Everything changes

For posterity, I’m publishing the reflection I shared on behalf of my co-authors during the Book Launch event for “The Bloomsbury Handbook of Theory in Comparative and International Education” at the virtual Comparative and International Education Society Conference 2021 (vCIES 2021) on 28 April 2021:

Thank you very much for the opportunity to contribute to this handbook, and to say a few words at this launch event. I am Aizuddin Mohamed Anuar, Jude for short, and I am a 3rd year PhD student in Education at the University of Oxford. Together with my colleagues Arzhia Habibi and Olga Mun, I authored Chapter 6 in the handbook: “Post-Colonialism in Comparative and International Education: Interrogating Power, Epistemologies, and Educational Practice”. I send warm greetings from my thinking partners Arzhia and Olga who are not able to gather with us today. However, their words animate this reflection that I am happy to share on behalf.

It has been quite a journey drafting, editing and finally seeing this chapter in publication, since early 2019—when we were all in our first year of the PhD—until now in 2021. Thus the imagination, construction and subsequent realisation of this handbook have followed the arc of our own PhD journeys since the first year. Reading this chapter now, with the knowledge of postcolonial theory and other theories in CIE that we have gained since our first draft in early 2019, demonstrates how knowledge grows and morphs, taking its time; it is never static, never certain. In this, there is hope in learning, making mistakes, unlearning, and also relearning.

It is perhaps a beautiful alignment of the CIE stars that I reflect about this chapter on post-colonialism in the wake of yesterday’s George F. Kneller Lecture, delivered by none other than Professor Gayatri Spivak, the doyen of postcolonial studies.

As co-authors, Arzhia, Olga and I have had discussions about how our own views about post-colonialism have continued to evolve over time, perhaps through the encounter with more scholars, with the mysteries of fieldwork and with our engagement in and with the world around us. In the words of my co-author Arzhia:

“The ongoing relationship and conversation that surrounded the writing of this chapter renders it not as a static process in which there was a period of writing and then our thinking about theory “stopped”. We were in constant dynamic rapport based on our personal experiences and research endeavours. The book chapter itself invited a deeper engagement with ‘hyper-self reflexivity’ as ‘post-colonial work’ within oneself that is never finished. I learnt that we are always in the process of un-learning the dominant narratives and ideologies that have sought to suffocate voices which would seek to offer more generative and healthy possibilities for living and learning.”

This point about “more generative and healthy possibilities” gestures to the spirit with which we engage in post-colonialism as theory, to expand the knowledge base of comparative and international education (CIE). Professor Spivak yesterday talked about recognising complicity, establishing critical intimacy with dominant, hegemonic structures, which we seek to address through affirmative sabotage. Affirmative here is different from negative; the latter is a modality that some are inclined to ascribe to critical theories and the scholars who seek to learn through them. In writing this chapter, as emerging scholars in CIE, we are thus invested in this affirmative project, one seeking to expand histories, narratives, epistemologies and the “healthy possibilities for living and learning”. Therefore, the emancipatory potential here is a potential for all of us.

I would like to end with a reflective poem by my co-author, Olga:

CIE is our academic home,
our past, present and future.
The home that has been built on a foundation
that needs unpacking and interrogation
By a continuous rethinking and
with diverse texts and memories
We are able to understand the traces
Of silences
and exclusions.
Multiple pasts, presents and futures
The process is difficult and delightful
all at once.
We must be kind to ourselves and
diverse knowledges, even conflicting
in our common adventures.

A quick shoutout to the Handbook editors Tavis, Robin and Matthew for this space to think, write and reflect, and to our teacher at Oxford, Maia Chankseliani for paving the way for this opportunity.

Thank you very much!

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