Problematizing “Epistemicide” in Transnational Curriculum Knowledge Production: China’s Suyang Curriculum Reform as an Example

Year: 2019

Author: Zhao, Weili

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The claim that globalizing West-centric discourses and practices in the rest of the world suppresses and even kills the latter’s cultural knowledge systems as an effect of modernity-coloniality is starting to gain scholars’ attention worldwide, but not much in China. It seems China is still borrowing-transplanting Western curriculum policies and practices in full swing and in the name of going global, catching up with, and even surpassing the West. For example, China released its Chinese Student Core Competency Definitions in 2016, which is claimed to build also upon the Confucian tradition and henceforth is more than a replica of OECD-USA’s core competencies-skills frameworks. However, I argue China’s efforts of building its core competency curriculum as Chinese characteristic fall short as a rhetorical trap and trope as an effect of epistemicide.

Picking up China’s on-going core competency curriculum reform discourses, this paper dissects the happening of such epistemological killing, i.e., “curriculum epistemicide”, for implications on how to re-calibrate China’s curriculum reform at the crossroads of tradition and modernity, nationalism and globalism. Specifically, it explicates some underappreciated specters of the modernity-coloniality episteme, say, the signifier-signified meaning-making logic, the treatment of language as a representational system, and the instrumentalization of language-culture as an object of knowledge, which have enthralled and thwarted Chinese academia and policy-makers’ efforts in re-invoking the cultural suyang discourses as a rhetorical trope/trap. Recognizing such an epistemological trope/trap, this paper shows, is a first step toward re-articulating the eclipsed suyang episteme to break apart and counter the so-called “darker side” of the Western modernity-coloniality of knowledge, power, and being for new openings.

As a decolonial gesture toward “cognitive justice”, this case study provides an ontological language lens for China and beyond to (re)produce transnational curriculum knowledge, challenging the enslavement of relativist nationalism and Western modernity-coloniality.