Eventos Académicos, 39 ISCHE. Educación y emancipación

Tamaño de fuente: 
Decolonization, University Development, and Cultural Identities
Grace Ai-Ling Chou

Última modificación: 2017-07-15


This paper explores competing views of university education in British colonies after WWII. It uses three case studies—Malaya, Cyprus, and Hong Kong—to demonstrate how university development played a crucial role in the reconstruction of cultural identities in different processes of decolonization. It argues that, while these processes often appeared to be simple inter-ethnic conflicts or anti-imperialist movements, in fact they were struggles over the definition and ownership of cultural and intellectual heritages, as expressed through education.

The cases of Malaya, Cyprus, and Hong Kong highlight three competing interpretations of emancipation’s relationship to higher education. For some, such as the ethnic Malays, emancipation entailed a process of legitimization through written codification of language and the creation of new academic structures. For others, such as the Chinese in Malaya and Hong Kong or the Greeks in Cyprus, emancipation meant an opportunity to revive and reconnect long-standing educational traditions. For the British, however, the difference between these two visions was often lost amidst the force of a wholly different agenda: the incorporation of their remaining colonies into international university networks and their compliance with international university standards.

These divergent directions meant that universities became highly contested sites for the construction and reconstruction of cultural and global identities through education. This paper analyzes the colonial and university archives of each site to uncover how the drives towards colonial legacy, ethnic pride, and internationalization converged with questions of academic standardization, university governance, and scholarly heritage. It compares the relationship of university development to political emancipation in the three sites, and contextualizes each within official British policy, which was often applied very differently in different colonies. Finally, it demonstrates how these variations contributed significantly to the multiplicities and tensions still prevalent in universities today.