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Denaturalizing international development education: Silence and the new world dis-order

James Anthony Cumming, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Using critical discourse analysis, seven "problematic moments" that occurred during a two week educational event in the conversations of a multinational group of fourteen students at an international development education institution are analyzed. Each moment illustrates some aspect of "silence" which I define as an consequence of ideology. A relationship is established between the micro meanings of those interpersonal and group silences with the macro level meanings of changes occurring at the international level. Contradictions in the discourse of international development education are revealed through this analysis and the dilemmas these contradictions pose for an international institution embedded in that discourse are explored. Changes which are having an impact on international development education programs include U.S. foreign policy since the end of the cold war, the increased integration and dependence of less developed countries on the international market economy, and the reduction in the amount of "public space" in which non-governmental organizations can operate. As the institution is drawn into the new international market economy, it is changing to become more academic and expert based. Its program is being developed to train graduates to manage the non-governmental and private organizations that work for an agenda of globalization. One result of these changes is confusion about the concept of identity as old theories of the self are no longer meaningful in the new-world (i.e. USA led) order. Current international changes, rather than creating order, are creating a disorder that is painful and difficult to articulate in "normal" group interactions in the context of unquestioned institutional practices. It is suggested that by paying attention to the meaning of silences in its discourse, the institution can discover ways of using language to counteract the silencing of alternative worlds, and can learn how to design participatory peer learning events that allow for a medley of voices and silences in international and intercultural contexts.

Subject Area

Bilingual education|Multicultural education|Adult education|Continuing education|Social structure

Recommended Citation

Cumming, James Anthony, "Denaturalizing international development education: Silence and the new world dis-order" (1997). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9721439.