- Identity, Equity and Social Justice in Asia Pacific Education ed. by Raqib Chowdhury and Lilly K. Yazdanpanah
This book addresses salient issues of identity, equity and social justice from an Asia-Pacific educational perspective. This project is laudable and ambitious because it endeavours to juxtapose these three separate issues, each of which constitutes a respectable research agenda, in a single volume. It is also timely in that it is a reminder of the need to 'de-Westernize' scholarship and give more recognition to indigenous perspectives in a post-colonial era and the dawn of an Asian century, socio-economically and politically.
The book is a great addition to scholarship in two ways. First, many of the contributions in the book recognize the intersection of traditional local culture and global modern forces that collectively shape identities and influence equity and social justice. For example, Matsunaga (pp. 116–36) reports how the transnational identities of four university teachers of English as a foreign language in a Japanese university influenced their patterns of classroom discourse with their students. Kim's chapter (pp. 167–83) illustrates how differences in perceptions on the Three No's Policy of academic deans of universities in a metropolitan city such as Seoul and in more remote regions in Korea had implications for equity. Similarly, [End Page 403] Kong (pp. 102–15) documents how Asian international students in Australia constructed their identities according to their expectations, perceived cultural differences and moral beliefs.
The book also deserves attention for going beyond a discursive approach to encapsulate a forward-looking social transformative agenda in some of the contributions. For example, Fernandes, Khan, Raj and Thenabadu (pp. 44–65) argue for the need to improve gender equality in four South Asian countries; namely, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Similarly, Ali's (pp. 66–86) analysis of textbooks used in the teaching of English in Pakistan highlighted the need for a more inclusive, intercultural pedagogy and curriculum that embraces the representation of local learning and teaching dynamics.
Notwithstanding these strengths in the book, the various chapter contributors are unclear on what exactly frames and constitutes the so-called 'Western colonial perspective' that they compare and challenge. Are there one or many perspectives in the so-called 'Western' perspective? For example, Al-Dean and Windle (pp. 10–26) compared the ideologies of Islamic motherhood of migrant Iraqi mothers in Australia with that of Bourdieu's conceptualization of parenting. This comparison is problematic as Bourdieu's theorization emanated from his study of specific contexts (for example, French and Algerian contexts) and some scholars contest the applicability of his theory to other Western societies such as the United States. Another question is whether there are overlaps between Western and competing (for example, Asia-Pacific) frameworks? Shokouhi and Fard-Kashani's (pp. 87–101) contribution is a case in point. The authors show that the use of the first-person pronoun in the Persian language connoted power and identity, especially for men. However, it can also be argued that in many Western cultures, there are similar or related sociolinguistic elements that allude to power, including masculinity, social class and political privileges. Furthermore, in the globalized age of cross-fertilization and hybridization of ideas, is it still meaningful to characterize perspectives as Asian or Western? For example, two of the societies featured in the contributions (Korea and Japan) are both modern, globalized societies with unique [End Page 404] cultural values. These different questions invariably come to mind when we frame our expectations based on the intended aims of the book. Only after clarifying our theoretical positions with respect to these questions can we expect the individual chapters to offer compelling alternative frameworks that challenge, or at the very least complement, existing 'Western' perspectives.
Taken as a whole, the eleven chapters are each theoretically interesting and methodologically robust in addressing separate issues of identity, equity or social justice. However, it remains a matter of theoretical speculation how these issues intersect to shape ideologies or social practices. There are...