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La Educación
Número: (114) I
Año: 1993

Mapping Knowledge Perspectives

Earlier examples of mapping knowledge in comparative and international education texts can be seen in Anderson (1961 and 1977), where implicitly structural functionalism occupied all space; in Paulston (1977), where polarized equilibrium and conflict paradigms enclosed equal space; in Epstein (1983), where three distinct and supposedly irreconcilable paradigms labeled “neo-positivist,” “neo-marxist,” and “neo-relativist” contested space; in Adams’ (1988) presentation of Burrell and Morgan’s boxy and “frozen” multidimensional typology; and in the interactive typologies, or “maps,” presented in this study.20

In Figure 3, the four pradigms and 21 theories identified and presented as taxonomy in Figure 2 are now presented in heuristic fashion as a macro intellectual/discoursive field. The four paradigmatic nodes are derived from intra-textual and cross-textual analysis. Textual dispositions regarding social and educational change (the verticle dimension) and characterization of reality (the horizontal dimension) are the coordinates used to type and locate texts within the field.


Arrows suggest the geneology and direction and extent of communal intellectual borrowing and interaction. Several advantages of the figure may be noted. It facilitates, for example, the reinscription and resituation of meanings, events, and objects in the field within broader movements. It suggests a dynamic and rhizomatic field of tangled roots and tendrils. Comparative education can now be seen as a mapping of the eclectic interweavings of knowledge communities rather than the more objectified images presented to the world in earlier foundational texts. The strength of social theory in the field today is in fact firmly grounded in this very multiplicity of its perspectives and tools known through intertextual composition and literary theory.21

Simultaneously, in cataloging and juxtaposing knowledge communities, Figures 1, 2, 3, and 4 order and discipline this world, discover hierarchies, and represent an act of control. They introduce into complex systems a representation of their own complexity. Yet, even with disclaimers of heuristic intent, maps as interpretive constructs are also clearly an act of power and should be so understood. Their provisional character must be constantly stressed.

The paradox here is that conceptual mapping can create both distorted, authoritarian images, as well as new tools to challenge orthodoxy and the epistemological myth of cumulative scientific or materialist progress. Mapping offers comparative educators a valuable tool to capture the rhetoric and metaphor of texts, to make the invisible visible, and to open a way for intertextuality among established discourse communities and emergent groups offering new and challenging ideas.22 They provide, in sum, a way to see all knowledge thoroughly enmeshed in the larger battles that constitute our world space. We should also note that maps are practical. They provide heuristic orientation to and in practice, and they help us see and organize proliferating intellectual communities producing an ever expanding textual discourse.23

Figure 4 presents a textually derived micro mapping of paradigmatic world-views and theoretical perspectives entering into and intertwined in a specific educational reform practice. This visual representation, in contrast to Figure 3, describes educational practice via textual exegesis at a particular time and place, i.e., in Nicaraguan higher educational reform efforts in the early 1980s. Here practice is viewed as a hermeneutic circle where major stakeholders in the reform practice bring their guiding world-views, ideas, and discourse practices into a goal-oriented, interactive, educational change process.24 Figure 4 suggests energy, behavior, and accomplishments within the context of everyday life rather than, as in Figure 3, a systemic global juxtaposition of the sources of intellectual energy identified in paradigmatic exemplars and the interaction of theoretical perspectives. With such maps at both ends of the micro-macro continuum, comparative educators can now move beyond false dichotomies and arbitrary oppositions to situate themselves within the dynamic intellectual field in which they are players. In so doing they will help to make comparative education a more reflexive discipline whose subject matter increasingly encompasses itself. And as reflexive scholars, they gain the self-knowledge that Bourdieu sees as providing “an extraordinary autonomy, especially when you don’t use it as a weapon against others, or as an instrument of defense, but rather as a weapon against yourself, as an instrument of vigilance.”25