”We usually don’t talk that way about Europe…” - Interrupting the coloniality of Norwegian citizenship education
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In this study, I explore the coloniality of Norwegian citizenship education, emphasizing knowledge production and discourses in primary school classrooms. I investigate the social justice of knowledge production and explore the possibilities, complexities, and risks of critical interruptions to hegemonic epistemological frameworks. The emphasis on coloniality engages analyses of how historical colonialism installed enduring epistemological and material structures that continue to inform our current ways of thinking and being. Coloniality encompass a system where the white majority represents the invisible norm, acting as the bearer of the alleged universal rationality. The significance of coloniality for citizenship education is related both to locating the possible limitations posed by colonial frameworks of knowledge to the potential for fostering critical thinking, and the reproduction of racialization and othering through educational discourses. The purpose of this study is to contribute knowledge that can enable antiracist, decolonizing, and critical citizenship education practice. This is an article-based dissertation, comprised of four scientific articles and a “kappe”, or extended abstract. The kappe provides a literature mapping of citizenship education research focused on the Nordic countries and particularly Norway; an account for decoloniality as a political, methodological and epistemological concept; an overview of methods and materials; critical reflections related to the research as knowledge production, and ethics; synthesis of the main results from the articles, and a discussion of implications arising from the research for decolonizing citizenship education in primary schools as well as teacher education. The methodology in this study is Colonial discourse analysis, focusing on relations between knowledge production and power, and identifying hegemonic, ahistorical, and Eurocentric institutionalized discursive structures. To do this, I apply a combination of methods allowing me to explore discourses from different modalities of discursive practice, hereunder textbooks, classroom conversations, and students’ and teachers´ meaning-making. The first modality is accessed through critical discourse analysis of textbooks, and the other modalities are approached through ethnography, including participant observation of classroom interactions and conversations, semi-structured interviews with students and teachers, and teaching interventions. The methodological orientation in this study is concerned with mobilizing knowledge to challenge and interrupt current modes of thinking, rather than offering a universal representation of citizenship education in Norway. Through the analyses offered by the four articles, this study contributes knowledge on a topic that is little explored in the Norwegian context, yet holds potentially serious consequences for citizenship education in terms of social justice and critical thinking. Overall, the articles reveal that the imaginary of national exceptionalism and the affective equilibrium of whiteness are deeply embedded within educational discourses, manifested in the production of knowledge, and national and social identities and subjectivities in the classrooms. Coloniality, as it appears in and through primary school citizenship education in this study, thus serves to (re)produce social and racial inequality and epistemic injustice, despite good intentions. This injustice particularly manifests in discursive practices that construct whiteness as an unmarked norm constituted upon the racialized others, upholding white hegemony. The analysis illustrates how coloniality may absolve educational institutions of their ethical and pedagogical responsibilities to disrupt unjust and unsustainable social relations, and obstruct critical conversations about processes that systemically reproduce discursive and political inequalities. The results of this study implicate the need for a decolonizing citizenship education that includes the following: Pluralizing curriculum and teaching materials; engaging with epistemology and fostering knowledge about the politics and historicity of knowledge production; explicitly engaging colonial history, and positioning racialized and indigenous groups as the protagonists of these narratives; including and experimenting with post-abyssal pedagogies, such as affective approaches and practicing conversation and listening; engaging a critical self-reflexivity that is relational; explicitly deconstructing and dismantling national exceptionalism and whiteness; reconceptualizing racism and culture, and engaging in prefigurative practices toward desirable futures.