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La Educación
Número: (114) I
Año: 1993


Over the past several decades, knowledge constructs in comparative education, as in related fields, have become increasingly diverse and fragmented. Older knowledge communities have responded to critique and have struggled to become neo-variants. New theoretical discourses have emerged and offer different and often contradictory ways of seeing and knowing. Occasional efforts to justify and defend earlier knowledge monopolies have failed as have takeover attempts to establish new monopolies. Today, no one world-view or way of knowing can claim to fill all the space of vision or knowledge.

Rather, it would seem we are in for an extended period of learning to work together as a diverse yet interactive global community of scholars. This situation suggests a continuing need for goodwill, translation, and cognitive maps to help us see a shifting theoretical landscape. While the need for maps is apparent, attempts at actual map-making have been few. This paper offers examples of the utility of theory mapping as semiotic representation, as a kind of cognitive art or “play of figuration” to help orient comparative educators as they face challenging new intellectual and representational tasks.

This mapping rationale also argues that social and intellectual worlds may be uttered and constructed in different ways according to different principles of vision and division, that failing to construct the space of positions leaves you no chance of seeing the point from which you see what you see.3 Moreover, as the struggle over classifications, such as maps, is a fundamental dimension of cultural and class relations, to change the world—and here the study draws heavily on work by Pierre Bourdieu and Nelson Goodman—one has to map and change the ways of world making, that is, the vision of the world and the practical operations by which groups are produced and reproduced.

All maps contrast two interdependent planes of reality, i.e., the ground or territory to be mapped, and the map of the territory. Accordingly, any map is a construct, a conceptual configuration that has been thematized, abstracted, and lifted from the ground to another plane of meaning. Topographic maps, for example, reinscribe geological features on a flat map surface. In similar fashion, cognitive maps, as presented in this study, reinscribe and structure ways of seeing social and educational phenomena embedded in texts and practice.

More specifically, the paper examines changing representations of knowledge in the field since the 1950s (see Figure 1), identifies paradigms and theories today (see Figure 2), and suggests how diverse knowledge constructs may be mapped at macro (see Figure 3) and micro (see Figure 4) levels of social reality. Here I am guided by Bourdieu’s notion of “habitus” where intellectual fields are construed as systems of “durable, transposable dispositions” produced by dialectical interaction with objective structures and actors’ views of the world.4

To reveal such dispositions, I use Barthes’ notion of text, as an arrangement in a certain order, as “that social space that leaves no language safe or untouched, that allows no enunciative subject to hold the position of judge, teacher, analysis confessor, or decoder” (51). This uncovering approach is a political and intellectual practice that interprets comparative education texts in relation to other texts, rather than in relation to their authors. A distinction between the work and the text may also be helpful. Literary works are concrete and visible while the text reveals and articulates itself according to and against certain rules. Where the work is held in the hand, the text is held in language. Here the original modernist linking of subject (author) and object (work) is replaced with practices (writing) and the intertextual (field). This relationship of the text to its intercultural field, as illustrated in Figures 3 and 4, is creative, active, and practical. Texts are seen to interact continuously in an open field which they produce and by which they are produced, and in which they may be variously typed and mapped.5