Being Rooted and Living Globally: A critical approach to the (re)presentation of history in Social and Modern Studies textbooks

Evelyne Payen-Jackman
Lancaster University

This thesis engages with history in the Social and Modern Studies school textbooks in Mauritius as part of the Nine Year Continuous Basic Education (NYCBE) reform introduced in January 2017. By examining the inclusion of an alternative narrative, I investigate how history is (re)presented in the Social and Modern Studies textbooks. I argue that how we think and engage with history is marked by our colonial past (Mazama 2003; Wane 2008) which continues to have an impact on present-day practices. I examine how history teaching ought to disrupt the process of coloniality (Maldonado Torres 2016) by confronting stories of tragedy and oppression, of imperialism and colonisation, to reconstruct alternative stories of strength and resilience.

This research situates the dominant discourses in the teaching of history within a postcolonial and decolonial dialogue (Bhambra 2014) in juxtaposition with critical literacy. This theoretical commitment and philosophical assumption engage with history as they challenge the inheritances of the imperial institution. This thesis advocates a liberating perspective (Wa Thiong’O 1986) to decolonise historical knowledge and imagine alternative possibilities in an era of global interconnectedness.

Drawing on these theoretical intersections, history is explored conceptually and reflected empirically with Fairclough’s (1992) three-dimensional model of critical discourse analysis.  By using a critical discourse analysis to critically engage with the meaning systems embedded within the text, this research recognizes the subaltern voices and reinstates the possibilities for recognition (Fukuyama 2018).

The findings indicate how the new historical narrative nurtures specific dispositions as part of a neoliberal agenda that affirms a colonial subtext. I offer an alternative way of reading history with strategies to cultivate a space for historical understanding for students to become creators and owners of their own history.

I propose that if history teaching and learning are to be understood as a way of becoming, in terms of constructing meaning about oneself and negotiating one’s interactions with the world, then the liberatory power of history lies within the Third Space (Bhabha 1994).  This space allows new understandings as students and teachers assume their shared vulnerability and engage in critical thinking that will inspire a greater political commitment for social justice.

Keywords: History, Language, Third Space, Historical understanding, Postcolonialism, Decolonisation

Name: Dr Evelyne Payen-Jackman

Year awarded: 2022


University: Lancaster University

Current affiliation: Centre for Social Justice, Wellbeing in Education, Lancaster University