Antiracism Education In and Out of Schools – 2018

Editor: Aminkeng A. Alemanji

Palgrave Macmillan
eBook ISBN: 978-3-319-56315-2
Hardcover ISBN: 978-3-319-56314-5
DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-56315-2

Book Cover

This book explores how antiracism theories can be translated into practice within formal education, as well as in other educational programs outside schools, as very often racism occurs outside the school environment. Combating racism both in and out of school therefore increases the chances of overcoming issues of racism. As racism continues to plague the world, efforts to combat it deserve more attention and diversification across all walks of life. In education, such efforts benefit from being modeled within the framework of antiracism education, rather than simpler multicultural and intercultural theorization and understanding which have proved popular. As such, this book critiques integration and multicultural programs, and instead highlights the advantages of grounding such programs within an antiracist framework. The book demonstrates why and how antiracism education is key to challenging issues of racial injustice at a time when multiculturalism and interculturalism have being proclaimed “dead”. This book engages with the state of antiracism education with specific case studies from Finland and Canada and proposes different strategies of antiracism education in and out of school. The book approaches antiracism education as a practical and pragmatic approach to combat issues of power and social hierarchies that produce diverse forms of racism. It is highly relevant to researchers and students working in the areas of Education, Sociology and Ethnic relation particularly those with an interest in antiracism methodologies. The book is made up of the following chapters summarized below.

Pigga Keskitalo, Erika Sarivaara, Inker-Anni Linkola, and Merja Paksuniemi open the book with the case of the Sámi, one of the minority groups in Finland. In this chapter, they problematize the legacy of the Sámi’s assimilation and colonisation and try to solve the resulting problems through mediating Sámi education. This is done through uncovering how mediating education can remedy the legacy of assimilation and racism. They argue that the word “mediate” means to arbitrate, make peace, resolve, and negotiate. The authors argue that assimilation of the Sámi people into the homogenous Finnish identity, without paying attention to their rich cultural heritage, has affected the situation of Sámi people and has caused, for example, poverty, mortality, limited access to education, abuse, a lack of self-respect, language shift, loss of culture, and neocolonialism. To some extent, these processes have also weakened their cultural identity. They call for a Sámi education aimed at addressing specific issues pertinent in the Sámi society and one that aims at addressing the power structures that reproduces inequalities that hurt the Sámi every day.

Tobias Pötzsch explores how an anti-oppressive practice perspective can inform contested understandings of social inclusion within the Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada integration program at NorQuest College in Edmonton, Canada. The case of Canada is important here because it is often considered as an “ideal” multicultural country that a lot of other countries (Finland included) looks to on multicultural issues. The chapter explores the theme of inclusion vs. assimilation emerging from wider fieldwork data chronicling the experiences of program participants. It critiques the challenges involved in both concepts from the point of view that although assimilating the other into the mainstream is not ideal, inclusion does not entail subsuming the Other within a pre-existing societal order but rather within a fluid structural process where this order is interrogated and changed collectively. Pötzsch argues that social inclusion programs should be based on an antiracist and anti-oppressive policies and practices that foster collaborative learning built on the principles of self-reflexivity, egalitarian partnership, and social transformation.

Helena Oikarinen-Jabai examines the use of performative, art-based, and participatory research approaches in producing material and productions where the perspectives of young Finns with immigrant backgrounds are shared with larger audiences as part of research reporting. Many young people with immigrant backgrounds have the kind of mental and emotional resources, based on their embodied and personal experiences, to participate actively in deconstructing and restructuring the surrounding culture, its esthetic values and the existing binary relations between “others” and “us.” Oikarinen-Jabai argues that their know-how and visions should be valued in antiracist discourse. Together with researchers, educators, artists, and cultural workers, they can play a great role and participate in transversal dialogue, they are able to create cultural productions that open a horizon for hybrid spaces where rigid conceptual borders and national images can be approached with curiosity and not-knowingness. As a result, this chapter argues against ignoring their voices and for the potential they bring to antiracism.

Mélodine Sommier and Anssi Roiha‘s chapter critiques how culture is employed in educational discourses in Finland. Drawing on critical approaches to culture, this chapter (1) looks at limitations of the way culture is conceptualized within educational discourses, (2) proposes new ways of using the concept, (3) and provides practical examples while considering limitations and challenges such as hidden curriculum and teachers’ personal values. Sommier and Roiha discuss the issues of intercultural communication competence and raise the importance of looking for similarities while positively addressing differences. They also highlight the tensions embedded in language use and language teaching, related to homogenous examples of language use and the figure of the native speaker. Furthermore, Sommier and Roiha raise issues related to the overlapping between nation and culture and emphasized the importance of going beyond the nation as the main and normalized unit to address practices and identities. Antiracism, they argue, should be acknowledged across subjects through a series of small steps.

Päivi Armila, Anni Rannikko and Tiina Sotkasiira in their chapter ponder over the possibility of combining an antiracist research agenda with antiracist campaigning to intervene in certain fields of formal education, namely in kindergartens, elementary schools, and universities. They employ critical autoethnography to analyze their experiences of antiracist interventions within fields of formal education, namely those of kindergartens and elementary schools. They argue that the reluctance to acknowledge racism and handle it within the framework of formal education is derived not only from unwillingness to deal with racial inequality but also from reluctance of those with power and privilege to understand educational institutions as spaces of and for political struggle.

Pia Mikander and Ida Hummelstedt-Djedou follow from the previous chapter by critiquing an educational intervention at a Finnish primary school. The chapter looks at the benefits and drawbacks of an antiracist event in school by questioning in what way such events challenge, or change discriminating racist structures, and in what way it reinforced the division between the norm and the Other. They recommend a shift of focus away from structures and hierarchies that produce racist consequences. Mikander and Hummelstedt-Djedou critique such antiracism interventions for not turning the focus on the student’s own positions and for not incorporating into the discussion how the students could participate in changing the structures.

In the last chapter, Aminkeng A. Alemanji and Minna Seikkula explore the complexities of teaching issues of race and racism from the point of view of two researchers. Alemanji and Seikkula, through interactive dialogues, outline their experiences of teaching about issues of racism in two different Finnish universities. They discuss the issues of race and racism in Finland. Departing from an understanding of race as an important sociopolitical construct that shapes people’s daily lives irrespective of a person’s racial group. The authors argue against those who try to deny the existence of racism in the complexities of racism today. They call for diverse approaches to antiracism education in the struggle to uproot racism from everyday life.

The diverse discussions in the book justify claims that diverse antiracism practices are needed to combat the ever-changing nature of racism.


Aminkeng A. Alemanji holds a Ph.D. from the University of Helsinki where he conducts research on issues of racism and antiracism strategies in and out of schools. He has also researched ethnic profiling in Finland. He is currently a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Centre for Research on Ethnic Relations and Nationalism (CEREN), which is based at the University of Helsinki’s Swedish School of Social Science.

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