Reading History curriculum as postcolonial text


Parkes, R. J. (2006). School History as postcolonial text: The on-going struggle for histories in the New South Wales curriculum. Paper presented at the Second World Curriculum Studies Conference, Tampere, Finland, 21-24 May.

This paper is concerned with theorizing a curricular response to what has become known in Australia as the ‘history wars’ (Macintyre & Clark, 2003). The central debate in the history wars is over the representation of the colonization of Australia. What is at stake in these history wars is not only national identity (Halse & Harris, 2004), but also our conceivable future, because as Bennett (1995) has argued, “more than history is at stake in how the past is represented. The shape of the thinkable future depends on how the past is portrayed and on how its relations to the present are depicted” (p. 162). History curriculum, as “a disciplining technology that directs how the individual is to act, feel, talk, and ‘see’ the world and ‘self’” (Popkewitz, 2001, p. 153), serves a function in the history wars by operating as an apparatus for the social re/production of national identities, through linking “the development of the individual to the images and narratives of nationhood” (Popkewitz, Franklin, & Pereyra, 2001). Consequently, the importance of school history as a battlefield in these ‘history wars’ should not be underestimated (Clark, 2003). This study reserves as a context for its deliberations and ruminations, history curriculum in the state of New South Wales (NSW). The NSW context does more than simply anchor the discussion; it works as a case through which deliberations, in terms of the problematic, are rendered meaningful, and purposeful. Its significance is in the global trends that it reflects, and its possibility to speak to those trends it terms of a reconceptualized History curriculum. I argue that what has remained uncontested in the struggle for histories, has been the representational practices of history itself, and that addressing this null curriculum has significance for school History as postcolonial text and critical pedagogic practice. [ Download a Copy of the Conference Paper ]

A more developed version of the argument can be found in a paper published in the journal “Curriculum Inquiry” in 2007.

Parkes, R. J. (2007). Reading History curriculum as postcolonial text: Towards a curricular response to the history wars in Australia and beyond. Curriculum Inquiry, 37(4), 383-400.

[ Locate a copy on the journal website ]
[ Request a copy from the author ]


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