Comparative Education in North America: The Search for Other through the Escape from Self?

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Few would argue with the contention that comparative education is at a crossroads. Not unlike the traditional social science fields, the social foundations sub-disciplines generally and comparative education in particular, have suffered as a result of general trends that have affected North American academic discourse and practice: increased disciplinary specialisation within the context of growing university corporatism, and in the 1990s, downsizing. For inherently generalist fields such as comparative education, these pressures have heightened prospects for their programmatic reduction or even elimination [1]. At the same time, they have encouraged a healthy introspection regarding current purpose and future goals [2]. The aim of this paper is to make a modest contribution to that process, through applying Pierre Bourdieu's notions of habitus, field and cultural capital to comparative education inquiry. A principle assumption of the paper is that critique void of reflectivity is incomplete, and formal critique must lead to an examination of who we are and how we project our sense of self onto our academic fields. The ways in which topics such as class, ethnicity, gender and disability are conceived within comparative education give insight into the more general issues that define that field holistically. The paper is divided into three parts. First, the social context in which comparative education is practised in North America will be analysed. Second, the field as a representation of that context will be defined. Finally, an effort will be made to assess some of the cultural capital produced by the field.
Original languageAmerican English
StatePublished - 1995


  • Education

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