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CAPA-Spelman Symposium

"Borders, Migration and Post-colonialism: Globalization as Paradox"
October 31, 2019

CAPA-Spelman Symposium

Two wise rabbis, Shammai (50 BCE – 30 CE) and Hillel the Elder (c. 110 BC–10 AD), disagreed about almost every topic imaginable. They did not, however, believe that consensus was an obligation. Their discourses always ended with the injunction to let their opinions stand as “disagreements for the sake of Heaven.” In that view, respect for diverse views is a spiritual, moral and intellectual imperative. We hope that their wisdom will inspire our discussions.


Our discussion will look at the impact of globalization on three areas that impact our political, social, economic and intellectual realities.

At a national level, the building of physical or metaphorical walls is a symptom of resurgent nationalism and militant parochialism: fear of the implications of globalization. The importance borders as a defensive posture has become increasingly significant in the geo-political landscape. Paradoxically, borders have simultaneously become increasingly irrelevant. No walls can protect a nation from the potentially catastrophic implications of global warming. Polluted oceans do not obey the diktats of isolationist politicians. In another context, actual and metaphorical communities have developed without regard to geographical space or national boundaries. We are both closer and further apart, connected and disconnected. In short, borders,geographical, imaginative, or virtual,have become simultaneously more and less significant.

Mobility across borders is equally ambiguous. The positive implications of mobilities are embedded in the practice and ideologies of international education. In the international,cosmopolitan mind, mobility is a pre-condition for enlightened education.However, involuntary mobility is far more commonplace. War and persecution have been the primary catalysts for mobility throughout history:escaping from rather than  going towards. In a report of June 2018, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) noted that: “We are now witnessing the highest levels of displacement on record. An unprecedented 68.5 million people around the world have been forced from home.”  That number roughly correspond to the combined populations of the two most populous states in the USA: California and Texas, or more than 6 times the population of Georgia.

Another impact of globalization has been to disrupt dominant narratives deriving from race,gender, power inequalities and so on. The colonial-postcolonial dichotomy requires international education to rethink its agenda and confront the structures of power and privilege within teaching and learning. What is taught? How is it taught? Who teaches it? Where is it taught? How should we address the complex legacy of colonialism? To what extent do postcolonial approaches liberate or constrain learning and teaching? What is the relationship between imperialism, colonialism and contemporary “global” thinking? This cluster of issues raises questions that are at the heart of the practice and theory of international education.