From maintaining to sustaining: moving beyond binaries toward a framework for cultural sustainability in higher education

Hammer, Sara and Lawrence, Jill ORCID: and Huijser, Hendrik (2011) From maintaining to sustaining: moving beyond binaries toward a framework for cultural sustainability in higher education. In: Beyond binaries in education research. Routledge Research in Education. Taylor & Francis (Routledge), New York, USA, pp. 181-194. ISBN 978-0-415-88512-6

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Ever accelerating globalisation has generated a number of global flows in a variety of spheres, for example the flow of capital, media and information and, importantly for our purposes here, the flow of people and knowledge. There are many benefits to this increased fluidity of movement beyond existing national borders – it can be perceived as liberating, for example – by widening access to travel, work and education. However, such flows can at the same be perceived as profoundly destabilising and threatening, for example because of perceived threats to security or a stable sense of identity. Within this broader context, the concept of cultural sustainability is concerned with a contemporary conception of ‘being in the world’ that is not restricted by rigid binary oppositions, and which is open and flexible, whilst also sustaining cultural traditions, languages and knowledges. In short, the concept of cultural sustainability is about finding a sustainable balance between cultural maintenance and cultural evolution, between keeping what is perceived to be ‘good’, and developing the ability of adapting to new circumstances. In this chapter we mostly use culture in Raymond Williams’ (1981) conceptualisation of the term, as referring to the meanings and practices of everyday life, rather than a more limited sense of culture as artefacts, unless otherwise indicated. As a logical extension, we define cultural sustainability as the ways in which those practices and meanings can be strengthened into the future.

Overall, this chapter aims to develop a conceptual framework for guiding cultural sustainability within the context of higher education (HE), and thus as a way to allow us to become more precise about what it means to ‘produce global citizens’. Specifically, the chapter explores the way long-established cultural binaries such as Australian-international, host-visitor, elite-mass and minority-majority function to impede the development of university students as global citizens. This may be because these cultural binaries frame international students as outsiders who must adapt to and integrate with the host culture, including its educational practices and norms. The host culture is thus firmly positioned in the centre in an unproblematic fashion. We therefore begin by critiquing civic concepts such as ‘tolerance’ and ‘cultural maintenance’ because they tend to reinforce cultural binaries. We claim that a global citizenship discourse is also inadequate because it valorises adaptability and diversity in an unproblematic fashion without necessarily challenging their existence. The framework for ‘cultural sustainability’ we propose is instead based on reflective, engagement and critical practices. The strength of this framework is that it moves beyond cultural binaries by placing each student, as well as staff, regardless of context or culture, on a cross-cultural journey of engagement. The strategies that will result from this conceptual framework, and that will form the next step, will help staff and students to understand what is cultural about their own and others’ cultures, including that of the university itself, and how to apply this understanding in their engagement with other individuals and cultures. As a result, these strategies help to develop a form of ‘cultural literacy’ that can be integrated into university curricula and into the learning and teaching journey.

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Item Type: Book Chapter (Commonwealth Reporting Category B)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Chapter 13. Permanent restricted access to paper due to publisher copyright restrictions.
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Learning and Teaching Support Unit
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Learning and Teaching Support Unit
Date Deposited: 01 Jun 2011 04:03
Last Modified: 07 Sep 2021 03:12
Uncontrolled Keywords: cultural sustainability; higher education; higher education research
Fields of Research (2008): 13 Education > 1303 Specialist Studies in Education > 130302 Comparative and Cross-Cultural Education
Fields of Research (2020): 39 EDUCATION > 3904 Specialist studies in education > 390401 Comparative and cross-cultural education
Socio-Economic Objectives (2008): C Society > 93 Education and Training > 9302 Teaching and Instruction > 930201 Pedagogy

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