‘need to be saved’ into a specific norm. Methods: The empirical material consists of teaching material about sustainable development: five textbooks in science, civics and geography for primary and lower secondary school and two thematic fact books for school. From the books, we extracted parts that were concerned with sustainable development and environmental issues for a closer analysis. In the analysis of the material, we studied how normality (in this case Swedishness) and Otherness are constructed and who (in terms of the entanglement of race and nationality) is representing what. The question is how Sweden, or ‘We’, is constructed in relation to the Other and what discursive consequences these positions have attached to them. Results: The result is presented through five dichotomies structuring the ESD discourse: Tradition/Civilization, Dirtiness/Purity, Chaos/Order, Ignorance/Morality and Helped/Helping. Through these dichotomies we show how differences between ‘Us’ and ‘Them’ are constructed and maintained in the textbooks about sustainable development and environment. Sweden, and Swedishness, are with help from different - uncivilized or immoral others - constructed as exceptional. We claim that these representations of race and nationality imply a colonial gaze. Conclusion: The paper addresses the risk that a child who engages in the ESE practice come to meet the world with a colonial gaze and an aim to foster the Other into a specific way of living. It discusses how the global project of sustainable development is transformed through a discourse of “Swedish exceptionalism”. In a double gesture of inclusion and exclusion, the rest of the world appears in need of help, development, or – in some cases – higher moral standards. The including ESE project must thus be understood as a colonial, and excluding practice – a form of epistemological imperialism.
Link http://weec2015.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Abstract-List-WEEC2015.pdf (external link to publication)
Publisher WEEC
Host/Issue Abstract list of WEEC 2015
Pages 185
Language eng (iso)
Subject(s) critical race theory
discourse analysis
Environmental and sustainabiity education
Education for sustainable development
lärande för hållbar utveckling
Textbook analysis
Humanities/Social Sciences
Research Subject Categories::SOCIAL SCIENCES
Note 8th World Environmental Education Congress (WEEC) : Planet and People, how can they develop together? Gothenburg, Sweden, June 29-July 2, 2015
Handle http://hdl.handle.net/2043/19351 (link to this page)
Link http://weec2015.org (external link to related web page)

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