Sociocultural Standpoints and Reactions to Representations of African Identity in a Online Curriculum

By Judith Stevenson.

Published by The Social Sciences Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

In the tradition of critical pedagogy, GlobaLink-Africa is a web-based, interactive, curriculum resource for critical thinking about globalization and its relationship with Africa. Intended for high school learners around the world, the curriculum presents a series of first person narratives that introduce students to globalization through the stories of sixteen fictional characters in different African countries and the United States. Each character’s story provides an entryway into understanding globalization, first in the context of one or more related issues, and second, via layers of progressively deeper investigation into the inter-related causes and consequences of the issue. Ideas raised in these stories are further elaborated by comments, critiques and questions put forward by two guide characters who illustrate the contested nature of globalization. This paper examines cultural responses to the curriculum from students and educators in South Africa and the United States. For example, for the American teachers who assessed the curriculum, the racial implications were invisible and did not enter into their critique. On the other hand, South African educators suggested that there are problems associated with the way in which the fictional characters are constructed as stereotypical “Africans.” They call into question the characters’ essentialized personal identities and contingent predictability of their positions regarding globalization processes. I argue that the differences between the two reactions highlight how salient issues within different cultures shape the perceptions and implementations of the curriculum.

Keywords: Internet Representations of Racial Identity, Globalization, Africa, Online Curricula

International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Volume 6, Issue 8, pp.201-212. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 2.527MB).

Dr. Judith Stevenson

Assistant Professor/Director, Department of Human Development, Peace and Social Justice Studies Program, California State University, Long Beach, Long Beach, California, USA

I have conducted research in South Africa since 1993 in various capacities. My interests include grassroots political activism, human rights and social justice, gender and feminist theory, and globalization processes. From 1997 to 2003 I conducted research in an urban township outside of Johannesburg, South Africa. This research focused on the oral histories of now disenfranchised grassroots political activists, and juxtaposed stories of liberation and apartheid against the disappointments of the “new” South Africa. Currently, I am launching a project in a rural area of South Africa and am investigating human rights violations by the mining industry. I also direct an educational project that is an online curriculum that teaches high school students about globalization processes and their relationship to African countries. It includes a partner school project the is linking schools in California with schools in South Africa.


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