Comparing Colonial Education Discourses in the French and Portuguese african Empires: an essay on hybridization.

Ana Isabel Madeira


This essay analyzes Portuguese, French and British educational rhetoric highlighting relations between the colonial administration and the central structures of power, pinpointing ambiguities and ambivalence's which went across the different structures of imperial authority, namely the discourses about the government, the civilization and the education of the colonized. The study proposes to go beyond a “traditional” vision of educational change, i.e. a concept based on the analysis of influences, forces or relations of cause-effect about the political aspect of education. In contrast with the perspectives that consider colonies as homogeneous cultural identities, as extensions of the metropolitan ideas and practises, I tend to emphasize the symbiotic relations that developed between the Empires and the metropolis. This position contradicts a representation of colonialism as a coherent and consistent process and defines the colonial scenario as a context of conflict between colonizer and colonized, in which the ideas and practises about the processes associated to the civilization of Africans are open to negotiation and restructuring of different kind. To address educational change from a comparative perspective also means to analyse how the discourses about colonial education became known and circulated, at the transnational level, and also to understand how these discourses became accepted as a norm and therefore transformed in local strategies and concrete programmes of action. That perspective facilitates the understanding of the discourses about education that crossed the colonial space which produced internal disparities relatively to the processes of school expansion, to the pedagogical models and to curriculum organization, contradicting the concept of educational policy as the local implementation of programmes produced in the European metropolis.


History colonial education; Comparative education; Empires; Discourse analysis; Colonialism; Africa

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