From Sites of Occupation to Symbols of Multiculturalism

Re-Conceptualizing Minority Education in Post-Soviet Latvia

Edited by:
Iveta Silova, College of Education, Lehigh University

A volume in the series: Research in Multicultural Education and International Perspectives. Editor(s): Fred Dervin, University of Helsinki, Finland.

Published 2006

Rarely do we find books in educational research that are both thick in context and rich in theory. Usually books emphasize one over the other. Authors that engage in thick descriptions tend to fall short of explaining what larger theoretical issue their case stands for. Vice versa, authors who make a case for a particular theory do not always describe their case in sufficient detail. From Sites to Occupation to Symbols of Multiculturalism is a remarkable exception. The book is a major break-through in case study methodology, multiculturalism and policy borrowing/lending research.

The book investigates a puzzle: how is it that one and the same system, the system of separate schooling for Latvian and Russian speakers, is seen as a site of occupation during one period (1987-1990) and as a symbol of multiculturalism in the next (1991-1999)? The system has stayed in place, but the meaning attached to it has been completely inverted. Is cultural change without structural change possible? Does it mean that the dual school system has become anachronistic, and will eventually disappear in light of the cultural changes of the past decade? The book is the story of a great metamorphosis of one and the same system of separate schooling that, at first unbelievable, gradually makes sense.

List of Acronyms. List of Tables. List of Figures. Foreword, Gita Steiner-Khamsi. Acknowledgments. Introduction: Between The (Soviet) Past and The (Western) Future: Education Reform During Political Transformation. Chapter 1: Legacies of the Past: The Historical Context of Minority Education Reform. Chapter 2: Re-Creating European “Space” in Latvian Education. Chapter 3: The New Meanings of Minority Education During the Transition Period: Global Pressures, Local Politics, and Conceptual Disputes. Chapter 4: Institutionalizing Integration in Education Policy and Practice: Rebellion Under the Radar. Chapter 5: Education Reform at a Crossroads: Broken Promises, Lost Opportunities. Conclusion: Reconciling International Pressures with Domestic Politics: The “National Problem” Re-Conceptualized.

"Silova's contribution to the analysis of education reform in Latvia undoubtedly has much to recommend it, for it successfully demonstrates the different interpretations of 'integration' that exist within a society partaking in 'semantic construction of the New Europe' (21)." Timofei Agarin in Journal of Baltic Studies

"Iveta Silova's study is a compelling contribution to understanding the contradictions in the rhetoric and realities of post-Soviet/Communist reform. It testifies to how a well-meant, research-grounded reform idea (in this case bilingualism and minority education in Latvia) intended to serve marginalized minorities and create an inclusive, just, and peaceful society was turned to serve contrary purposes. This volume is a brave statement of how reform discourse can be manipulated with the international community's tacit cooperation. The clear presentation of issues and actors, breadth and rigor of data, and extensive tables assists in explicating the concepts, contexts, and histories behind the narrative. Silova introduces and applies a culturalist analytical framework together with Foucault's notions of agency to reveal continuities in education reproduction as disciplinary technologies negotiated by the context, local actors, and global dynamics." Sarfaroz Niyozov in Comparative Education Review

"Iveta Silova takes an in-depth look at the debates and discourses of minority education in post-Soviet Latvia. Relying on elite interviews, survey data, media reports and official documents, Silova charts the changes in the discourse surrounding 'integration' and education in Latvia." David J. Galbreath in Europe-Asia Studies