Thoughts on Internationalising the home student conference 19/06/09

I attended the opening plenary of the CICIN conference to hear John Raftery, ProVC for Student Experience and Douglas Bourne, head of the Development Education Centre at IoE, London.

*John Raftery* opens the conference, quoting Sen asking us to resist the ideas that we have a single identity and that we “discover” our identity. He illustrates the relevance of context. But, it is still not clear that we have multiple identities or rather do we have multiple components, which we deploy differently according to context. We may well have different identities in the eyes of others. Some may see only some components. But, are there really multiple mes in my own eyes? Yes, I accept that some components may be hidden even to ourselves, and that in extreme cases – MPD – there might possibly be different identities inhabiting a body that could be irreducible. However, the soft deployment of the notion of different identities in one person is worth questioning.

With respect to questions about westernness, power and passivity, there is an interesting ironic ambiguity in the genre of traditional academic writing. There is power inherent in mastering the use of the third-person passive voice and, in academic discourse, there is a presumed passivity in deployment of the active voice and first person. I note that in most of the papers in the collection of trigger essays the authors are “written out” through a number of distancing tactics:
– giving agency to the piece of writing rather than the writer; the subject of the sentences is “this essay”: “this essay has attempted…” rather than “In this essay, I have attempted…”
– writing with another and adopting the first person plural shading into a collective “we”; and writing in the third person: “The authors argue…”.
– writing in the passive voice with an impersonal subject “It has been argued that..”

[For further reflection, I see a link, through identity, to portfolios]

*Douglas Bourne* is the plenary keynote speaker. He cites Oxford Brookes and Leeds Met as leading institutions in re internationalisation. Bourne comes from an NGO background: education for social change and social justice.

[a side note: his slides were very hard to read. 2-tone dark/light backgrounds do not work, too-small black text disappeared into the dark blue, and the stamp effect just made it look out of focus]

According to Bourne, we are moving beyond both:
– exporting courses and importing international fee-paying students
– sustainable development as simply a right-on display of fair trade posters in the refectory.

But the challenge is to move this up the agenda in a typical university “international committee”, where 19/20 agenda items are about recruiting and the last item is about internationalising the curriculum.

He wants to bring 3 contexts together:
– Globalisation
– Culturally diverse and complex societies
– Sustainable development.

He asks, when do we turn the lights out in a 24/7 world? But, in light of John Raftery’s musings on identity, mightn’t the question be better put – tongue in cheek – what do we do when we turn the lights out? With whom do we share our darkness? And, how far into this darkness is the gaze expected to penetrate? The question is relevant in light of culturally relative attitudes towards gender and sexuality, for example.

[see “Learning to read through other eyes” website.]

Has rhetoric given legitimacy to action in respect to sustainable development? Perhaps initiatives are most effective when they remain at the level of rhetoric. When governments implement initiatives they stumble on many blocs.

Graduates need to be reflecters, who are:
– self reliant
– connected
– well rounded

– Giroux, Critical Pedagogy – crossing ideological boundaries
– Spivak, post colonialism
– Sterling, Systems Theory

… Lots to think about, lots to follow up. Very useful in light of my research: are housing estates another country?

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