In new book, SIT provost advances call to decolonize international education

Dr. Said Graiouid: It’s time to ‘find a new table’

April 6th, 2023   |   DEIA, School for International Training

SIT Provost Dr. Said Graiouid

SIT Provost and Dean of Faculty Dr. Said Graiouid has written the foreword for a new book, published by The Forum on Education Abroad, aimed at deconstructing coloniality and white supremacy in international education. Voices from the South: Decolonial Perspectives in International Education features chapters by study abroad professionals in the Global South and seeks to “reverse the replication of imperialist and colonial patterns in Global North-to-Global South student mobility.”

“International education has been shaped by an institutionalized system that racializes access, perpetuates a vocabulary of othering, frames learning within a consumerist logic, and securitizes the international educational experience,” writes Graiouid, who is part of a team working to decolonize the curricula used in more than 80 SIT undergraduate and graduate programs around the world.

The book “articulates our desire for equitable, just, and inclusive learning across cultural and epistemological borders,” he writes.

Graiouid does not advocate ignoring western knowledge and experiences, but stresses that it is not the purview of the Global North to “invite the Global South to the table.” Rather, it’s time to either find a new table or circle around on a mat, “the way most learning still happens in the Global South,” he writes.

Edited by Andrea Rizzotti, director of International Educational Program of the Latin American Studies Department at FLACSO-Argentina, and Héctor M. Cruz-Feliciano, director of Latin America Programs at CET Academic Programs, the book addresses leading-edge topics such as the theories and complexities of identity in Afro-Colombian narratives; the pedagogy of decolonial study abroad practices in Buenos Aires; insights from a program in India; reframing community-based experiences; and “unabashed neoliberalism” in the MENA region.

Former SIT Academic Dean Cheikh Thiam, now a visiting professor of Black Studies at Amherst College, and former SIT Custom Programs Manager Hannah Sorila are also featured in the volume with a chapter called "White Supremacy, Global Education, and Decolonial Futures."

The new volume “delivers a much-needed rupture to colonial models of power, knowledge and being that have often framed education abroad programming and pedagogies since the early days of international student mobility,” according to Bradley Rink, chair of Geography, Environmental Studies and Tourism at University of the Western Cape in South Africa.

By “creating the conditions for ‘silent societies’ to be heard in their difference,” Graiouid says, the publication opens new thresholds in the discussion about decolonializing international education.

The perspectives in the book include at least two key points, he notes: that the “decolonial translator, whose responsibility it is to facilitate the student’s decolonial experience … is a guarantor of epistemic justice and the orchestrator of the practical aspects of international education and abroad experience.”

The role of the translator is to ensure that the act of learning “interrogates self-evident truths and ‘de-links’ from the histories of oppression, which are rooted in exploitative capitalism, white supremacy, patriarchy, and heteronormativity.”

The second point shared by the authors, writes Graiouid, is that “international education is about relationality and that the upholding of relational ethics is key to creating decolonial practices. Relational ethics implodes borders, material and symbolic, institutionalizes hospitality as a right and an act of freedom (Balibar, 2018), and reckons with the reality that the future of humanity lies in the construction of a just and equitable collaboration across histories and experiences.”

Academic quality on international education programs “is only attainable through the embedding of an inclusive learning space that considers the diverse life histories of the learners and the context in which the learning takes place,” he writes. For that reason, “no decolonial project is possible without the perspectives of practitioners from the Global South.”

Acknowledging that it will require “a monumental effort to reorganize the field and support a social justice approach to international education,” Graiouid concludes, “Decoloniality is an opportunity for humanity to replenish, undertake a collaborative approach to critical global issues, and create the conditions for a vita nova. It certainly is an opportunity for international education, and Voices from the South: Decolonial Perspectives in International Education is an invitation for all to embrace this intellectual project.”

Rizzotti, A. & Cruz-Feliciano, H. (2023). Voices from the South: Decolonial Perspectives in International Education. The Forum on Education Abroad.

Voices from the South: Decolonial Perspectives in International Education is part of The Forum’s Standards in Action book series, which “seeks to bridge big ideas and foundational principles in education abroad to the creative approaches and practical tactics that can turn those concepts into reality. As our field seeks to face down hard challenges and reinvent itself for the future, these books provide the inspiration and the guidance needed to usher in the new era,” according to the organization’s website.