Rethinking the concept of 'western'

Professor Glynis Cousin and Sean Walton

A common perspective for understanding the 'inter-cultural' rests on a view that dominant ideas tend to be western in values and origin.  This perspective aspires to capture a colonial bias in our thinking and values and often takes its cue from Edward Said's seminal book Orientalism (1985) and postcolonialism more generally.  Said famously elaborated how the west has produced an otherising gaze upon the east. Translations into the teaching and learning realm of this elaboration suggest that 'non-western' traditions need to be appreciated as counterpoints to western ones. For instance, Confucianism and collectivism are often invoked as perspectives which are excluded by western systems of education.  While accepting that the postcolonial binary of the 'west/the rest' facilitates the surfacing of questions of power, exclusion and hegemonic cultural grip, this session offers an exploration of this distinction.