World Cultures, Global Consciousness, and Historical Literacy: Toward an Internationalist Pedagogy of Empowerment
Geoffroy de Laforcade.
In the United States and Western Europe, the history of world cultures and civilizations is generally taught, at the high school and college levels, using classificatory and explanatory paradigms that were formulated and institutionalized during periods of imperial expansion. Neo-colonial geographies and "area studies" subfields continue to determine the creation of academic positions, the allocation of research grants, and the production of pedagogical materials. In recent years, the crisis of higher education in the industrialized world, the proliferation of Third World scholars and expatriates in teaching positions, and new challenges to the worldwide struggle for social equity, equal access to learning, and cultural liberation, have generated paradigm shifts in both the content and delivery of history education.
Divorced from practical considerations regarding racist epistemologies, class exlusions, North-South inequalities, market-oriented strategies of privatization, and a global assault on grass-roots strategies of pedagogical empowerment, these changes in curriculum design reflect shifts in academic discourse that often omit the imperative of extending knowledge, citizenship and communication skills to working people, non-traditional learners and the urban and rural poor. There is also, despite hegemonic claims that a new global society is in the making, a noticeable decline in academic theorizations and pedagogies of cross-cultural understanding as political or cultural liberation from neo-colonial paradigms.
Finally, the geography of progressive movements and social conflicts in the post-Cold War era requires new ways of conveying heritage beyond the local and national realms - not by suppressing the histories of modern revolts and revolutions, or denying the significance of national identities, but by stressing how trans-regional connections and cross-cultural fertilizations between them have historically empowered people to resist prevailing strategies of domination.
Reflections regarding the design and content of world history curricula are inseparable from broader structural imperatives, such as improving academic apprenticeship and literacy, promoting diversity and cross-cultural communication skills in the classroom, and increasing global educational cooperation, with an emphasis on improving access and empowerment among traditionally excluded learners.
Geoffroy de Laforcade (United States)
Professor of Latin American and World History
Department of History
Geoffroy de Laforcade, Ph.D., Yale University, is a French-born historian of Latin America with susbtantial curriculum development expertise in world history. He is also an experienced journalist, translator, and advocate of labor, migrant and refugee rights worldwide, with research interests in Argentine, Cuban and Atlantic world history, as well as anti-racist pedagogies in Europe, Africa and the Americas.
(30 min. Conference Paper, English)