Our Civilizing Mission
Our Civilizing Mission: The Lessons of Colonial Education begins by casting light on some current anxieties about the historical and conceptual foundations of ‘humanities’ education, especially when it comes to teaching literature. The book’s title, it is explained, is meant to evoke those anxieties, and a certain sense of crisis, not to imply that ‘we’ have simply inherited pedagogical frameworks from colonialism, still less that we should embrace any such inheritance. Edward Said is an important reference point; his memoir, Out of Place, reveals and exemplifies internal tensions around education, and suggests that self-doubt has pushed many critic-teachers – notably in the field of postcolonial studies, though certainly not only there – towards paradoxical and self-contradictory positions, particularly in relation to education. The possible ‘coloniality’ of all humanities education is an issue here, meaning its tendency to inculcate specific values and norms. If that normative tendency is inevitable, critic-teachers today must decide if they can still justify it. 
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