Exile and Estrangement in the Internationalization of Curriculum Studies

  • William F. Pinar


Can internationalization provide opportunities for the intellectual advancement of U.S. curriculum studies? The problem of proximity is paramount. Traumatized by forty years right-wing reaction, we American scholars seem unable distance ourselves from our tragedy, from our victimhood, from our culpability. Like the fly mesmerized by the spider, we remain enmeshed in the web of our present circumstances. As Edward Said (1996) has observed, distance – even estrangement and, as Hongyu Wang implies, exile – may be prerequisites for understanding the history of the present. Not all of us can literally leave our homelands. For those remaining at home, exile and estrangement can be construed as subjective opportunities for intellectual advancement.

One may choose to go into exile, but estrangement is, ordinarily, an unintended consequence of unhappy events, not an end-state to which one aspires. Thirty years ago, however, Maxine Greene (1973) suggested that estrangement enables education (see Block 1998a). Studying international scholarship can function to separate us from our situation. Such distance can provide the space for intellectual advancement, for grounding our present in the past, for discerning passages into a future more cosmopolitan than our present proximity permits. With Wang (2004, 3) we might ask: “What may exile and estrangement bring to one’s life?” As we learn from Wang’s powerful posing of the question, its answering requires leaving home (Block 1998b).