This episode of FreshEd is brought to you by the Comparative and International Education Society. 

The CIES 2017 Symposium aims to explore new frontiers in Comparative Education. Today, I speak with Peter Demerath about some of the exciting work being done in ethnographic research. We discuss many ideas from indigenous knowledge to grounded grit. Peter even talks about the challenges researching the same community for over two decades, as well as the value such studies can have.

Peter Demerath is an Associate Professor in the Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy and Development, and an affiliated faculty member in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Minnesota. A former middle school social studies teacher, Peter has conducted ethnographic research on schooling, student identity, and academic engagement in Papua New Guinea and in the suburban and urban United States.  He is currently President-elect of the American Anthropological Association’s Council on Anthropology and Education.

Citation: Demerath, Peter, interview with Will Brehm, FreshEd, 91, podcast audio, October 16, 2017.

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You’ve probably heard about the elaborate Olympic handover from Rio to Tokyo that included a video animation of Super Mario walking through Shibuya, jumping through a green tube, and then appearing at the closing ceremony in Rio. The super Mario custom dropped to the floor and there was, lo and behold, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, standing in a red hat holding a red ball, ready to take the helm of the Tokyo Olympics, which will take place in 2020. It was an unusual moment, to say the least, for the Japanese leader, who is typically reserved and anything but showy.

But the scene perfectly captured the contemporary push by the Abe administration to internationalize Japan. There he was in front of a global audience, showing off Japan’s athletes and pop-culture icons. Abe has been on a march to change Japan: he’s trying to alter the constitution to allow Japan to send military forces abroad, something that has not been done since World War II. And his administration started something called super-global universities, which aim to allow graduates to “walk into positions of global leadership.”

Reforms to Japanese education are not knew and we can learn a lot by looking at previous experiences. My guest today, Peter Cave, has a new book that explores changes in Japanese junior high schools in the 1990s and in the early 2000s.

Dr. Peter Cave is a Senior Lecturer in Japanese Studies at the University of Manchester. Through an ethnography of two schools over 11 years, he was able to detail how, if at all, educational reforms translated into educational practice.

And these insights can help us understand the reforms being proposed today by the Abe administration.

Peter Cave’s new book is “Schooling Selves: Autonomy, Interdependence, and Reform in Japanese Junior High Education”, which was published this year by the University of Chicago Press.

Does privilege have sensory dimensions? Our guest today is Howard Prosser, lecturer at Monash University’s Faculty of Education, who recently co-edited a volume entitled In the Realm of the Senses: Social Aesthetics and the Sensory Dynamics of Privilege (Springer 2015). This volume won an honorable mention in the 2015-2016 Globalization and Education Special Interest Group book award.

Together with Johannah Fahey and Matthew Shaw, Dr. Prosser argues that “within elite schools there is a relationship between ‘complex sensory and aesthetic environments’ and the construction of privilege within and beyond the school gates. Understanding the importance of the visual to ethnography, the social aesthetics of the elite schools studied in this volume are captured through the inclusion of a series of visual essays that complement the written accounts of the aesthetics of privilege. The collection also includes a series of vignettes that further explore the sensory dimension of these aesthetics: touch, taste—though metaphorically understood— sight and sound. These varying formats illustrate the aesthetic nature of social relations and the various ways in which class permeates the senses. The images from across the different schools and their surroundings immerse the reader in these worlds and provide poignant ethnographic data of the forces of globalization within the context of elite schooling.”

Dr. Prosser spoke with FreshEd contributor Rolf Straubhaar.

Jane Kenway is an emeritus professor at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. For the past several years, Professor Kenway has led a team of scholars and students from around the world on a multi-sited global ethnography of elite schools in 12 countries.

The study explores the global forces, connections and imaginations on elite schools, and hopes to enhance our understanding of how many national and transnational leaders are formed through their education.

The project has resulted in many publications, some of which you can find here. Will Brehm spoke with Professor Kenway in January on one of her recent pieces about how she and her team conducted this research, comparing more “traditional” forms of ethnography with her use of “global multi-sited ethnography.”

Citation: Kenway, Jane, interview with Will Brehm, FreshEd, 13, podcast audio, July 21, 2016.

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