Science, Coloniality, and “the Great Rationality Divide”

Science & Education 27 (7-8):783-803 (2018)


This article aims to analyze how science is discursively attached to certain parts of the world and certain “kinds of people,” i.e., how scientific knowledge is culturally connected to the West and to whiteness. In focus is how the power technology of coloniality organizes scientific content in textbooks as well as how science students are met in the classroom. The empirical data consist of Swedish science textbooks. The analysis is guided by three questions: if and how the colonial history of science is described in Swedish textbooks; how history of science is described; how the global South is represented. The analysis focuses on both what is said and what is unsaid, recurrent narratives, and cultural silences. To discuss how coloniality is organizing the idea of science eduation in terms of the science learner, previous studies are considered. The concepts of power/knowledge, epistemic violence, and coloniality are used to analyze how notions of scientific rationality and modernity are deeply entangled with a colonial way of seeing the world. The analysis shows that the colonial legacy of science and technology is not present in the textbooks. More evident is the talk about science as development. I claim that discourses on scientific development block out stories problematizing the violence done in the name of science. Furthermore, drawing on earlier classroom studies, I examine how the power of coloniality organize how students of color are met and taught, e.g., they are seen as in need of moral fostering rather than as scientific literate persons.

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