“Through other Eyes” – questioning or reproducing binaries?

The development education online resource “Through other Eyes”, designed by global education Professor Vanessa Andreotti and critical literacy Professor Lynn Mario de Souza, aims to help “learning to read the world”. The authors’ conception of global education is based on post-colonial theory, which questions interiorized ways of seeing the world in order to learn to live with uncertainty, complexity and multiple perspectives. However, there is the danger that the underlying colonial binary between “western” oppressors and “indigenous” oppressed perpetuates through the learning process in a reversed sense: The critical deconstruction of a normative progress based “western” worldview, might lead – though not being intended – to a normative elevation of “indigenous” knowledge.

The attached paper, submitted in the frame of the “Principles and Practices of Development Education” module in the DE Master at the Institute of Education/University of London, takes a closer look on the conflict between the supposed deconstruction and, in my view, the de facto reconstruction of cultural and moral binaries, and the possible fault lines that lead to this impression, despite the stated opposite intention of the authors. It uses a discussion paper on “Quality criteria in Development Education” by the German NGDO platform VENRO as analytical framework:

Through other Eyes – questioning or reproducing binaries

Enjoy the reading! As always, critical comments and feedback are appreciated.

2 thoughts on ““Through other Eyes” – questioning or reproducing binaries?

  1. Thanks for the critique Tobias – it is always important to look at resources from different angles. I think from the beginning TOE approached binaries as a conundrum rather than an ‘either or’ binary (e.g. the idea of questioning versus reproducing binaries is also a binary in itself). As a conundrum, we were interested in how when someone highlights inequalities in power relations in relation to an issue, an antagonist response will always tend to point towards the lack of engagement with complexity. Conversely, when we focus only on complexity, very often power relations are glossed over. We were interested in finding a language that could engage both with complexity and stark inequalities in power relations (of over-exploiting and over-exploited groups), but we found it very difficult to do it with audiences still socialised in concepts that lead to binaries (such as the Cartesian subject, teleological thinking, anthropocentrism, universal reasoning, dialectical thought, etc.). Therefore, in a pedagogical process, we decided to start where we perceived our audience to be and move from there, incorporating complexity and critiques of power relations in different parts of the learning activities. You are right in saying that TOE may not be appropriate to every audience – no resource is (and that is a good thing). My concern is how to develop the in-depth social-pedagogical analysis at a collective/professional level to distinguish when TOE is useful and when not. TOE deals with what Britzman calls ‘difficult knowledge’ (knowledge that de-stabilizes certainties, exposes foreclosures and involves self-implication) and therefore it will tend to invite responses like deflection, denial, disengagement, reversal, etc. precisely from those who may need TOE the most. Some of these issues are addressed in the book chapter about TOE in the actionable postcolonial theory book. In any case, I enjoyed reading your analysis and attempt to keep conversations moving! Thanks!

  2. Dear Tobias, dear Vanessa,

    thanks for your insightful analyses and comments.

    What came to my mind when I read “TOE approached binaries as a conundrum rather than an ‘either or’ binary” and all the other things is that this does reflect the move from structuralism towards post-structuralism. While agree that it depends very much on the context, audience and “timing” when to use which method, I do wonder if it is possible to just apply post-structuralism and deconstruction on issues of Development Education/Global Education/Life Skills? And if yes, where does such an application of practice and theory will lead us down the road? What else can we take over to our discourse and what are the current the dynamics within post-structural theory?

    Best regards,

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