When projects of 'empowerment' don't liberate: Locating agency in a 'postcolonial' peace education

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By juxtaposing male secondary student and teacher classroom practices with a postcolonial analysis of the structural and discursive forces that characterize education reform in Jordan, this study draws attention to the ways that authoritarian regimes may coopt peace education language and concepts, such as 'dialogue' and 'empowerment', to create a democratic veneer for neoliberal educational projects. Jordanian (along with other Arab and Muslim) male youth are often discursively positioned in transnational accounts as objects of educational intervention requiring assistance to become democratic and empowered citizens rather than subjects of self-empowerment. Employing a postcolonial framework of centering 'marginalized' voices, then, challenges prevalent cultural representations of Jordanian youth as 'vulnerable' and allows scholars and practitioners to see how students enact agency and contest sociopolitical norms in everyday practices of schooling. Using ethnographic data collected in two government secondary schools in Jordan, the author highlights satirical practices in different venues as a means by which male secondary students subvert such structural constraints and exercise transformative agency in schools. These findings are then related back to the need for critical educators to engage with local knowledge and meanings to become more effective practitioners and scholars in the field across diverse sociopolitical and economic contexts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)277-294
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Peace Education
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 1 2011


  • Jordan
  • boys education
  • critical peace education
  • postcolonialism
  • youth empowerment


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