Service Learning as Postcolonial Discourse: Active Global Citizenship

Speaker: Dr. Fran Martin
Institution: University of Exeter, United Kingdom

In this session, the participant may expect a report on and a critical analysis of a practice that is prevalent in global citizenship education: that of local and global service learning. Using Postcolonial Theory and Critical Pedagogy, and work conducted with Associate Professor Pirbhai-Illich of the University of Regina, the presenter examines these practices, focusing on and contesting traditional conceptions of service by questioning, who is providing a service to whom? Who benefits? And how can it be re-conceptualised to enable all in the relationship to enact their entitlement as active global citizens?

Findings from the respective research projects, one a local service-learning course for pre-service teachers in Canada, and the other a global service learning study visit from the UK to Southern India, are presented. The findings indicate that a critical understanding of both identity, and the socio- political and historical contexts are needed to engage as active global citizens.

The researchers argue that to develop practices that are equitable and provide access to education, resources, and employment for all global citizens, the goals of global citizenship education must include developing and engaging in practices that foster pluralism rather than multiculturalism. Understanding identity is crucial to this process. Identities are always in a state of flux and are constructed and reproduced through social action. Unless one is able to see how issues of power and privilege, and how the historical and political dimensions of colonisation have affected local and global relations and life chances, there is the danger that neo-colonial patterns of relating along dichotomous lines will continue.

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