Frequently Asked Questions
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This is not an easy question to answer particularly when one takes a global perspective. There are diverse types involving an assortment of funding and governance arrangements and nomenclature in different countries. These include private church schools, known variously as independent or public. There are selective entry government schools, known, for example, as Grammar Schools in Barbados, and certain high-end international schools; the most high end being the schools in Switzerland that serve the very rich and often very famous from around the world. Further new forms of schooling are emerging which have the potential to destabilize conventional hierarchies. We include here some of the ‘for profit’ schools established by businesses and the English elite school franchises in various countries in the ‘global south’, for instance. Further, what is understood, as an elite secondary school in one country may not be regard as an elite school in another?
For this study, we have chosen schools that, as indicated, all draw their inspiration form the traditional British public school model, are all over 100 years old, have produced many influential people and have powerful connections, their records illustrate considerable success in end of school exams and prestigious university entrance and overall they have excellent reputations. Most of our research schools are independent of government control and charge high fees and most are wealthy and very well resourced in comparison with the majority of other schools in the national education system that they are part of.
Our project draws together notions of multi-sited ethnography and global ethnography. George Marcus has long argued that ethnographic research ‘needs to be consciously embedded in a world system’ (1998:82-3) a system which in current times is characterised by intensifying global interconnection and interdependence. He suggests that such ethnography will be designed to ‘examine the circulation of cultural meanings, objects and identities in diffuse time-space. This mode defines for itself an object of study that cannot be accounted for ethnographically by remaining focused on a single site of intensive investigation’ (1998,79-80). Marcus is, thus, concerned with the complex ways in which different sites are connected through these processes of circulation. Such thinking led him to coin the term multi-sited ethnography. Global ethnography is a methodology introduced by Burawoy et al. (2000). Like Marcus they too are concerned that a single and bounded sense of place is usually understood as constituting ‘the field’ and that as a consequence ethnography is unable to deal with the multiple fields, scales and mobilities associated with globalisation; or more particularly the ‘spatially dispersed forces—regional, national and transnational—that mediate the experiences’ of knowable spaces (Gupta and Ferguson’s 1997: 9). In relation to contemporary globalisation and subsequent ‘new configurations of time/space’ Burawoy et al (2000: 2) argue that when considering the site of ethnographic research it is important to take into account three axes of globalisation: global forces, connections and imaginations. In summary, we understand global forces as those pressures on places, institutions, situations and people from such intersecting, imperatives as capitalism, modernity and colonialism. The term global connections refers to the diverse links that are forged across national locations. The ways that globalisation is understood and portrayed involves a global imagination. We have used these broad concepts of global forces, global connections and global imaginations and are raising questions about how these interact with the schools’ identity, curriculum, culture, community and the nation state within which each school is located and its sub national political configurations. We have developed a matrix involving these concepts to help guide our inquiries. So for example if one thinks about global forces as including colonialism and post colonialism, modernity and capitalism then questions arise about how, over time, they are implicated in each school’s identity, curriculum, culture, community and its relationship to the educational and other politics of the state.
Marcus, G. E. (1998) Ethnography in/of the World System (1995), in: G. E. Marcus (Ed.) Ethnography Through Thick and Thin: The Emergence of Multi-Sited Ethnography. Princeton. Princeton University Press
Burawoy, M., Blum, J. A., George, S., Gille, Z., Gowan, T., Haney, L., Klawiter, M., Lopez, S. H., O Riain, S. & Thayer, M. (2000) Global Ethnography: Forces, Connections, and Imaginations in a Postmodern World. Berkeley: University of California Press