Thursday, November 22, 2007

One is not born Black: Becoming and the Phenomenon(ology) of Race

The day we became Black ....

"[R]ace, exactly like sex, is taken as an “immediate given,” a
“sensible given,” “physical features,” belonging to a natural order.
But what we believe to be a physical and direct perception is only
a sophisticated and mythic construction, an “imaginary formation,”
which reinterprets physical features ... through the network of
relationships in which they are perceived. (They are seen as black,
therefore they are black; they are seen as women, therefore, they
are women. But before being seen that way, they first had to be
made that way)." Monique Wittig - One Is Not Born a Woman

The Question of the Question is the Foreigner: Towards an Economy of Hospitality

Isn’t the question of the foreigner [étranger] a foreigner’s question? Coming the foreigner, from abroad [étranger]?

Jacques Derrida, Of Hospitality

The Law of World Citizenship Shall be Limited to Conditions of Universal Hospitality
Emmanuel Kant

“If someone else could have written my stories,” Elie Wiesel said: “I would not have written them. I have written them in order to testify.” To testify, Shoshana Felman argues, is “to vow to tell, to promise and produce one’s own speech as material evidence for truth.” This is because “no one bears witness for the witness,” and as a witness, this writer is under the ethics and the obligation to testify. Here, personal testimony, personal experience, as bell hooks put it, becomes “such a fertile ground for the production of liberatory [praxis] because it forms the base of our theory making.” It is, or can be, a way to know and can inform how we know what we know. The story I vow to tell in this article is a personal story. It dares to think through the reception of my body, my name, and my accent; that is, how I am gazed at, received, and hence treated. As a “foreigner” who is put in a different line every time I fly or go through the airport, as someone who is searched in person and who missed his flight because “they” had to check whether my name was in the terrorist list, and as someone who is always told “you speak different,” with an accent, the repetition of this story “appoints” me to think through its significance.

This is an immigrant Black body that is assumed to be Muslim in a post-9/11 United States. It was born and grew up in Sudan, studied in France, and holds the Canadian passport. For political reasons, it found itself as a political refugee in Canada, my second home, and for job reasons, it finds itself presently in a small college town in Northwest Ohio. Involuntarily, as we shall see, it finds itself in a “third space,” torn between here-and-now and there-and-memory. Given this bodily experience, the question of the question is not a theoretical one, indeed, it is too personal to be otherwise. It summons and beseeches me as a witness, and raises a number of questions: First, “how can the hosts (hôtes) and guests of cities of refuge be helped to recreate, through work and creative activity, a living and durable network in new places and occasionally in a new language”? Thinking specifically of the hosts, second, what reception do they extend to foreigners, those whose papers are not in order or those simply without papers (CF, 16)? Third, what is the nature of this ethic of reception, this economy of hospitality and how is it cultivated? Finally, do they receive foreigners as parricides, parasites or enemies with no right to asylum and who, in their minds, potentially commit acts of terrorism, or as beings at home with themselves (l’être-soi chez soi)?

Let us not anticipate simple responses to such questions, yet we already know certain things about foreigners. We know that they are coming, that they are already here, that they are staring us in the eye and reminding us that we have proper names and these names refer us somewhere else: to the old country. We walk up and ask them: “what is your name? tell me your name, what should I call you, I who am calling on you, I who want to call you by your name? What am I going to call you?” (OH, 27). Our question was not predicated on duty and obligation but on ethos and desire. We genuinely wanted to know, but the question seemed perturbing and confusing to them, hence they were not able to answer it. They did not understand the question. They did not speak “our” language. Language cheated us hosts and guests. It stood in the middle like a haunting Kafkaesquian figure. We didn’t know in what language they could address us or in what language they could receive ours; we didn’t know how to interrogate them; and above all, we didn’t know their names. Questions such as “who are you? where do you come from? what do you want?” (OH, 131) became unnecessary, if not outright violent. Contrary to their original intentionality which was warm welcoming, these questions moved us from hospitalité to pas d’hospitalité, or from hospitality to hostility.

This is the question of the foreigner. The foreigner is the other, the guest, the immigrant, the exile, the deported, the expelled, the rootless, the stateless, the lawless nomad, the displaced, those who come or go abroad, those who “turn up” at our front doors and “traumatize” (OH, 78). They traumatize, first, because we don’t know what to do with them. Do we give them asylum, “home,” and thus welcome them? If so, how? Or do we expel and return them to the place from which they were expelled? Second, they traumatize us through their stories. These tend to discomfort our comfortable selves and homes. This is well illustrated in the following example. I gave a public lecture on the genocide in DarFur, Sudan, to a group of highly educated senior citizens in Northwest Ohio. One of their central question was why should they care. They worked all their lives, they said, they saved good money and they are living good and comfortable lives. Clearly, whenever the question of the foreigner is posed, it has to be inverted into ethics: How can we go on living after witnessing trauma? Being Sudanese myself and a refugee I wonder how much I traumatize their comfortable homes! I wonder how much empathy they will offer the next refugee who knocks on their door and say, “here I am”! (OH, 56) Despite their absolute best intention, they invited me to talk about DarFur after all, these senior citizens cannot talk about what they do not know. And this is what makes the question of the question so urgent, especially after 9/11.

Reading through Jacques Derrida’s book, Of Hospitality, my intent in this article is to articulate an “economy of hospitality.” First and primarily, I want to ask: How do we welcome the foreigner; how conditional or unconditional this welcoming, this hospitality? Second, being the foreigner myself, when do I become the host, or will I always be the guest, the perpetual foreigner? Finally, in my classroom, where I am supposed to welcome students, be the host, what does this mean in relation to being a foreigner? The paper is guided by two hypotheses: 1) in North America, I shall always be the “foreigner” thanks to language, race, and my proper name, but 2) this foreignness becomes a resource, source, and capital from which to draw and thanks to which I can be a host in my classroom. I am using the term North America through out the paper to refer to Canada (where I lived) and the U.S. (where I am living). The reader is thus requested kindly to travel with me back and forth, North and South of the 49th Parallel.


The law of hospitality is a law of tension. In fact, Derrida argued, the law of hospitality is plural, it contains two laws: conditional and unconditional. Unconditional or absolute hospitality is a law that breaks with the law of hospitality as right or duty. Instead, it “requires that I open up my home and that I give not only to the foreigner… but to the absolute, unknown, anonymous other, and that I give place to them, that I let them come, that I let them arrive, and take place in the place I offer them, without asking of them either reciprocity (entering into a pact) or even their names” (OH, 25). It is an unquestioning welcome, where a double effacement takes place: an effacement of the question and the name. They both take a back seat, become unnecessary. However, Derrida asked, “Is it more just and more loving to question or not to question? to call by the name or without the name?” (OH, 29). His response is emphatic in that within the law of unconditional hospitality, “Let us say yes to who or what turns up, before any determination, before any anticipation, before any identification, whether or not it has to do with a foreigner, an immigrant, an invited guest, or an unexpected visitor, whether or not the new arrival is citizen of another country, a human… or a divine creature… male or female” (OH, 77).

To do so, unconditional hospitality calls for suspending language, holding back of the temptation to ask the other who s/he is, what her/his name is, where s/he comes from, etc. (135). Unconditional hospitality, in sum, is a gracious act, a gift that is not governed by duty (performed out of duty), and certainly not about paying a debt or participating in an economy of exchange: my gift should not make you feel that you owe me your life. It is a law without law (83), where the stranger turns into an awaited guest and someone to whom you say not only “come,” but “enter”: “enter without waiting, make a pause in our home without waiting, hurry up and come in, “come inside,” “come without me,” not only toward me, but within me: occupy me, take place in me” (123).

This gesture of unconditional gift, this act of love is impossible without sovereignty of oneself over one’s home. The law of hospitality therefore, for Derrida, is the law of one’s home. The alien, the stranger other is welcomed as non-enemy. Ironically, if not tragically, one can become xenophobic in order to protect one’s sovereignty, one’s own right to unconditional hospitality, the very home that makes the latter possible. (Think about the Patriotic Act passed by the U.S. Congress after the tragic events of 9/11, where conditional laws are imposed not only on foreigners, but on the very idea of democracy.) Once this is the case, the guest becomes an undesirable foreigner and as host I risk becoming their hostage (55). Retaining the self as self, very significantly, I need to be master at home, affirm my being there, and retain authority over that place. I do so by “saying” (usually by passing laws): this place belongs to me, we are in my home, welcome and feel at home but on the condition that you obey the rules of hospitality. Henceforth, the foreigner is allowed to enter the host’s home under conditions the host has determined.

Derrida refers to this unconditional hospitality as “the law,” a universal, absolute and singular. For Derrida, unconditional hospitality is meaningless without its plural and dialectic other: “the laws.” The laws of hospitality are an expression of earthly laws and duties that are always conditioned and conditional, hence creating conditional hospitality. The law is above the laws, however, as he succinctly put it, “even while keeping itself above the laws of hospitality, the unconditional law of hospitality needs the laws, it requires them” (79). This is because to become effective the law has to be concrete, tangible, determined, and near, otherwise it risks “being abstract, utopian, illusory, and so turning over its opposite.” Conditional laws, Derrida adds, “would cease to be laws of hospitality if they were not guided, given inspiration, given aspiration, required, even, by the law of unconditional hospitality” (79).

If there are no laws governing items such as visas, border crossing, local, national and international traveling, arm sales, technological communication, or even the right to asylum, to name just a few, unconditional hospitality becomes an impossible possibility. This is due to the fact that, though we as individuals might desire living in the ville refuge (refuge city) or ville franche (open city) where migrants and the expelled may seek unconditional hospitality and sanctuary, these cities can not escape geography (where are they in the globe and how do people get there?), law (are they governed by the Geneva Convention and international laws?), language (what language do/will people speak once they get there?), etc. As a matter of fact, in the case of the State, it is illegal, not to say impossible, to welcome unconditionally, especially after 9/11 and especially in the United States. The “foreigners” in the U.S. with names like mine, Ibrahim, could recite by heart the book of “laws of conditional hospitality.” Top of these laws is: Thou shall not piss the U.S. government, represented in local police, FBI or CIA!

There can only be conditional hospitality there. Will Ibrahim always be a foreigner in North America? I will address this question later. The imaginary invoked by the name Ibrahim, significantly, recovers an assumed relationship between hospitality and the question, in other words of a conditional hospitality that begins with the name. The name invokes a place of birth and language. The foreigner is a foreigner by birth, born in a foreign land where people speak a different language than that of the host country. Inept at speaking the language, the foreigner “always risks being without defense before the law of the country that welcomes … him; the foreigner is first of all foreign to the legal language in which the duty of hospitality is formulated, the right to asylum, its limits, norms, policing, etc. He has to ask for hospitality in a language which by definition is not his own” (15). A central question that Derrida poses in relation to this is: what if he was speaking the language of the host country, with all that that implies, would he still be a foreigner and how do we think about hospitality in regard to him? Thinking through my classroom, again, I will address this paradox later.

The exiles, the deported, the expelled, the rootless, the stateless, absolute foreigners, Derrida observes, share two sources of sighs, two nostalgias: their dead ones and their language. “On the one hand,” he writes, “they would like to return, at least on a pilgrimage, to the place where their buried dead have their last resting place… On the other hand, [they] often continue to recognize the language, what is called the mother tongue, as their ultimate homeland, and even their last resting place” (89). Clearly, we are dealing with a particular conception of language, a new name to an old phenomenon: language as a place, a homeland that never leaves us and we always come back to; a mother tongue that is a “sort of mobile habitat, a garment or a tent… a second skin you wear on yourself” (89). Language as the last condition of belonging, the most mobile of personal bodies, my cellular phone that I carry “on me, with me, in me, as me … a mouth, and ear, which make it possible to hear yourself-speaking” (91).

If language is so central to the experience of the foreigner, there is a second layer of language that concerns not only the foreigner but also the citizens of the host nation in general: the language of the law. In the U.S., the law (or more accurately laws) of conditional hospitality is the Law of the Father. The master of the house, the host, the authorities, the nation, the State, the boss, the spouse, the lord, the king, the president is the one who lays down the laws of hospitality. “He represents them and submits to them to submit the others to them,” that is to say, he speaks with authority and through an authorized language (149). In so doing, he inflicts violence that most likely is recognized and recognizable only to and by those upon whom the laws are applied. Muslims and Middle-Easterns in the U.S. are currently experiencing what is recognized and recognizable to African Americans for a long time: the violence of being the absolute Other. Hospitality can only be conditional and to survive one is almost required to “have the gift of second sight” or, using Nietzschean terms, “the most subtle of ears” (20). That is to say, if we cannot hear the cry of the foreigner, and if we cannot see the foreigner crying – mostly because of lack experience (“For what one lacks access to from experience one will have no ear,” Nietzsche argued (20)) – that does not mean nothing is there, that the foreigner is not crying.

So, Derrida concludes, in the eyes of the law, the exiles, the deported, the expelled, the rootless, the stateless above all are foreigners. They should be warmly welcomed, given asylum, and have the right to hospitality, but they should fall under the law of the land, they have a reciprocal obligation. Hospitality must be extended to them, Derrida emphasized, “certainly, but remains, like the law, conditional, and thus conditioned in its dependence on the unconditionality that is the basis of the law” (73). In other words, a tension, a dialecticism must remain between the law and the laws of hospitality. The former is hyperbolic and unconditional and the latter is conditional and juridico-political. “We will,” Derrida contends, “ always be threatened by this dilemma between, on the one hand, unconditional hospitality that dispenses with law, duty, or even politics, and, on the other, hospitality circumscribed by law and duty” (135). The economy and the ethics of hospitality must straddle the two. The two are and should be inseparable. Ideally, they should meet in, at, and during that moment that Derrida calls “moment without moment,” where they both imply and exclude each other, simultaneously, where they “incorporate one another at the moment of excluding one another,” where they exhibit “themselves to each other, one to the others, the others to the other” (81).


To define who is the xenos, the foreigner, in a land of foreigners is virtually impossible. The very question, a critic might wonder, is unnecessary, feeds into xenophobia, and authorizes those who “speak an odd sort of language” (5) or with an “accent” be called “foreigners.” My simple response is: not to speak about foreignness does not do away with the existential phenomenon of the “event” nor the violence incurred as a result of its presence. Not to talk about it is a luxury afforded to few, an ethical position that I as a displaced subject cannot afford to take. Quoting Eli Wiesel again: “If someone else could have written my stories, I would not have written them. I have written them in order to testify.” And since testimony cannot be simply relayed, repeated or reported by another without thereby losing its function as a testimony, there is a need for personal testimonies, as I already indicated. This debate is too significant to be put aside, but we must. We are confronted with questions of “being,” not simply definitions, with the impossibility of this writer’s being in North America. The questions were first raised in Canada and are continuing now in the United States. As I have shown elsewhere, most displaced subjects find themselves straddling between here and now and there and memory, between the “old” and the “new home.” Marked mostly by language, the question of hospitality poses itself in the everyday. It is not one that displaced subjects choose to answer but are required to answer. With regards to my “case,” the question of the question is complicated by three factors: language, race, and my name. These have given me the “second sight,” “the most subtle of ears” that Nietzsche talked about above, and I have every intention to use them.

Following a Hegelian philosophy, the foreigner is defined on the basis of the law which is laid down and determined by: the family, civil society, and the State (or the nation-state) (45). Within this law, the foreigner is the one who comes from abroad to a land or a country that is not his or her own by birth. They either seek permanent residency in their new “home” through immigration or for economic and/or political reasons, they seek asylum and political refugee status once in the host country. Increasingly, they could also come as students and then decide to stay. By and large, they tend to speak a different language (or languages) than the host country, but because of globalization, especially with the spread of the English language, more and more they speak the host country’s language fluently but with an accent. They could even be native speakers of English, yet their “accent” will haunt and mark them forever as “foreigners.” The work by Alistair Pennycook and Bonnie Norton is particularly informative in addressing this contention.

In an interesting article, Sura P. Rath, an “American” of Indian descent, is asking us to “call him American.” Living in the U.S. since August 31, 1975 first as a “non-resident alien” student and then as a trainee, as a permanent resident (“resident alien” or holder of the coveted “Green Card”), and finally as a “naturalized citizen”; and, on the other hand, armed with a passport that bears his name, a social security card that identifies him as a wage earner, a driver’s license, a voter ID that recognizes him as a mentally sound person eligible to vote, etc. aren’t these enough to “make” him “American”? His answer is:

My self-description as an American is a spatial identity; constructed from the external territory, it has nothing to do with my whatness, my essence or being as a person, until the larger culture readjusts itself to accommodate my presence. For the time, it is a contractual arrangement: in exchange for my willingness to accept the subject-hood of the sovereign nation called the United States of America, I am ‘subjectified,’ branded with a territorial marker of citizenship… Yet the territorial persona, as a mask of my identity, cannot fully represent the subject/object of my person, the material body and the psychic being.

Therein lies my interest: “psychic being.” The latter is not a question of law, as Hegel suggested, in fact we know the language of psychic and desire is beyond the law; lawless and can never be fully captured; something about it is always in the excess. For me, foreignness is a psychic event which is not defined solely by the foreigner but, and more importantly, by those who possess the authorized language to define, the sovereign subjects who lay out or lay down the laws of hospitality. Rath wants to “be American,” but his language, culture and psychic cheat him. He will always be asked: “where are you from?” (not “who or what are you?”) which is usually followed by: “no, I mean where are you really from?” These questions, my own experience tells me, sometimes signify a naïve curiosity but oftentimes a resigned resentment or ressentiment, using a Nietzschean term.

To repeat: I was born in Sudan, where I grew up and finished an undergraduate degree, the paper says, in Études françaises – French Studies – and Psychology. I also studied in France and spoke both French and English. Then as a political refugee, I found myself in Canada, my “home” away from “home,” where I finished my graduate school in applied linguistics, curriculum and cultural studies. Given my background in linguistics, especially phonetics, I am what you might consider if not a native speaker at least a native-like speaker of English. Some words and expressions pronounce me a “foreigner” to North American English speakers, who have as many accents as there are regions. Ironically, and I have been accused of being too apt and gifted with languages, this is less so in French and the other languages I speak. More ironic is that, three years to date, I reside in Northwest Ohio as a Canadian teaching, among others, a graduate course titled, “Teaching Canada.” I also teach an undergraduate course in social foundations (history, sociology and philosophy of education) to preservice students and two graduate courses in cultural studies and philosophy of education.

Clearly, there are two sides and sites to the identity formation processes: the self and the other. My argument is that, in the larger Euro-American and Canadian societies, I shall always be asked where I come from, will I ever go back (I don’t know where!), and do I like it “here.” Contrary to the common saying, curiosity never kills the cat. What kills the cat is fact that it is never given a choice. Yes, I was born in a foreign land and yes, I am fully aware of the implications of this statement. By putting myself in a foreign land, one might ask, am I not feeding into, and giving ammunition to those who want to call me “foreigner”? As stated previously, I have no control over this. What I have control over is my desire, at some point, to claim – yes to tell myself that I “am” and should be treated as Canadian (and in Rath’s case American).

Americanness and Canadianness are primarily narratives, stories we tell ourselves and others, a collective of ideas. The question we need to ask is whether this narrative is open to all to claim or whether it is exclusive. My contention is this, in the imaginary and the eyes of “native speakers,” if you have or speak with an accent, however slight or unpronounced it may be, and your name is Ibrahim, you will always be a foreigner. In Canada, furthermore, if you are not White, even if you are born in Canada, foreignness will most likely be assumed. Adrienne Shadd brilliantly speaks to how psychologically taxing it can be to be “Black” and “Canadian”:

In my case, I am a fifth-generation Canadian whose ancestors came here [Canada] from the United States during the fugitive slave era… Yet, routinely, I am asked, “Where are you from?”… The scenario usually unfolds as follows:
“But where are you originally from?”
“Oh, you were born here. But where are your parents from?”
“But what about your grandparents?”
“They’re Canadian.”
As individuals delve further into my genealogy to find out where I’m “really” from, their frustration levels rise.
“No, uh (confused, bewildered) I mean … your people. Where do your people come from?”
“The United States.”
At this point, questioners are totally annoyed and/or frustrated. After all, Black people in Canada are supposed to come “the [Caribbean] islands,” aren’t they?

As I already cited, my hospitality is conditioned by 1) language (having an accent), 2) my name (assumed to be Muslim and from the Middle East) and 3) race. Since I already addressed the language question, let me speak about the politics of race first and then my name. Before coming to North America, I argued elsewhere, I was not considered Black, as the term is defined in North America. Other terms served to patch together my identity, such as tall, Sudanese, and basketball player. In other words, my Blackness was not marked, it was outside the shadow of the other North American Whiteness. However, as a refugee in North America, my perception of self was altered in direct response to the social processes of racism and the historical representation of Blackness whereby the antecedent signifiers became secondary to my Blackness, and I retranslated my being: I became Black.

There, I narrated a significant incident in my understanding of hospitality when one’s skin color determines who/what one “is.” It happened in May 16, 1999, the day I was officially declared “Black,” with a White policeman who stopped me in Toronto, Canada, for no reason other than “We are looking for a dark man with a dark bag,” as he uttered it. After questioning him about my “darkness,” he said, “We are looking for a Black man with a dark bag.” There is no need to mention that my bag is actually light-blue and now, however, I am metamorphosed from “dark” into “Black.” Before asking for my ID, he asked me to lay down my (dark?) bag, which I did. With his order, I widely opened my bag for anyone in the street to see. Since it was a tourist area, everyone was looking into my bag. Some, I observed, were pitying my plight and one White woman was smiling. I first gave him my citizenship card and after 10 minutes, I decided to use my professor identification. After writing down my name and date of birth, he then announced to the dispatcher telling her “All is OK now.” With no apologies, I was ordered to collect my affairs and my bag and, as he uttered it, “You are free to go now.” For me, this was his way of saying: Welcome to your new “home”!

As for my name, in North America, it seems to invoke terrorism and Osama bin Laden, especially in the U.S. after 9/11, more than someone who is secular, not to say atheist. The idea that an Ibrahim can be atheist seems to surprise and trouble the imaginary of a number of people in North America. Three incidents will highlight my point. The first is a letter I received recently in February 2005 from an Islamic center in Greenville, South Carolina, to receive free copies of the Qur’an in different languages. The second is in Canada and also a letter from the Islamic Council of University Professors (ICUP) inviting me to attend a dinner hosted by the ICUP in October 2001 in Ottawa, Ontario. I did not know where my address and phone number were found, since the ICUP letter was followed by three phone calls. I wondered, subsequently, why I was invited to the ICUP dinner in the first place. I knew no one in the Council nor did I hear of it hitherto. My surprise came as no surprise, and it simply had to do with my name.

The third incident happened in Canada three days after the horror of September 11. While at home, a Pastor –who I worked with in a refugee organization – called. She explained that she was organizing a university-wide religious panel to offer condolences to and show solidarity with the victims of 9/11. Each, she added, would recite from his/her respective scripture. She would represent Christians, there was a “Jewish professor” and I would “represent Muslims,” she explained. At this point, I did not know how or what “Muslims” would think of me representing them since to represent, for me, was to speak in their name and place. So I declined the invitation for I could not bear the responsibility of speaking in the name of “Muslims” while my very Islamic faith is doubtful.

These incidents, including the one with the police, invoke something larger than trivial letters, simple phone calls, and routine police search. Powerfully, they are telling me how my body and name are already “read”, “marked”, “positioned” and “imagined.” They are imagined and read in ways that are beyond my control. Here, Ibrahim is, and is is already known. That is, given my name and my socially positioned “black” body, the Pastor, the police and the ICUP assumed their knowledge of me (almost with certainty). Thus, I become a tableau that people draw and read through however they want to. I become a ghost, a glassy figure to see through. These factors, henceforth, determine the nature of the laws (of hospitality) extended not to “me,” if I can be seen and heard, but to what my accent, race, and name represent and invoke in the imaginary of the host, the “lawmaker.”


In my classroom, the situation is not as dramatic. In fact, not at all! It is, in two words, total opposite. I have one of the highest student evaluations at my school and university and have received a teaching award in 2001. The question I want to ask then is: what is happening to my foreignness in my classroom, and what am I doing in the classroom that students are able to see and hear me? I teach at a college of education and my undergraduate course, upon whom all my subsequent remarks are based, is a mandatory course. On average, I teach between 65-95 students each term; I have students lining up to take my course; and without any narcissism, I do receive some of the most heartwarming comments about my personality and teaching. The former would have to be put aside. It is worth noting that my students are primarily White, middle-class, females, from Northwest Ohio.

It seems that this foreigner is most at “home” in his classroom. I am able to occupy the position of the host, not in the larger North American society, but in my classroom. Once I close that door, it seems, my students and I are able to sail away in/to a “foreign” land, where true intellectual dialogue and human connection are possible. By virtue of culture, my students recognize – most likely, only – conditional hospitality, whereas I, as we shall see, recognize only unconditional hospitality in my cultural life. Tentatively, one might conclude, those who grow up in a culture where individuality and “my” room, “my” car, “my” house, “my” book, etc. are emphasized tend to have the cultural language of conditional hospitality. On the other hand, those who either grow up in a culture or have little material possessions tend to recognize and practice mostly unconditional hospitality.

There is a need in the following concluding paragraphs to name, sketch out my classroom philosophy, especially when it comes to the idea of teaching. Conscious of its significance in the learning process, the economy of hospitality in my classroom is best described as a Freireian praxis. It does not side step the position of the foreigner, it works through it; it becomes a capital of exchange. Foreignness is not a deficit but a position to be occupied both by me and my students. It is seductive, incredibly stimulating, and a necessary imaginative space in imagining the Other. The Other is no longer outside, but inside; the Other is myself, within myself; and she is there not to be consumed but critically dialogued and engaged with.

I dare to teach – unconditionally – and “it” is not about making statements. Teaching, in my class, is an invitation, a form of seduction, a space of deskining ourselves from ourselves and our comfortable subject positions and hence be able to meet at the rendezvous of true and absolute generosity. It is a space of open, inverted and unconditional hospitality; where unity does not mean sameness and working across difference is possible regardless of race, gender, class, ability and sexuality; where difference concerns the labor of love, freedom and democracy as it does fear, poverty and nihilism. It is where pedagogy of freedom becomes a second nature; the word and the world are connected; students and myself are not reduced to clients; and critical, transformative and liberatory consciousness is our ultimate goal.

As a sovereign space, occupied by sovereign subjects, I tell my students to “enter,” to “come.” Once there, I am in no fear of using the power and the authority bestowed on me by credentials and institutional structures. Using does not mean abusing power, hence I lay down the classroom rules and hand to hand give the course outline as a contractual arrangement: we are hereby ready to begin a “true dialogue.” It structures my power, on the one hand, and gives students responsibilities and obligations, on the other. Our rendezvous is usually in that “moment without moment,” a moment of suspense, of working with and through even what we do not agree with.

This takes time and I am in no hurry. I take my time, I show my passion, I humanize and love the very act of teaching (without the grading!). I grew up within an economy of unconditional hospitality. In the African side of me, our home had little by way of material possessions, so we had to share. On the other hand, there was an unconditional gift of love, humor, security, patience, humility, and humanity. Coming to North America where individuality is the absolute signifier, my foreign consciousness manifests itself, wittingly or unwittingly, in my classroom and in my interaction with my students. I usually take my students to my “place,” not the physical but the mental and the intellectual one. I invite them there, I ask them to come in, to enter that safe space. Apparently, they see that safety and most of the time they voluntarily come with me, within me, and I in turn within them. Once there, we laugh, we humanize and question each other. It is very beautiful there. Contrary to Anne Dufourmantelle who argued that, “Perhaps only the one who endures the experience of being deprived of a home can offer hospitality” (OH, 56), one doesn’t have to endure the experience of being deprived of a home to be able to offer hospitality. At least, this is my hope with my students with their students. I hope, through empathy, being in my class and, like the senior citizens above, experiencing the foreigner, that the foreigner becomes them and they the foreigner. I want us to meet at the rendezvous of humanity. I want them to see and hear me, the foreigner, unconditionally. But above all, I want them to set me free, to be myself. I want to be and live in that city of refuge, where …

Love’s procession is moving;
Beauty is waving her banner;
Youth is sounding the trumpet of joy;
Disturb not my contrition, my blamer.
Let me walk, for the path is rich
With roses and mint, and the air
Is scented with cleanliness.
Kahlil Gibran

The New Flâneur:Subaltern Cultural Studies, African Youth in Canada and the Semiology of In-betweenness


Situated within subaltern cultural studies, and building on the work of Stuart Hall, Homi Bhabha and Mikhail Bakhtin, this paper tells the story of the “new flâneur,” a recent immigrant and refugee group of continental francophone African youth, who are attending an urban French-language high school in southwestern Ontario, Canada. In it, I offer an alternative cultural framework of “translation” and “negotiation” as a way of seeing that which is supposedly competing and conflicting is indeed re-de-and-transformed and negotiated into New ways that make them radically performed. Their radicalness stems, precisely, from the notation that displaced identities, the focus of the paper, are not oppositionally articulated; on the contrary, they are negotiated, translated, and re-born in a more complex and hybrid space: a third one. This hybridity, I will show, is habitually performed in and through language – in its broad semiological sense. As part of an ethnographic research project, the paper will show the different ways in which the new flâneurs form and perform their identities. Here, the Old and the New are not ethnographically observed in competition; both are translated in the identity formation processes and in the process, they are negotiated so that both are found in the same sentence, in the same garments, at the same time to produce a third hybrid space.

The Paper

To walk is to vegetate
To stroll is to live
– Balzac

Most often than not, subaltern cultural studies takes for granted that identity is best conceived in and within that complex intersection of multiple discourses of difference, subjectivity, language, history, memory and power relations. Ethnographically, however, what does this mean? How do these discourses work and how do we recognize their intersectionality? If identity is no longer, as Stuart Hall (2001) would argue, what does it mean to become? What is understood by language here and methodologically, how do I as an ethnographer access my research participants’ subjectivities, their identities? Grounded on an interpretive linguistic ethnography, this paper is an attempt to answer these questions. As such, it is contextually signified, modestly concluded, and ethnographically conceived. In fact, I am employing an ethnographic approach precisely to avoid the pitfalls of over-generalization.

Generally, the paper is a methodological, pedagogical and discursive intervention into the memetic logic of identity, race and becoming. It tells the story of the “new flâneur,” a recent immigrant and refugee group of continental francophone African youth, who are attending an urban French-language high school in southwestern Ontario, Canada, and who find themselves within what Nietzsche calls a “public gaze” where their bodies are already-always read and imagined as “Black.” They are caught within the spectre of “and”: being continental in Canada and possessing a body that is read in the dominant social imaginary as a diasporic African body. The spectre of “and” is also about what it means to be Senegalese or Nigerian, for example, and Canadian. This gaze, this social imaginary, which is yet to be fully understood within what Handel K. Wright (2003a) calls “cultural studies as praxis,” is a borné shift in rethinking the discourse of race, identity and pedagogy and has three main implications.

First, as I have argued elsewhere (Ibrahim, 2004), these youth were not Black in Africa; however, once in North America, they fall within “the eyes of power” (Foucault, 1980) where they become Black – and where Blackness is conceived as a performative category, a form of speech, an attitude and a social location one takes up. Following Simone de Beauvoir, Monique Wittiq (2003) argued that one is not born a woman, but that one becomes a woman. Accordingly, I am contending, one is not born Black either. In fact, one becomes Black. In this sense, Blackness becomes a code, a language, a set of cloths, a hair-do, a bodily expression, and above all an experiential memory. Second, as Meaghan Morris (1997) has argued, language in cultural studies is increasingly arrested within discourses of différance, temporalization and play. My study attempts to free language by introducing the actual verbal utterance as both an expression of identity and a formation of it.

Becoming Black for African youth meant learning Black English which, in turn, meant becoming Black. That is to say, they are learning Black English because they are becoming Black, yet they are becoming Black precisely because they are learning Black English. Lastly, reflective of and informed by Handel K. Wright (2003a, p. 806) conceptualization of cultural studies as both “an inter/anti/post/disciplinary approach to the study of culture” and “an intervention in institutional, sociopolitical and cultural arrangements, events and directions” (see also Cohen, 1997), and borrowing from textuality and ethnography, I introduce “ethnography of performance” as an approach that allowed me to access the youth identities. For ethnographers, I conclude, identity is best accessed in the performed. Put simply, I have three objectives in this paper: to 1) rethink Homi Bhabha’s notion of the “third space,” 2) introduce ethnography of performance, and 3) through my research, rethink the relationship between race, identity and displacement.

Flâneurie: Theorizing identity through cultural translation and negotiation

[This] is the dream of translation as ‘survival’ … as sur-vivre, the act of living on borderlines… [Here] the migrant’s dream of survival [is]… an empowerment condition of hybridity; an emergence that turns ‘return’ into reinscription or redescription; an iteration that is not belated, but ironic and insurgent. [T]he migrant’s survival depends … on discovering ‘how newness enters the world.’ The focus is on making the linkages through the unstable elements of … life – the dangerous tryst with the ‘untranslatable’ – rather than arriving at ready-made names (Homi Bhabha, 1994, pp. 226-7, original emphasis).

Clearly, we live in a time of universal subjecthood, where identities and cultures are more than ever “elusive” (Yon, 2000), where sur-vivre – the act of displacement, of flâneur and of living in-between cultures, languages, landscapes and borderlines – has become a second nature. The universal subjects are ones who possess a symbolic, and to be specific, intellectual capital that allows them to be in Australia one year, Canada the following year and Britain or Berkley, California, USA, the year after. As a matter of fact, I stopped asking where Gayatri Spivak, Wole Soyinka or Homi Bhabha are teaching now. However, these universal subjects are not always as privileged. In fact, most of the time they are not at all. They are forced to flee their “home”lands because of economic situation, civil war, political ideology, religious persecution, gender mutilation or forced conscription and dictatorship. Voluntarily or not, they find themselves interstitially torn between here and now and there and memory. They had witnessed enough to see the need to hold on to the Old, but the everyday is reminding them of the need to go on living, to experience and enjoy the New.

Significantly, the Old and the New are conceived here as historical temporalities, ways of being and as social, cultural, national, geographic and linguistic spaces. Thinking “Of Other Spaces,” Foucault (1986) convincingly argued that we live “in the epoch of space of simultaneity… in the epoch of juxtaposition, the epoch of the near and far, of the side-by-side, of the disperse” (p. 22). It is this dispersely heterotopic and semiotic space, this dialectique de triplicité (Lefebvre, 1974), third space, “both-and-also” (Soja, 1996), which is taking place beyond and in-between two (or more) cultures, languages and geographies that I want to explore first. Focusing particularly on identity as an ongoing “event” of translation and negotiation (Ibrahim, 2000a), my interest is to look at the ethnography of sur-vivre, that is, the impact and the outcome of displacement, of flâneurie.

Framing the politics of identity within the poststructural language of cultural studies, Stuart Hall (1990) writes that, “Identity is not as transparent or unproblematic as we think. Perhaps instead of thinking of identity as already accomplished fact… we should think, instead, of identity as a “production,” which is never complete, always in process” (p. 222). It is, he continues, an on-going event that is best conceived at the borderland between the Self and the Other. It is a process, a split, “not a fixed point but an ambivalent point” (Hall, 1991, p. 11). Hall (2001) refers to this process of identity formation as the New Identity which he distinguishes from the Old Identity. The logic of the Old Identity is an expression of the Cartesian stable self where the subject is situated within essentialized and static discourses of history, self, and memory; whereas the New Identity discourse is more complexly different. It neglects neither history and the multiple discourses within which the subject finds herself and the contradictory nature of these discourses nor the power relations or the politics of positioning: that is to say, how our gendered, racialized and classed bodies are read socially and historically and the outcome of these social positions.

The borderland between the Self and the Other is what Mikhail Bakhtin (2001) refers to as dialogism. Luminously conceived, perceived and lived, dialogism is a language, a philosophy, a semiotic space where being is conceptualized as an event, human being as a project or a deed and society as a simultaneity of uniqueness. That is to say, one finds oneself in and within a network, “a matrix of highly distinctive economic, political, and historical forces – a unique and unrepeatable combination of ideologies, each speaking its own language, the heteroglot conglomerate of which will constitute the world in which we act” (Holquist, 2002, p. 167). To be able to act, for Bakhtin (2001), also means to be addressed by Otherness. “It is only in that highly specific, indeed unique placement that the world may address us” (Holquist, 2002, p. 167). In a very real sense, Holquist argues, this becomes our “address” in existence, “an address expressed not in numbers, but by our proper name” and it is, very significantly, “only from that site that we can speak” (p. 167).

It is largely through language, through the signature of my “proper name,” that I become an active actor, a subject. As such, I differ from the Other precisely because while I am here, the Other cannot. This, for Bakhtin (2001, p. 365), produces “heteroglossia” and “ideological translation,” where the self becomes “an act of grace, a gift of the other” (p. 364). To be able to receive this act of grace, this gift, however, I must occupy a location, a unique place in the ongoing event of existence that is mine, where existence is an event and my place, my identity in it is understood not only within time and space, but also as an activity, an act, a deed. My identity, my subjectivity which is determined by language (Bakhtin, 2001), therefore, is never singular. I belong as much to myself as I do to the Other, yet the signifier that is my body “makes manifest the subject of its signification” (Lacan, 1977, p. 207); it makes me unique. After all, I could sign my proper name, and “it” only belongs to me.

The moment of identification in this dialectic relationship between the Self and the Other is of extreme importance. It impacts and guides the shape, the form, and the intensity of the ways in which the Self translates the Other and vice versa. The question of intensity is an issue of desire. Elsewhere (Ibrahim, 1998, 2000a, 2000b, 2001, 2003), I showed that my research participants’ desire and identification with Blackness has certainly influenced their translation of the new Canadian context, what they learned and how. They named and identified, somewhat unconsciously, African American popular culture and language as sites for investment and yearning. Identification, I argued, is the starting point of identity formation. When the process of naming takes place, one might conclude, the process of ideological translation is inaugurated and in the case of my research participants, a third space is given birth to.

The third space: A semiology of in-betweenness

My conceptualization of the third space is deeply indebted to Jean-Paul Sartre (1980), Edward Soja (1996) and Homi Bhabha (1990). Though Bhabha’s usage of the term is relevant and directly related, as we shall see, it is different from mine. I ground my analysis in an attempt to ethnographically explore and “see” the complex ways identities are formed and performed and ultimately link them to the processes of learning, whereas Bhabha’s framework is an inter/textual analysis. In doing so, I differ from Bhabha in being contextually specific and also in addressing the play of power relation in the creation of the third space.
In an interview with Jonathan Rutherford, Homi Bhabha (1990) advanced three notions that are relevant to the present discussion, and illuminous of the visuality and the make up of the third space. The first point distinguishes between what Bhabha calls “a creation of cultural diversity” and “a containment of cultural difference.” Bhabha argues that within the Western cultural practices, “although there is always an entertainment and encouragement of cultural diversity, there is always a corresponding containment of it” (1990, p. 208). This containment usually takes place in a subtle way and through a process of normalization whereby the dominant culture becomes the normalizing gaze. In other words, “a transparent norm is constituted, a norm given by the host society or dominant culture, which says that ‘these other cultures are fine, but we must be able to locate them within our grid’” (p. 208).
Unsatisfied with this liberal distinction, Bhabha advanced his second point by introducing his notion of “cultural translation.” It argues that “no culture is plainly plenitudinous, not only because there are other cultures which contradict its authority, but,” he continues, “also because its own symbol-forming activity, its own interpellation in the process of representation, language, signification and meaning-making, always underscores the claim to an originary, holistic, organic identity.” Cultural translation then is:

a way of imitating, but in a mischievous, displacing sense – imitating an original in such a way that the priority of the original is not reinforced but by the very fact that it can be simulated, copied, transferred, transformed, made into a simulacrum and so on: the “original” is never finished or complete in itself. The “originary” is always open to translation so that it can never be said to have a totalised prior moment of being or meaning – an essence. What this really means [Bhabha argues] is that cultures are only constituted in relation to that otherness internal to their own symbol-forming activity which makes them decentered structures (Bhabha, 1990, p. 210).

Cultural translation does not allow for an essentialization of what is known as the “original” or “originary” culture for the latter itself is, and always was, open to and for translation. It is only original in the sense of being anterior, Bhabha argues. He thus convincingly concludes that all forms of culture are “continually in a process of hybridity” (p. 211). However, Bhabha emphasizes, “the importance of hybridity is not to be able to trace two original moments from which the third emerges, rather hybridity ... is the 'third space’” (p. 211, emphasis added). Therein lies my different path from Bhabha. I deploy the third space as an ethnographic performance of two or more languages, cultures, and belief systems. Indeed, for me, the third space is a trace, a synthesis, a performative act, and an articulation of these two or more cultures and languages, and since these traces are corporeally articulated, they are thus ethnographically perceptible. However, in the articulation (Hall, 1986), the Old and the New are now metamorphosed in forms that look neither fully like the former nor the latter, but the two: the Old and the New. The Saussaurean bipolar of signifié/signifiant is no longer useful. For me, moreover, the third space sees the body as the locus of embodiment where this semiosis is articulated. Tersely, my unease with Bhabha's definition stems from the fact that it doesn't subjectify, historicize, or make tangible the hybridization project. Where, for example, is the play of race, sexuality, gender, and class in the process of hybridization? In this process of hybridization, where are those who are historically marginalized from the “centers” of power? How does hybridity ethnographically look? Here, the Bakhtinian “ideological translation” responds better to these questions.

For Bakhtin, the result of cultural and ideological translation wherein two linguistic, ideological, and cultural systems are to be mixed is to give birth to an organic world view which, in turn, will be performed in New linguistic and cultural practices. The product of this mixture is or can be “hybrid,” and for me it is socio-linguistically detectable and ethnographically observable. “It is of course true that even historical, organic hybridity is not only two languages but also two socio-linguistic (thus organic) world views that are mixed with each other,” Bakhtin asserts, “but in such situations, the mixture remains mute and opaque, never making use of conscious contrasts and oppositions.” Bakhtin adds:

It must be pointed out however, that while it is true the mixture of linguistic world views in organic hybrids remains mute and opaque, such unconscious hybrids have been at the same time profoundly productive historically: they are pregnant with potential for new world views, with new “internal forms” for perceiving the world in words (2001, p. 360).

In other words, the third space is organic because it is historically situated and partially unconsciously executed. It is an indissoluble mixture of two, or more, linguistic, ideological, cultural, and belief systems. It is third because it is found in the inter-geographies, cultures, languages, and memories (see Figure 1). It is indeed where the “first” and the “second” are produced in the same sentence, in the same syntax, in the same grammar, in the same garment, at the same time. In the case of African students in this research, the product of the ideological translation of the Canadian context which synchronously starts at the moment of identifying and naming Black America/Canada as a site of investment by African students is a third space. That is, the third space for African youth is a product of the memory, experience, and cultural and linguistic behavioral patterns they bring with them when coming into Canada and what they translate in the latter context. They seem to identify with a Canada that is Black, thus making race a crucial category.

Nonetheless, borrowing from Bhabha (1990) the third space “enables other positions to emerge. [It] displaces the histories that constitute it, and sets up new structures of authority, new political initiatives, which are inadequately understood through received wisdom” (p. 211). These emerging positions are unrecognizable because they are the product of that luminal space where the Old is already in the New and the “different.” The Old and the New emerge and are born from longitudinal negotiations and translations. Bhabha (1990) refers to these negotiations as “the process of cultural hybridity” which “gives rise to something different, something new and unrecognisable, a new area of negotiation of meaning and representation” (p. 211).

It is the understanding of this semiotic “new area of negotiation of meaning” that might illuminate our comprehension of identity formation processes, I contend, especially the identities of displaced subjectivities (including immigrants and refugees). To do so, Handel K. Wright (2003a) is worth quoting at length. Talking about his bodily experience as an African now living in North America, his displacement, and the different identities “assigned” to him, Wright sees the tension of hybrid identities thus:

[I]n the move from Sierra Leone to Canada and then the USA, I have been assigned and have taken up not only African identity but also ‘black’ identity. The complexity of identity [he continues] means that rather than being singular or merely replacing one form of identity with another (e.g. ceasing to be Krio and becoming ‘black’) identity is a series of complimentary and contradictory identifications operating simultaneously, with some coming to the fore or receding depending on context. I live and work in the USA but am not an American citizen; I am ‘black’ but not African American; I am simultaneously a continental and a diasporic African. (Wright, 2003a, p. 811)

The third space is this simultaneity of tension, being assigned and taking up both “continental and diasporic African” identity. Besides showing the dialogic nature of the third space, Handel Wright also calls for autoethnography in understanding the process of identity formation; for personal testimony, personal experience, which as bell hooks (1994) put it, can be “such a fertile ground for the production of liberatory [praxis] because it forms the base of our theory making” (p. 70). My personal experience as a refugee from Africa now holding the Canadian passport and working in the USA is no different than Handel Wright. Fearful of being essentialized, this experience taught me that displaced subjects find themselves in the borderland of two or more cultures, languages, and belief systems. In the process of understanding and translating the New context, subconsciously, displaced subjects also understand and translate the Old. We are located, I am arguing, in the landscape between the Old —which is part of us—and the New —which is becoming part of us.

When it comes to the African body in North America, as we shall explore subsequently, it is caught between two systems of signifying practices (see also Wright, 2002, 2003a, 2003b). First, in Africa, I am tall, Sudanese, basketball player, academic, having different cultural, linguistic, tribal and ethnic lineages. Here, as Stuart Hall (1997) would argue, my Blackness is outside the shadow of the other North American Whiteness. However, second, as a refugee in North America, my perception of self is altered in direct response to the social processes of racism and the historical representation of Blackness whereby the antecedent signifiers become secondary to my Blackness, and I retranslate my being: I become Black.
Elsewhere (Ibrahim, 2003), I narrated a significant incident in my understanding of what it means to “be” Black in North America. It happened in May 16, 1999, the day I was officially declared “Black,” with a White policeman who stopped me in downtown Toronto, Canada, for no reason other than “We are looking for a dark man with a dark bag,” as he uttered it. After questioning him about my “darkness,” he said, “We are looking for a Black man with a dark bag.” There is no need to mention that my bag is actually light-blue and now, however, I am metamorphosed from “dark” into “Black.” Not that it matters either ways, I reflected after, but some people either can not see or have “color problem.” I am citing it here for two reasons. First, to frame the overall social context where my research participants circulate and form their identities; that is, to further our understanding of the everyday racism, human degradation, and general annihilation of Black people in North America. And second, to acknowledge how the present researcher is implicated in the research and the questions I am asking.

Just hanging out: The study and the ethnography of performance

Between January and June 1996, I conducted a critical ethnographic research at Marie-Victorin High School (Ibrahim, 1998), which was then followed by short-term visits and informal observations in 2003. The research, which took place in an urban French-language high school in southwestern Ontario, Canada, looks at the lives of a group of continental Francophone African youth and the formation of their social identity. Besides their gendered and raced experience, their youth and refugee status was vital in their what I termed elsewhere moments of identification (Ibrahim, 2001): Where and how they were interpellated in the mirror of their society (cf. Althusser, 1971; Bhabha, 1994). Put otherwise, once in North America, I contend, very much similar to (Wright and) my experience above, these youth were faced with a social imaginary in which they were already Blacks. This social imaginary was directly implicated in how and with whom they identified, which in turn influenced what they linguistically and culturally learned and how they learned it. What they learned, I showed elsewhere (Ibrahim, 1999), is Black English as a Second Language (BESL), which they accessed in and through Black popular culture. They learned by taking up and repositing the Rap linguistic and musical genre and, in different ways, acquiring and rearticulating the Hip-Hop cultural identity.
In other words, continental African youth find themselves in a racially conscious society that “asks” them to racially fit somewhere, where it is their racial identity that influences, if not determines their answerability. This dialogism, I also showed elsewhere (Ibrahim, 1998), has strong influence in how African students “see” and translate themselves as well as others, how they go about negotiating their identity formation, and the spaces they eventually occupy. For African students, moreover, these processes of translation and negotiation convert into a re-articulation of what it means “to be” Black in a racially conscious society. Before their arrival to Canada, I argued, African students were not “Black,” in the North American sense, although, like the speaking “I” at this very moment, they had other adjectives that patch together their identities: “Sudanese,” “Somali,” “intellectual,” and so on. However, once in North America, these adjectives become secondary in their moments of identification. That is, soon after our arrival to North America, African students, Wright and I were/are seeking spaces, identities, and representations with which we could say, “We too are Black.” In their search for identification, African youth took up the identifiable Black Hip-Hop youth identity which in turn influenced what they learned and how. What they learned is BESL and how is by taking up and positing a Hip-Hop culture, especially Rap linguistic styles (Ibrahim, 1998, 1999). African youths, in other words, started the odyssey of their identity formation, and heretofore Blackness was/is the spatial representation of similitude, approximation, and affinity: thus becoming Black.

To become Black is not without its discursive politics of resistance. To say —using language, the body or any other media —“I too am Black” is to embody, perform, and ally oneself to and with the political category of Blackness. That African youth locate themselves in/to the margin by taking up Rap and Hip-Hop and speaking BESL is by no means a coincidence. On the contrary, here, culture and language take on a different spin. They are no longer about language and culture per se, but become markers of desire and investment; an invocation of political, racial, and historical space. Downtown Toronto, and other metropolitan cities where African youth reside, is no longer a geographical space, it is also a language, an attitude, and a set of garments. “Whassup homeboy?” is no longer a simple linguistic expression nor about mastering a language. It is a “space,” a way of saying: “I too am Black” or “I too desire and identify with Blackness.” Baggy cloths and the myriad shades of sneakers, bicycle shorts, chunky jewelry, dreadlocks, braids, and other high-fade designs become “spaces” – downtowns? – which African youth perform and occupy very comfortably. They perform these inside and outside the school.

It is here that ethnography of performance has proven to be most useful. As a research methodology, ethnography of performance argues that ethnographers’ best access to their research participants’ inner-Selves is the latter’s verbal and non-verbal performance. Put otherwise, the juxtaposition of what people actually and materially perform on and through their bodies, on the one hand, and what they say and think about those performances, on the other, give ethnographers the least distorted picture of their research subjects and their identities. Ethnography of performance is what might be called “hanging out” methodology. That is, first, it acknowledges that there is no one method that would capture especially the essence of identity, so, second, one is required to use triangulation or multiple methods. Third, since identity is multiple and performed in multiples ways and sites, it requires multiple observations, in different sites and over an extended period of time. The objective is to see a macro-picture, a set of patterns. For this research, I literally “hanged out” with my research participants for six months almost everywhere: classrooms, hallways, school steps, gymnasium, their homes, picnics, night clubs and parties, extracurricular school events, played basketball and became the basketball coach. Simply put, I took thorough notes of their multiple identities: notes that allowed me to see patterns and hence reach certain conclusions. I then asked the participants to reflect on my own observations, notes and conclusions. My research findings therefore are not simply mine, based on my notes and interpretations, but a gift from the youth.

The site of the research, Marie-Victorin (MV), was a small French-language high school (Grades 7-13) in southwestern Ontario, with a school population of approximately 400 students from various ethnic, racial, cultural, religious, and linguistic backgrounds. Besides French, English, Arabic, Somali, and Farsi were also spoken at the school. I spent over six months, as I already indicated, I attended classes at MV, talked to students, and observed curricular and extracurricular activities two or three times per week. Because of previous involvement in another project in the same school for almost two years, at the time of this research I was well acquainted with MV and its population, especially its African students, with whom I was able to develop a good communicative relationship. My background as a continental African also helped me to decipher their narratives and experiences. Clearly, we shared a safe space of comfort that allowed us to open up, speak and engage freely.
At the time of this research, students (or their parents) who were born outside Canada made up 70% of the entire school population at MV. Continental Africans constituted the majority within that figure and, indeed, within MV’s population in general. They varied, first, in their length of stay in Canada (from 1-2 to 5-6 years); second, in their legal status (some were immigrants, but the majority were refugees) and, third, in their gender, class, age, linguistic, and national background. They came from places as diverse as Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaïre), Djibouti, Gabon, Senegal, Somalia, South Africa, and Togo. With no exception, all of the African students in MV were at least trilingual, speaking English, French, and an African language, a mother tongue. Given their postcolonial educational history, significantly, most African youths in fact come to Franco-Ontarian schools already possessing a highly valued symbolic capital: le français parisien (Parisian French).

My research participants were part of this growing continental francophone African population in Franco-Ontarian schools. I chose ten boys and six girls for extensive ethnographic observation inside and outside the classroom and inside and outside the school and interviewed all sixteen. Of the ten boys, six were Somali speakers (from Somalia and Djibouti), one was Ethiopian, two were Senegalese, and one was from Togo. Their ages ranged from sixteen-twenty years. The six girls were all Somali speakers (also from Somalia and Djibouti), aged fourteen-eighteen years. Because some interviews were conducted in French I translated them all into English.

Performing It Through Language

The New Identity, Stuart Hall has argued above, neglects neither history nor memory. This was true in the case of African youth. Taking up the “New,” its linguistic and cultural practices was not done in opposition to their own “Old” culture and language. On the contrary, both cultures and languages, that is to say the historical, linguistic and cultural memories that African students brought with them to Canada, and what they took up/learnt once here (namely, Black popular culture and BESL), are found in the same sentence, in the same garment, on the same body and at the same time. The following is an excerpt, among many others, from my focus-group interview with male students. In it, we see that Sam and Jamal are not citing Black stylized English in opposition to their Somali and French language. There is certainly a space of inbetweenness, of simultaneity, of “inter” language, culture, and subjectivities:

Sam: I don't rap man, c'mon give me a break. [laughs] Yo. A'ait a'ait you know, we just about to finish the tape and all clat. Respect to my main man. So, you know, you know wha'm mean, I m reprezi'in Q7. One love to Q7, you know wha 'm mean and all my friends back in Q7. Even though you know I haven't seen them for a long time you know, I still I got love for them you know who 'm mean. Stop the tapin boy.
Jamal: Kick the free style. [I am translating here from the Somali language] Get me the tape man.
Sam: A'ait this is Sam reprez'in AQA where it's born, reprez'in you know wha 'm mean? I wonna say whassup to all my niggers, you know, peace and one love. You know wha ' mean Q7 represin forever. Peace (rap music).
Jamal: crank it man, 'm coming up (rap music).
Sam: Je reviens man, you know. It's from Mecca yo, e reprezin you know, Mecca a'ait. You ask [laughs]. [In Somli] Put the music up, wallahi bellahi [in the name of Allah]. [In Somali] Look at this, a'ait a'ait.

Expressions such as “a'ait,” “reprez'in Q7,” “boy,” “kick the free style,” “whassup to all my niggers” “peace and one love” are all very common in Rap sphere (Ibrahim, 1998, Ch. 7; Smitherman, 2000). Since Rap itself is a contemporary Black cultural form, re/citing it by African students is in fact a performance of where they want to locate themselves politically, racially, culturally, and linguistically. However, the desire to locate oneself to and with “Black” history and memory is espoused and entangled with the students’ embodied/embedded identities, history, culture, and language. The Somali language was not put off in the advantage of another. It is codeswitched in the same sentence with French and (Black stylized) English. Here, there is no either-or, there is on the contrary this and that. And metaphorically, but also literally, this is how cartography or demarcation of space is indicated, how we tell others who we are or what we have become.
In my focus-group interview with male students, I asked them in French to meditate on my above observation. Here are two significant responses:

Musa: Here, we are in Canada, you see. We are going to keep our culture, but at the same time there is the new technologies, the new musics. There is also glamour and modernization of the cities and towns.
Mukhi: The way we dress, the way we talk, we are in Canada ... The small Angolot you know, the small cloth we put around [the bottom], it is like the way we dress backhome. We need to mix in different genres of dress here. Backhome, for example, we put on Boubou and all that. But, I don't find it embarrassing to go out like that.

“We are going to keep our culture, but at the same time...” This is precisely the performance of tension between the Old and the New, which should be perceived as normal in the third space because there is a continuous code-switching between the two. Mukhi better expressed this idea of tension in his notion of “mix”-ing. This mixing is not done in favor of one or the other: “But I don't find it embarrassing to go out like that,” i.e. in Boubou. The Boubou becomes a signifier of national identity, but an ambivalent one since it is not put on by itself but “mixed” with a touch of Hip-Hop. There is no culture shock. Instead, there is simultaneity, parallelism and dialogism.

Are These Really Moments of Contradiction?

The following are two illustrative moments of the interstitiality, in-betweenness and their ethnographic observability. Again, the significance of these moments stems from the contention that they can be (read as) moments of contradictions. The language of the third space is developed, precisely, to argue otherwise, to make the reading of identity more complex. They may be moments of contention and tension, but, as we shall see, not of contradiction. As displaced subjects (including myself) who encountered new social, cultural, and linguistic spaces and practices, I will argue that African youths have become. They have become a negotiated product of the translated Old and New. To negate one or the other is to obliterate part of what has become. Since the third space is a language of in-betweenness, it does not have a fixed shape or form. Its shapes and forms depend on the sociohistorical conditions and on power relation. Edward W. Said, Salman Rushdie, Stuart Hall, Gayatri Spivak, Samuel Beckett, Julia Kristeva, Joseph Conrad, Jacques Derrida (the list is too long to be continued and too complex to get into each of these individuals) are a sample of what the third space might look like. They are products of in-betweenness, an ambivalent product. The two moments cited below, which are excerpts from my observation notebook, are meant to show the ambivalent nature of in-betweenness, the third space. Here they are 1) and 2):
1) The day was April 12th, 1996. It was during lunch and early evening time. The lunch time: I was sitting in the foyer of the school just under the board of the recognized best students by the school. Should I be surprised that all the names, except for two, sounded very French? Dare I say that they brought whiteness to mind? After four months at the school, I am forced to say No to the first and Yes to the second. Najat and a group of seven African young girls were holding a tape-recorder which they brought with them. They stopped in the middle of the foyer in their way from the gymnasium to the library; two girls were having the hijab – veil – on. "Whassup Awad? Man School sucks," Najat talked to me in English. At the beginning of her second sentence, one of the girls plugged in the tape-recorder: it was Cool J who was rapping. Najat turned around and spoke to one female in Somali and hereafter everyone joined in the dance. Hands were moving, bodies were swinging and the girls were talking in Somali, French, and English. Two of the girls, as already cited, were putting on Islamic hijab, others were dressed in Somali national dress: a Boubou, others were dressed in baggy Hip-Hop dress.
2) The second illustrative moment was on the some day around 5:30 p,m. It was a moment of loosening and relaxation after a very busy schedule of practice at the school cafeteria/stage. Everybody was busy practicing for Black History Month activities. The same afternoon group of girls I have just talked about above, plus everyone else, mostly girls, joined the music that was playing on the sound system. It was again Cool J followed by Queen Latifa followed by Toni Braxton followed by African music from Zaire, Egypt, and Somalia. Yusuf (the 19-year old, organizer of the Black History Month gathering—there was no teacher to help and no institutional support) was the DJ. Most girls, including mostly the subjects of my research, were dressed either in costume for the practice or Hip-Hop “mixed” with traditional African dress from South Africa, Somalia, Zaire, among others. Those who knew the songs—most of the crowd—seem to mimic and recite them. The hairstyles seem to vary from dyed to dreadlocks to African braids. During and after the practice, during and after this described episode, everyone was codeswitching between English, French, and students' own languages.
Male and female students, as we can see, did enter the third space. However, given the patriarchal history and prescribed social and Islamic religious “tradition,” the background of almost all research participants, the female body seems to fall under stricter rules and policed more rigidly and systematically. Whereas males seem to enjoy what the Canadian context can offer, including dating, females are mostly denied this privilege (Ibrahim, 1998, p. 248). Clearly gender plays a major role in the intense experience of the third space.

Dialectique de triplicité: An epilogue

You know in any culture, there are advantages and disadvantages, strong points and weak points. I will keep the strong points and leave the rest, there are points we love about our culture and others we don't like. So, it's about your choices, do you accept the weak points or don't you? But that doesn't mean I am rejecting my culture when I choose a new one, I keep what's valuable in my culture.
Amani (17, Female)

Perceptibly noticeable, nonetheless, are the ways in which the New and the Old intermingle in this complex third space. For African youth, to be is to become: to become a double-edged product, an ambivalent one. To become is to be answerable to more than one site. We answer through language, which is no longer an abstract category. On the contrary, it is a performed event in and through which identities are articulated. If identities are multiple, shifting and always in the making, as Stuart Hall (2001) and Judith Butler (1999) rightly tell us, then there are no pre-constructed identities that we just slip into. (Welcome to the constructed New Identity!) Moreover, it is certainly in language that identities are complexly performed. Code-switching then is not just about language, it is also, literally and metaphorically, about subjectivities that are code-switched depending on who is talking to whom, in what context, and for what purpose. The complex identity formation of displaced subjects, immigrants as well as refugees as I have shown, stems from the fact that once they are in the New socio-and-geo-cultural context, they endeavor to look for spaces of identification. African youth “chose” Blackness through arduous, complex and, mostly, subconscious processes of “translation” and “negotiation.” However, this was not done in opposition to, or in competition with their embodied memories and histories. The two, Old and New, are put forth in the same sentence, in the same garment, in the same space, at the same time.
Since I situated the language of the third space in a socio-historical moment and within power relations, it is Blackness that becomes a site of identification for African youth. They identified with a Black Canada and this was “declared” through language and culture, by invoking ritual expressions and bodily performances. Here, their Blackness highlights the extent of their racialized experiences and shows that the Black body speaks a language of its own, a language that is not fully theirs nor is it under their control. On their part, as we have seen, African youth have little difficulty in performing their culture and language along the translated New “Canadian” context. “Competition” and “entitlement,” even “being” and “becoming,” for me, therefore, have to be situated not in their abstract discourses, but rather in their contextual discursive space where to speak is to say — “I can also be partial, ambivalent, and a product of two.” The final question then is what are the possibilities of this partiality, ambivalence, and interstitiality to be named as such? The question, in other words, is multiple subjectivities and not singular ones since to be is to become, and to become in the dialectique de triplicité is to be forever born in two.

Althusser, L. (1971). Lenin and philosophy. London: New Left Books.
Bakhtin, M. (2001). The dialogic imagination: Four essays. Austin: University of Texas Press.
Bhabha, H. (1994). The Location of culture. London and New York: Routledge.
Bhabha, H. (1990). The third space: Interview with Homi Bhobha, In J. Rutherford (Ed.), Identity community, culture, difference (pp. 26-33). London: Lawrence & Wishart.
Bourdieu, P. (1991). Language and symbolic power. (G. Raymond and M. Adamson, Trans.). London: Polity Press
Butler, J. (1999). Gender trouble: Feminism and the subversion of identity. New York: Routledge.
Cohen, T. (1997). "Along the watchtower": Cultural studies and the ghost of theory. MLN, 1, 400-430
Foucault, M. (1986). Of other spaces. Diacritics, 10(3), 22-27.
Foucault, M. (1980). Power/knowledge: Selected interviews and other writings. New York: Pantheon.
Hall, S. (2001). Introduction: Who needs ‘identity’? In Hall, S. and du Gay, P. (Eds.), Questions of cultural identity (pp. 1-17). London: Sage.
Hall, S. (Ed.) (1997). Representation: Cultural representations and signifying practices. London: The Open University
Hall, S. (1991). Ethnicity: identity and difference. Radical America, 13 (4), 9-20.
Hall, S. (1990). Cultural identity and diaspora. In J. Rutherford (Ed.), Identity, community, culture, difference (pp. 222-237). London: Lawrence & Wishart.
Hall, S. (1986). On postmodernism and articulation. Journal of Communication lnquiry, 10(2), 45-60.
Holquist, M. (2002). Dialogism: Bakhtin and His World. London & New York: Routledge.
hooks, b. (1994). Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom. New York: Routledge.
Ibrahim, A. (2005). There is no alibi for being (Black)? Race, dialogic space, and the politics of trialectic identity. In C. Teelucksingh (Ed.), Claiming space: Racialization and spatiality in Canadian cities (pp. 20-32). Waterloo, ON: Waterloo University Press.
Ibrahim, A. (2004). One is not born Black: Becoming and the phenomenon(ology) of race. Philosophical Studies in Education, 35, 77-87
Ibrahim, A. (2003). Marking the unmarked: Hip-Hop, the gaze and the African body in North America. Critical Arts: A Journal for Cultural Studies, 2(1), pp. 15-24.
Ibrahim, A. (2001). “Hey, Whadap Homeboy?” Identification, desire, and consumption: Hip-Hop, performativity, and the politics of becoming Black. Taboo, 5(2), 85-102.
Ibrahim, A. (2000a). Trans-framing identity: Race, language, culture, and the politics of translation. trans/forms: Insurgent Voices in Education, 5(2), 120- 135.
Ibrahim, A. (2000b). “Hey, ain’t I Black too?” The politics of becoming Black. In R. Walcott (Ed.), Rude: Contemporary Black Canadian Cultural Criticism (pp. 109-136). Toronto: Insomniac.
Ibrahim, A. (1999). Becoming Black: Rap and Hip-Hop, race, gender, identity, and the politics of ESL learning. TESOL Quarterly, 33(3), 349-369.
Ibrahim, A. (1998). ‘Hey, whassup homeboy?’ Becoming Black: Race, Language, Culture, and the Politics of Identity. African Students in a Franco-Ontarian High School. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, OISE: University of Toronto.
Jenks, C. (1995). Watching your step: The history and practice of the flaneur. In Chris Jenks (Ed.), Visual culture (pp. 2-15). New York: Routledge.
Lacan, J. (1977). Écrits: A Selection. New York: Norton.
Morris, M. (1997). A question of cultural studies. In Angela McRobbie (Ed.), Back to reality? Social experience and cultural studies (pp. 102-120). Manchester: Manchester University Press.
Sartre, J.-P. (1980). Being and Nothingness: A Phenomenological Essay on Ontology. New York: Pocket Books.
Simon, R. I. and Dippo, D. (1986). On Critical Ethnography Work. Anthropology & Education Quarterly, 17, 195-202.
Smitherman, G. (2000). Black Talk: Words and Phrases from the Hood to the Amen Corner. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Soja, E. (1996). Thirdspace: Journeys to Los Angeles and Other Real-and-Imagined Places. Cambridge, Mass.: Blackwell.
Yon, D. (2000). Elusive Culture: Schooling, Race, and Identity in Global Times. New York: State University of New York Press.
Wittiq, M. (2003). One is not born a woman. In Alcoff, L and Eduardo, M. (Eds.), Identities: Race, class, gender, and nationality (pp. 159-164). Oxford: Blackwell.
Wright, H. K. (2003a). Cultural studies as praxis: (Making) an autobiographical case. Cultural Studies, 17(6), 805-822.
Wright, H. K. (2003b). Editorial: Whose diaspora is this anyway? Continental Africans trying on and troubling diasporic identity. Critical Arts, 17(1+2), 1-16.
Wright, H. K. (2002). Editorial: Notes on the (im)possibility of articulating continental African identity. Critical Arts, 16(2), 1-18.
Wright, H. K. (1998) Dare we de-centre Birmingham? Troubling the origin and trajectories of cultural studies. European Journal of Cultural Studies, 1(1), 33-56.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007



In a post-9/11 world, where the politics of ‘‘us’’ versus ‘‘them’’ has reemerged under the umbrella of ‘‘terrorism,’’ especially in the United States, can we still envision an éducation sans frontières: a globalized and critical praxis of citizenship education in which there are no borders? If it is possible to conceive it, what might it look like? In this review essay, Awad Ibrahim looks at how these multilayered and complex questions have been addressed in three books: Peter McLaren and Ramin Farahmandpur’s Teaching Against Global Capitalism and the New Imperialism, Nel Noddings’s Educating Citizens for Global Awareness, and Gita Steiner-Khamsi’s The Global Politics of Educational Borrowing and Lending. Ibrahim concludes that, through creating a liminal, dialogical space between humanism, environmentalism, materialism, philosophy, and comparative education, the authors in these books offer a critical pedagogy in which e´ducation sans frontie`res is possible — a project that is as visionary as it is hopeful.

The Article

[W]e are no longer strangers to the gift bestowed on us by those who rule us by the “noble lie.” We courier our wedding gifts of democracy to the rest of the world by F-16 fighter jets. Unfortunately, we will mistake the disease (free-market capitalism) for the cure (liberty and freedom)… [W]ill we continue to interpret our defeats as victories, to reaffirm our hegemonically reproduced and ideologically conditional reflexes, or will we finally see the writing on the wall?
Peter McLaren & Ramin Farahmandpur

In a world of instant communication and swift travel, we have become keenly aware of our interdependence. Many of us are now concerned about the welfare of human and nonhuman life, preservation of the Earth as home to the life, and the growing conflict between the appreciation of diversity and the longing for unity… We dream of peace in a world perpetually on the edge of war. One response to these concerns is the promotion of global citizenship
Nel Noddings

[We] take the process of globalization for granted, but have serious doubts about whether globalization necessarily leads to a “world culture,” “internationality,” or “internationalism” in education… [Here] globalization is for real, but the international community of experts agreeing on a common (international) model of education is imagined.
Gita Steiner-Khamsi

Éducation sans frontières or education without (or free of) borders is a peculiar and mystifying notion. However, can education be free, especially, of borders and if it is possible to conceive it without borders, how might it look like? My desire in answering this question is subjective and personal. I am what you might call a universal subject, an identité sans frontières. I was born and grew up in Africa (Sudan), studied in France and Canada, hold the Canadian passport and now teach in higher education in the United States. I do not, however, pretend to hold the Solomonic wisdom nor do I want to occupy the role of the “native informer,” so my intent in this essay review is to look at how, in multilayered and complex ways, others have responded to and answered this question. Namely, I want to review Teaching Against Global Capitalism and the New Imperialism: A Critical Pedagogy (by Peter McLaren and Ramin Farahmandpur; Rowman & Littlefield, 2005, 299 pp.); Educating Citizens for Global Awareness (edited by Nel Noddings; Teachers College Press, 2005, 161 pp.); and The Global Politics of Educational Borrowing and Lending (edited by Gita Steiner-Khamsi; Teachers College Press, 2004, 235 pp.).

For French-language speakers, éducation sans frontière is a Lyotardian wordplay on the infamous and the world’s leading non-governmental medical relief organization: Médecins Sans Frontière or MSF. Purposely working against, without and across borders, MFS has a noble charter that is directly related to the books reviewed here, especially Noddings’s. MSF mission is to offer “assistance to population in distress, to victims of natural or man-made disasters and to victims of armed conflict, without discrimination and irrespective of race, religion, creed or political affiliation;” to observe “neutrality and impartiality in the name of universal medical ethics and the right to humanitarian assistance;” and to demand “full and unhindered freedom in the exercise of its functions.” Since MSF is run by volunteers who “are aware of the risks and dangers of the missions they undertake,” these volunteers “promise to honor their professional code of ethics and to maintain complete independence from all political, economic and religious powers” ( If one replaces the word “medical” with “educational,” what picture would one have, especially at a global level? Reading the three books one ends up with overlapping, yet distinctive pictures. Though the noble charter is the same in all three books, the theoretical and discipline-based approaches taken by the authors offer different and in some cases, radically different answers and outcome.

In all three books, this noble charter is built around the tension between the material and the philosophical, the personal and the public, the abstract and the concrete, the suggestive and the didactic, the humanist and the exploitative, and the global and the local. McLaren and Farahmandpur’s book is unapologetic rote materialist, Noddings is humanist, environmentalist and philosophical, and Steiner-Kamsi is squarely within comparative education. Yet all authors are fully aware of this poststructural tension, make use of it, and push its boundaries in new directions. Also, all authors operate with and centralize the idea of globalization and relate it to education. They all ask: Is éducation sans frontières possible? Given their broad, suggestive and expansive approach, I will begin with McLaren and Farahmandpur’s answer first.

Marx, Globalization and Critical Pedagogy at Ground Zero

Teaching Against Global Capitalism and the New Imperialism is a collection of nine previously published essays in journals and edited volumes. It is a massive metatheory that has many different threads. With fear of simplification, the authors’ main project in these essays is to critique globalization, especially global capitalism, postmodernism, cultural hybridity, and the “new imperialism.” They do this through a return to the relevant dimensions of Marxist theory while proposing, as a cure, what they call “critical revolutionary pedagogy.” For McLaren and Farahmandpur, globalization is a deceptive and euphemistic term. It hides its “ugly” face: imperialism, especially cultural imperialism, U.S. project of unilateralism and world domination, exploitation of labor, Wal-Martization, state sponsored terrorism, militarization of public space, corporate media, “moribund” or “bargain-basement capitalism” where the environment is transformed into “Planet Mall” for short-term profits and at the expense of ecological health and human dignity. Thus, “cannibalizing life as a whole” (p. 15). As they sum it up, their book

… does not pretend to be a comprehensive account of how we have arrived at this tragic state of affairs but attempt, if only modestly, to explore some of the central characteristics of U.S. imperialism and to situate these characteristics with a specific problematic that has been our province of research for a number of years, that of developing a philosophy of praxis that has gone by various descriptions: critical pedagogy, socialist pedagogy, and revolutionary critical pedagogy being among the most prominent (p. 1)

Teaching Against Global Capitalism and the New Imperialism begins with a fierce critique of Hardt and Negri’s best-selling book, Empire, published pre-9/11 and Iraq invasion. In it, Hardt and Negri announced the arrival of postimperialism and argued that, given the rise of Bush doctrine of New World Order; the defeat of U.S. imperialism in Vietnam; the expansion of nongovernmental organizations; the diminishing role of the welfare state; and the increase influence of multinational corporations and supranational organizations such as World Bank, WTO and the IMF, we have entered an era of “peaceful capitalist coexistence” (McLaren and Farahmandpur, 2005, p. 2). For McLaren and Farahmandpur, Hardt and Negri’s “stubborn insistence that state power has become obsolete or that its role has significantly diminished” (p. 3) is not only disagreeable, but it gives ammunition to the discourse of multinational corporations. In the case of the U.S., for example, McLaren and Farahmandpur argued, “the state continues to play a key role in advancing the U.S. imperial project of global dominance,” and it does so “by means of two interlocking processes: globalization and neoliberalism” (p. 3).

Neoliberalism, according to McLaren and Farahmandpur, is a festival of masquerade and a theater of the absurd where unregulated market mechanisms rule, antimarket policies are eschewed, social subsidies are eliminated, limitless concessions are offered to transnational corporations, the market is established as the patron of educational reforms, environmental regulations are scrapped, public education is dismantled, “grab-the-profit-and-run,” and downsizing or “corporate anorexia” are celebrated in the stock market. Neoliberalism, in short, is “capitalism with the gloves off” or “socialism for the rich” (pp. 15-16). Coupled with neoliberalism for McLaren and Farahmandpur is postmodernism. By tacitly accepting a market economy; concentrating on superstructure of culturalist discourse; celebrating the death of universalism in favor of “hyperindividualism”; mummifying Marxism; and by proposing itself at the center of “the theater of educational transgression” and not accepting that “we are hardly in a ‘postcolonial’ moment,” McLaren and Farahmandpur argue, postmodernist theory falls prey to an identity politics of “facile form of culturalism” (p. 25). Hence collapsing into a form of “toothless liberalism and antibrushed insurgency” (p. 18). In its final analysis, postmodernism – much like other “posts” in poststructuralism, posthistory, postideology where différence, discursive struggles and desire are valued over material and political economy – amounts to a “Great Delusion” and thus becoming a “radical right.”

So, what exactly are their contentions? They have three. First, they write, “ We believe that Marxist analysis should serve as an axiomatic tool for contesting current social relations linked to the globalization of capital and the neoliberal education policies that follow in its wake” (p. 22). They admit, however, “Marxist theory constitutes a social system of analysis that inscribes subjects and is seeped in the dross of everyday life. As such, it must continually be examined…” (p. 22). Second, when it comes to capitalism, their position is that it is “a universal system of domination that integrates and coordinates and ultimately subsumes all other forms of oppression to its brutal commodity logic and privileging hierarchies of exploitation” (p. 29). Third, when combined with capitalism, old-style militarism, financial practices, standardization of commodity, and the imposition of the law of the market, globalization has been whirled into a form of “new imperialism.”

As a resistant pedagogy to this “new imperialism,” McLaren and Farahmandpur offer a “Freirean,” “working class,” “socialist pedagogy,” which they also refer to as “revolutionary multiculturalism,” “revolutionary citizenship praxis” or “revolutionary critical pedagogy.” We need “revolutionary critical pedagogy” because what we know now as critical pedagogy “must do more than unweave at night what each day is stitched together by the commodity logic of capital; it must build a new vision of society freed from capital’s law of value. A critical pedagogy, in order to advance revolutionary praxis,” they argue, “must be able to endorse the cultural struggles of workers and coordinate such struggle as part of a broader “cross-border” social movement unionism aimed at organizing and supporting the working classes and marginalized cultural workers in their efforts to build new international anticapitalist struggles along the road to socialism” (p. 150).

Revolutionary critical pedagogy centralizes class struggle, political economy, and political education in raising workers’ revolutionary consciousness. It is empowering, democratic, participatory, and worker-centered pedagogy; it critiques corporate-sponsored multiculturalism; moves beyond the celebration of hybridized identities and pluralism; calls for a redistribution of wealth and a return to socialism; links the social identities of marginalized and oppressed groups with their reproduction within capitalist relations of production; and “addresses the importance of unity and difference not only as a sense of political mobilization but also as a practice of cultural authenticity that neither fetishizes tradition nor forecloses its allegiance to traditional knowledges” (p. 152). As they summed it up, “We need nothing short of a social revolution” (152).

For those of us who are familiar with critical pedagogy, especially McLaren’s and Giroux’s work, you will see too much of a familiar language. There is hardly any new theorization. The connection between globalization, capitalism and pedagogy is a worthwhile project, but the 299 pages, could easily be reduced to half, and that would be generous. If the reader is concerned with Marxism, education, and globalization, I recommend this book. Otherwise, read chapter one and chapter five. There are three main critiques that I have for the book. First, its use of language. There are too many terms that are thrown around with a lot of assumption of who the read is or dare I say, should be. The irony of the book is that it calls for a “working-class pedagogy” in a language even those of us who are familiar with critical pedagogy will struggle over. Though the authors critique it, I am quite aware of the poststructural notion of reading, meaning, and textuality. McLaren and Farahmandpur do not invite their reader in, they tell you what you should think. They almost bark at you. When you are barked at so often, you get tired after awhile. In a classically Marxist language, we seem to be in a false consciousness, especially the Left; and as a postcolonial subject myself, I am told what I should think and how I should feel. How offendingly patronizing those moments were!

My second critique concerns their idea of identity politics. Reading and rereading the book, I am still not clear on how they deal with the question of difference: race, class, gender, sexuality and ability, among others. Here, it seems, there is no tension between these categories with which we should live. There is a clear language of locating and subsuming the discussion, unfortunately in a classic Marxist language, under class struggle. My final critique which, again, is related to language, is the feeling one has as one is working through and reading the text. There is an almost Godly-figure hovering over you and pointing its finger telling you the reader, especially if you espouse a Left position, that you are not Left enough. Sadly enough, there is an increased competition in the Left of making oneself more (linguistically) chic (see even the authors’ picture at the end of the book) and more radical than the last radical. It is an uncomfortable feeling and it permeates a good majority of the book.

Question: Is éducation sans frontières possible?

McLaren and Farahmandpur’s answer: Yes, but a totally different and radical notion of border, pedagogy, and globalization has to be created, one that is grounded on Marx(ism) and class struggle and aims for “nothing short of a social revolution.”

Globalization, Citizenship and Dialogue

In editing her book, Educating Citizens for Global Awareness, Nel Noddings took a different turn, not to the Left but to progressive Humanism since, as she put it, “… a progressive orientation toward global citizenship will promote peace” (p. 4). Educating Citizens for Global Awareness is a thin volume of seven chapters that was published by Teachers College Press and The Boston Research for the 21st Century. The book begins with a foreword by Daisaku Ikeda, founder of The Boston Research for the 21st Century and president of Soka Gakkai International, a Buddhist association. Ikeda begins with what could be a summation of the whole book. He writes, “The September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States were a grave challenge to the ideal of dialogue between civilizations, the quest on which the world embarked at the start of the new century. They were acts of wanton mayhem that threatened to undermine humanity’s most basic right to live in peace.” He continues, “It is my belief that the eradication of terrorism calls for the creation of new, international political, legal, and economic systems, as well as security measures” (p. ix).

For Ikeda, there are two sides to/of globalization: positive and negative. The positive side is democratization and the spread of awareness of human rights, and the negative is war, ethnic conflict, rising economic disparity, the spread of weapons of mass destruction, and the destruction of the “global ecology.” Education, for Ikeda and the rest of the authors in the book, holds the key to resolving especially the dark side of globalization. This “true education,” as he called it, “summons forth the innate goodness of humanity – our capacity for nonviolence, trust, and benevolence. It enables individuals to reveal their unique qualities and, by encouraging empathy with others, opens the door to the peaceful coexistence of humanity” (p. ix). If we are to foster “global citizens,” Ikeda argues, this kind of humanistic education is crucial. Situated within the Buddhist notion of “dependent originations” – the understanding and appreciation of interdependence – this “creative harmonization” calls for wisdom (the ability to perceive the interdependence of all life), courage (the courage to respect one anothers’ differences), and empathy (the ability to share the pain of every person and all of life).

The Executive Director of The Boston Research for the 21st Century, Virginia Strauss, wrote the preface which was followed by Nel Noddings’ introduction of the book. Opening with Thomas Paine’s “My country is the world; to do good is my religion,” Noddings’ first question is, “what is global citizenship?” Because it is global, she contends, our definition of citizenship can no longer depend on the modernist notion of citizenship, referring to a national or regional identity, nor can we align it to a global citizenship that is solely defined in terms of economic, profit, and interest. The new definition, for Noddings, is anchored on the notion of “concern.” Global citizenship should be concerned with, first, the welfare of the national, the regional, the global and their inhabitants; second, the health of our physical world and the preservation of well-loved places; third, the balance of diversity, unity and universality; and, fourth, the worldwide social and economic justice. Emphasizing her ideas of caring about and caring for, Noddings spent the rest of her introduction explaining these “concerns.” Ironically, Iraq was only mentioned once and Afghanistan was totally absented in an introduction of a book on global citizen and peace education post 9/11.

The first chapter is written by Peggy McIntosh. This is a worthwhile read and probably, beside Nash and Ladson-Billings’ chapters, a highlight of the book. McIntosh introduces an approach to global citizenship that is both personal, historical and social. She associates global citizenship to several capacities of the mind: the ability to observe oneself and the world around one; make comparison and contrasts; see plurally; see power relations; and balance awareness of one’s realities with the realities of entities outside of the perceived self. She also associates global citizenship to several capacities of the heart: the ability to respect one’s own and others’ feelings and delve deeply into them; experience conflicting feelings; experience affective worlds plurally; wish competing parties well; observe and understand how the “politics of location” affect one’s own and others’ position and power in the world; and the ability to acknowledge the embedded nature of culture in the hearts of ourselves and others (p. 23). To help teachers operationalize this framework McIntosh developed fives interactive phases.

Phase 1 acknowledges the absent, Phase II admits the needs to include the absent, Phase III acknowledges the absence of the absent as a dynamic and a question of power relation, Phase IV works with non-binary thinking and sees everyone as a knower and everyone’s knowledge production is worth of study, Phase V is a “version in which the world of knowledge is redefined and reconstructed to include us all” (p. 33). Depending on the political choices we make, according McIntosh, this will take us 100 to 200 years to conceive.

In Chapter 2, Stacie Nicole Smith and David Fairman show how a group of students in grade 10 World History class in Newton, Massachusetts, was able to work with conflict resolution. Students were required to develop a better understanding of how and why Americans might legitimately disagree on what the United States should do in response to September 11. They were introduced first to “Workable Peace Framework.” This is a framework that begins with the identification of the source of conflict (one of four: identities, interests, beliefs and emotions), and builds on conflict management strategies. The latter can either move towards peace (prepare to seek peace, explore needs and concerns, acknowledge needs and rights, control violence, and engage in negotiation) or war (stop trying to meet each other’s needs, resort to threats, abandon talks and wage war) (see p. 45). This framework is another highlight of the book and noteworthy.

Chapter 3 is by Nel Noddings who revisits her idea of “place-based education.” The chapter is an answer to why we love certain places and be ready to fight and kill for them. It also investigates the connection between the concepts of local and global citizenship. In Chapter 4, Gloria Ladson-Billings explores what she calls “new” or “flexible citizens.” These are “complicated citizens” who are created within, and in relation to global capitalism, international travel, communication, and mass media. As she summarized it, “Instead of being bound by geopolitical boundaries and national loyalties, people who are developing multiple allegiances that transform them into “flexible citizens.” Such citizens,” she argues, “are more committed to their work and careers than to any particular national identity” (p. 74). Yet, she distinguishes between “diasporas” and “cosmopolitanisms.” The former, for Ladson-Billings, “are comprised of marginalized, displaced, and victimized subjects trying to make a place for themselves in the modern world,” whereas the latter “are worldly, progressive intellectuals who decide to be global citizens” (p. 74, original emphasis). Ultimately, Ladson-Billings argues, the aim of education is the creation of that organic, cosmopolitan, and active citizen and intellectual who is investing in developing a consciousness of global citizenship and is engaged in the public good, locally and globally.

In Chapter 5, Stephen Thornton is thinking about the different ways in which we can incorporate in the curriculum teaching for and teaching about internationalism, especially in social studies classrooms. From World War I, to Serbia, Balkans, Great Depression, UN, and Austro-Hungarian Empire, among others, he sees nationalism and internationalism as inextricable and provides many suggestions on how to include teaching for and about internationalism. Chapter 6 by Robert Nash is a personal letter to secondary school teachers on teaching about religious pluralism in public schools. “The events of 9/11 have thrown our provincial and isolationist American worldview, particularly its religious, political, and cultural elements, into turmoil,” he writes (p. 95). Nash provides probably the most urgent discussion on how to think and talk about, as well as how to teach religions in public schools. His letter is a must read for every history, government, and social studies teacher. It is personal, genuine, and offers tremendous experience and wisdom on what might be described as the most urgent discussion that needs to take place in the West: the role of religion in public space, especially extremism whatever its believes and wherever it comes from. He argues that we need to become “more globally aware, religiously literate citizens” (p. 93). The globally aware and religiously literate citizen is a “cosmopolitan person who is knowledgeable about, and receptive to, the complexity and richness of religious diversity throughout the world;” one who is “literally educated and knows that it is impossible to understand the history, culture, or politics of most modern societies if one is ignorant of the fundamental role that religion has played in every country” (p. 93-94). After all, Nash quoted Rig Veda, “Truth is one, but the wise call it by many Names” (p. 104).

Nancy Carlsson-Paige and Linda Lantieri wrote Chapter 7 where they make the case that, once given the occasion, young people can do wonder. The chapter tells the story of a middle school in Quincy, Massachusetts. It all began when a Pakistani boy named Iqbal Masih visited this middle school. Masih talked to the kids about child labor. Two years later, students received the news that Masih was shot dead suspiciously in Pakistan. Students banded together and mounted a campaign again child labor. They created an endowment in his name and forced the United Nations to pass a resolution to toughen child labor laws. For Carlsson-Paige and Lantieri, this is the kind of citizen we desperately need, one who is not only aware, but can do something. Nel Noddings followed this chapter with the book conclusion that answered the question, “what have we learned?”

Nel Noddings is a philosopher and as such she has some areas where she shines and in others where the light seems to dim a little bit. The book is more in the latter than in the former. How can one write an introduction and a conclusion on peace, global education, and war without a mention of the current political situation especially in the Middle East, particularly Iraq and Afghanistan? One literally sees a change in language and tone when Noddings reverts to philosophy, specifically her idea of “care.” In the book, she tries to apply that idea to the ecological system with less success. When she talks about fertilizers, pesticides, and biogenetic diversity, one wonders why doesn’t she focus on what she does best, philosophy? Her idea of “place-based” education and pedagogy is redundant and is addressed better in other chapters in the book.

Overall, generously read, there are basically four main ideas in this book that are new for me. The first is McIntosh’s interactive Phases. She developed them as part of a larger framework she calls S.E.E.D. (Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity). These phases are not only practical, but they offer concrete ways to deal with equity, diversity, and global citizenship. Thanks to McIntosh’s framework, the latter is no longer an abstract category. For those of us who teach social foundations, I highly recommend these phases. The second idea is Stacie Nicole Smith and David Fairman’s notion “Workable Peace Framework,” which I discuss above. Given what is happening in some postcolonial countries in Africa, South America and Asia, as well as in the Middle East, this framework is worthy of study. The third idea that is noteworthy in the book is Nash’s letter. It is layered and I will do no justice to explain every idea in it. Read it! The fourth idea is more personal. Ladson-Billings’ “flexible citizen” hit home, it stared me in the eye. This is what I would term the “universal subject,” which is myself. Born in Africa, studied in France and Canada and living in the United States. The allegiances are multiple. Given her intellectual capital, the universal subject is she who can live and function anywhere. She carries not her bags, but her books. She can be in Australia one year, the U.S. the following year, while spending her sabbatical year between France, Germany, Argentina and South Africa.

Question: Is éducation sans frontières possible?
The volume’s answer: Yes, of course! In peace and (global) citizenship education, there are many examples showing this possibility.

The Politics of Educational Policy and Intellectual Borrowing and Lending

The third book, The Global Politics of Educational Borrowing and Lending, was edited by Gita Steiner-Khamsi of Columbia University. Conceived within a post-Fordist economy, the book comprises 12 chapters that are divided in three parts, an introduction and a conclusion by the editor, and a foreword by Thomas S. Popkewitz. Although the authors in the book come from many disciplines, the book distinctly locates itself within the field of “comparative education.” In his foreword, Popkewitz offers a succinct summary of the book while adding his own vision of globalization and the politics of educational borrowing and lending. He begins with a fiercest critique of how globalization is increasingly treated as a fait accompli, on the one hand, and fatalistically ahistorically, on the other. We need to deal with globalization not as “planet speak” – a ubiquitous word that everybody knows – but as an empty signifier that is historically and socially defined. This is, he argues, the advantage of this book. It deals with an educational policy phenomenon – educational borrowing and lending – and explores its historical and contextual dimensions in their national and transnational studies. As such, education plays a central role in globalization, especially in the process of knowledge production, yet Popkewitz argues, education “often is assumed peripheral, if considered at all” (p. viii) in the discourse of globalization.

The Global Politics of Educational Borrowing and Lending centralizes education at the heart of globalization and sees the school as “the major institution in which the circulation of knowledge about the modern self is positioned” (p. viii). Well summarized by Popkewitz, the book has seven basic themes. First, there is a post-structural understanding of knowledge production, where knowledge is historically and socially produced and so there is no universal and absolute knowledge. The very idea of citizenship has to be contextually defined within a participatory notion of civil society. Second, following this is the need to empirically examine how knowledge flows within networks, social systems and institutions. Borrowing, lending and converging become central concepts in the process of knowledge flow. Borrowing, for Popkewitz, does not mean copying. It is a concept to examine “how patterns of thought move through and are transmuted in different layers of the local and global systems” (p. ix). Third, what was missing in the first two books is centralized here: how concretely and empirically the local and the global talk to each other, so to speak, dialogue, produce and reproduce each other. The studies in the book look at how the local family, child, community, and nation take up, translate and transform the global in local varieties.

Fourth, from multiple angles, the book examines the role of international agencies, such as the World Bank, IMF, UN, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), such as Care and Save the Children. Fifth, while centralizing comparative education, the book is exceptionally interdisciplinary and it gives, sixth, systematic and historical understanding of the relationship between the local and the global, as I already indicated. Finally, the book offers a non-normative approach to comparative research. Unfortunately, the field of comparative education, according to Popkewitz, “often is designed around developing ameliorative models for the “transferring” of ideas and practices” (p. x). That is, transfer what works! Instead, the studies in the book show how people hold on to their localities while learn “lessons from elsewhere.”

In her short introduction, Gita Steiner-Khamsi gives an overview of the book, which is a response to “the global trend of transnational borrowing and lending in education” (p. 1). It is an examination of the politics of why and how educational policies are imported or exported, and how they are adapted locally once they have been transferred from one context to another. As she put it, “this book addresses globalization in education, and attempts to introduce both a historical and a contextual dimension that we find lacking in the ongoing debate [on the link between] the increase transnational flow of goods, finance, communication, people and ideas (globalization), and changes in national educational systems” (p. 3). Complexifying the “semantics of globalization” and thinking through the idea of “global civil society,” Steiner-Khamsi argues for a reconceptualization of the idea of “borrowing.” For her, borrowing “draws our attention to processes of local adaptation, modification, and resistance to global forces of education” (p. 5).

Part One of the book comprises three chapters. The first chapter by a well-known scholar in comparative sociology and history, Charles Tilly of Columbia University, is meant to set the stage theoretically for the book. Tilly argues that there is a misconception of globalization as a “new” phenomenon. “Since the movement of human out of Africa some 40,000 years ago, humanity has globalized repeatedly,” he writes. “Any time a distinctive set of social connections and practices expands from a regional to a transcontinental scale, some globalization is occurring. Each time an existing transcontinental set of social connections and practices fragments, disintegrates, or vanishes, some de-globalization occurs,” he adds (p. 13). Tilly’s chapter deals with “global flows.” He differentiates between three recent flows or waves of globalization: around 1500, between 1850-World War I, and post-1945. What distinguishes the latter wave of globalization is the “relative emphasis on commerce, commitment, and coercion” (p. 16). He calls it the “darker sides of globalization.” Looking at economic disparity and the ecological effects of globalization, Tilly offers a larger social context analysis of the existing inequalities within globalization.

In Chapter 2, Jurgen Schriewer and Carlos Martinez offer an analysis on how, given the global flow of ideas, there is a tacit assumption that scholars and people in general would be reading the same books and/or sharing increasingly similar ideas. This is not true. Hence, the authors make a distinction between globalization or internationalization (which is real) and internationality (which is imagined). This is a dense and confusing chapter. Chapter 3 by David Phillips presents a conceptual framework for studying cross-national “policy attraction” in education. By studying the British fascination with and interest in educational provision at all system levels in Germany (including universities), Phillips provides a model and a methodology for studying policy borrowing, which he sees it in the following stages: cross-national attraction, decision to borrow, implementation, and internationalization or indigenization. As Steiner-Khamsi put it, “cross-national attraction can be interpreted as an act of international cooperation advancing convergence… or as an act of inter-state competition strengthening divergence…” (p. 10; emphasis added).

The meat of the book, however, is in Part Two, dealing with “the politics of educational borrowing.” This section, according to Steiner-Khamsi, is informed by three ideas: 1) that “externalization” or educational reforms tend to take place more frequently where politics can interfere, such as privatization of education, standardization, and deunionization of teachers, among others; 2) that the implemented policies at the local level barely resembles their original sources; 3) that to legitimize their reforms, decision makers and policy makers make international references, even though similar policies may exist in their backyard. In Chapter 4, Iveta Silova addresses what Phillips calls in Chapter 3 “phony policy borrowing.” This is more rhetorical than actual policy, that is, policy makers borrow the rhetoric from elsewhere with no intention of implementing the practices that accompany that rhetoric. Latvia, for example, ratified a minority-language policy without implementing it when it came to the Russian-language speakers.

Chapter 5 is exceptionally interesting where the author, Tali Yariv-Mashal, shows how the “Israeli Black Panthers” borrowed both the rhetoric and the practice of the Black Panther Movement in the United States. In Chapter 6, Carol Anne Spreen discusses the case OBE or outcome-based education in South Africa. Convincingly, she demonstrates the indigenization of OBE, originally borrowed from the US, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. Chapter 7 by Bernhard Streitwieser shows the ongoing debate about the role of education in post-unification Germany. Should education be for Erziehung (with an emphasis on personal, social, and political development) or for Bildung (with an emphasis on literacy). Streitwieser found that the role of education was conceived differently in East vs. West Germany, and the current system reflects that tension.

In Chapter 8, William deJong-Lambert asks: What happens to science when it is used as an instrument of oppression? He looks at the Polish academic community which used Lysenkoism, a method to propagate Marxist genetics in Poland. Lysenkoism ended up, deJong-Lambert shows, providing Leninism and Stalinism with “scientific rationality.” deJong-Lambert goes on to investigate how the Polish scientific community is dealing with that legacy now. Chapter 9 by Frances Vavrus is, I think, worthy of study. She examines how the World Bank policies of water privatization were translated locally in Tanzania. By translation, she means both literally (from English into Swahili) and figuratively. Using Bourdieu’s idea of champ or field, where complex and contradictory discursive frameworks are constructed, Vavrus demonstrates the interplay between external and internal, top-down and down-up, global and local changes. Vavrus offers a complex reading, yet she doesn’t account for power relations: Who gives and who has the money? There seems to be no center of/to power. Another chapter worthy of study is Thomas Luschei’s, Chapter 10. Luschei looks at the current Brazalian educational reforms that started in 1998. It is called Escola Ativa and modeled after, borrowed from the Colombian model of Escuela Nueva. Luschei shows how, in order to be able to borrow $62.5 million from the World Bank, the Brazalian government had to discredit its own previous reforms. In the end, Luschei argued, Escola Ativa became a joint rhetorical venture between the World Bank (which needed to hear the language of borrowing and reform), the Brazalian government (which needed the money), and the Colombian model (which seemed to have “worked”). They were telling each, Luschei conclude, that the money was not going to waste.

The final part of the book is on “the politics of educational lending,” where the authors argue that we need to keep the actors in mind and that there is no educational process of borrowing and lending that is free of politics. Dana Burde in Chapter 11 looks at the role of NGOs in a preschool reform project in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The project focused on establishing and enhancing parent-teacher associations (PTAs) as a way of building civil society. These PTAs however did not work, yet NGOs kept on holding on to their original ideas because this is how they get their fundings. In Chapter 12, Phillip Jones investigates the role of the World Bank as both a loan and lending entity. In the 21st century, the World Bank sees itself more as an education policy lender than a loan-providing bank. As such, it is rearticulating and reimagining itself at least discursively. In her conclusion, Gita Steiner-Khamsi reminds us of the history of comparative education where the emphasis was on exporting what “worked.” Noteworthy in the conclusion is her definition of the “externalization thesis.” Defined first by Schriewer, Steiner-Khamsi sees externalization as an educational borrowing or “the references to lessons from elsewhere… in which either an imaginary international community (“international standards”) or a concrete other (e.g., national education systems, reform models, reform strategies, etc.) is evoked as a source of external authority for implementing reforms that otherwise would have been resisted.” Phrased otherwise, “the act of lesson drawing often is used as an effective policy strategy to certify contentious policies at home” (p. 203, emphasis added). She concludes the book with a second overview of the lessons learned from the different chapters.

There are many interesting chapters in this book, especially Tilly, Phillips, Yariv-Mashal, Vavrus and Luschei’s. McLaren and Farahmandpur would be enjoy this book since as Popkewitz put it in the foreword, “Through the concept of externalization we … can consider the idea of neoliberalism that floats through much of contemporary comparative analysis.” Indeed, neoliberalism floats through much of this book, yet it is complexly layered and one can see many approaches to the global politics of educational borrowing and lending.

Question: Is éducation sans frontières possible?
The volume’s answer: Yes, of course! It is already taking place and all the chapters in the volume show that. Indeed, the very concept – éducation sans frontières – was first read and introduced in this volume (see p. 3).

There Is No Conclusion With Globalization

In Globalization, Zygmunt Bauman (1998) writes that, “‘Globalization’ is on everybody’s lips; a fad word fast turning into a shibboleth, a magic incarnation, a pass-key meant to unlock the gates to all present and future mysteries. For some,” he continues, “‘globalization’ is what we are bound to do if we wish to be happy; for others ‘globalization’ is the cause of our unhappiness” (p. 1). Clearly, this is the tension in all three books. McLaren and Farahmandpur are unhappy with globalization, though they acknowledge its impossibility, since it is obliterating the communal sense of work and productivity. Globalization, for McLaren and Farahmandpur, is another name for predatory and exploitative capitalism. For Nel Noddings and Gita Steiner-Khamsi, there are many possibilities that come with globalization. Following an Aristotlean approach, if not a post-structuralist one, Noddings and Steiner-Khamsi are calling for a contextualized notion of globalization that is both resistant to and work with global forces. On a personal level, as a universal subject my approach to globalization and is probably closer to Noddings and Steiner-Khamsi and their authors than to McLaren and Farahmandpur. Yet, what McLaren and Farahmandpur raise will haunt me for awhile. It is powerful and ethically unresolvable. But we need to read their questions since, as Bauman put it, “The price of silence is paid in the hard currency of human suffering… Questioning the ostensibly unquestionable premises of our way of life is arguable the most urgent of the services we owe our fellow humans and ourselves” (p. 5). The best is yet to come, but it will not come if we don’t envision it. I read all three books with that lens and I advice you to do the same. Yes, there is life after the Panopticon and yes, we need to move through the world as opposed to the world moving by us (Bauman, 1998). Indeed, we need to feel chez soi locally, nationally and globally. This would require éducation sans frontières and rigorous intellectual border crossing. In this sense, applied to education, MSF charter should be our guiding philosophy, our critical revolutionary pedagogy post-9/11.

Bauman, Z. (1998). Globalization. New York: Columbia University Press.