The sound of silence

It’s been a while! The last time I wrote was more than 4 months ago. A lot has happened since then. The title of this post seems apt–no doubt this is also influenced by listening to Pentatonix‘s version on repeat for a few days now.

The book chapter on postcolonial theory I mentioned in the last post was submitted and we’ve received feedback from the editors. We will be working on the edits towards the end of this month. This has been a fantastic and enriching exercise in collaborative scholarship with dear friends Arzhia and Olga in my DPhil cohort; I look forward to many more in our academic futures!

Speaking of edits, I had a chance to experience the process of peer review–and all the laughter, agony and ambivalence that the comments have elicited–which resulted in the publication of an article in my college’s graduate academic journal, The New Collection. I will link the online version once it is ready, but here’s a sneak peak from the physical copy:

EDIT: The online version is available here.


The article is titled ‘Globalisation, the education gospel and call for local adaptations in the developing world‘ which is based on a paper I wrote during my MSc. I have since updated it with new avenues of thought as part of my DPhil, including the works of Arturo Escobar and Amartya Sen. I hope this is an indication of a growth in my thinking; it certainly hints at the shift in focus for my DPhil towards matters concerning ‘development’ which I did not anticipate when I began the programme in October last year. This has been a welcomed development (aha!) and a necessary one indeed.

Recently, I have been frequently thinking and having conversations about academic identity. The following quotes point to glimmers of my nascent thoughts, in the absence and in lieu of my own words:

As comparative educationalists, our attention flickers and we anguish about ourselves. We cannot make up our minds whether we are hygienic dissectors, like skilled fishmongers; agents of melioration–the politically alert plumbers of educational system improvement; or artistic empathizers, culturally sensitive florists who examine the exotic in the world’s educational gardens. (Cowen, 2003, p. 299)


First, the understanding of the world by far exceeds the Western understanding of the world. Second, there is no global social justice without global cognitive justice. Third, the emancipatory transformations in the world may follow grammars and scripts other than those developed by Western-centric critical theory, and such diversity should be valorized. (Santos, 2014, p. viii)


Do we need to make the case for education’s contribution to economic development more forcefully? Should we turn our attention more systematically to human development alternatives? Or, should we resist the lure of big claims for education, preferring to focus on how education makes differences (both positive and negative) to people’s lives without any real concern for bigger questions of development? (McGrath, 2010, p. 250)


Post-colonial theory challenges scholars to position our work between the traps of the universal and the culturally specific. Both conceits have been ploys of colonial knowledge, that is, knowledge that legitimates the superiority of the West as defined against Others. Yet in studying colonial discourse, social scientists and historians have limited themselves to the cultural specificity side of the equation. There has been much less attention to the history of the universal, as it, too, has been produced in the colonial encounter. Here a specific valence for the universal has been produced; the universal is what, as Gayatri Spivak has put it, we cannot not want, even as it so often excludes us. (Tsing, 2005, p. 1)


And then there is Malay cosmology and Schooling the World: The White Man’s Last Burden:

For now, I further reflect on the confluence of the ideas above in preparation for my transfer of status examination next month, essentially a conversation on my proposed DPhil study that I plan to embark on over the next few years. Wish me luck!

Until next time!


Cowen, R.  (2003). Agendas of attention: A response to Ninnes and Burnett, Comparative Education, 39(3), 299-302.

McGrath, S. (2010). The role of education in development: An educationalist’s response to some recent work in development economics. Comparative Education, 46(2), 237–253.

Santos, B. de S. (2014). Epistemologies of the South: Justice against Epistemicide. Boulder: Paradigm Publishers.

Tsing, A. L. (2005). Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connection. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

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