CONFLUENCES Intercultural Journeying in Research and Teaching

From Hermeneutics to a Changing World Order

David Geoffrey Smith

A volume in the series: Current Perspectives on Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, and Education. Editor(s): Hongyu Wang, Oklahoma State University-Tulsa. Jing Lin, University of Maryland. Heesoon Bai, Simon Fraser University. Xin Li, California State University-Long Beach.

Published 2020

In this book, Canadian scholar David Geoffrey Smith reflects on over thirty years of research and teaching in the human sciences, including education. Written between 1986 and 2018, the essays are organized around four themes: Hermeneutics and the Human Sciences; The Poststructuralist Turn; Globalization and Its Discontents; East/West Encounters and the Search for Wisdom. As a historical guide through the defining discourses in the human sciences, this volume could well serve as an introductory text for graduate students in education and other cognate disciplines like nursing, recreation and cultural studies. The writing can be described as a form of meditative praxis, while the emphasis on interculturality addresses issues in literacy, pedagogy, politics, critical thinking, teacher education, and cultural healing from a geopolitical perspective, drawing on insights from both Western and Eastern traditions and the author’s personal experience of being born in China and raised in Central Africa (Northern Rhodesia/Zambia).


Careful study of the essays in this collection has been an inspiration, primarily because of Professor David Geoffrey Smith's deep commitments to the organic interpretability of life, and living in the interests of generativity, hope and good faith. In curricular and pedagogical terms, these commitments arise from sustained study of the various inheritances, philosophical and otherwise, that circulate around deliberations concerning children, education, and knowledge deemed of most value. As an Indigenous scholar, and someone committed to uncovering the unnamed colonial logics that continue to govern and structure formal education, I find especially helpful Professor Smith’s untangling of the roots of the Euro-American power nexus and its ongoing difficulties in creatively engaging traditions outside of its own self-determinations. As Professor Smith teaches through this work, it is in the careful hermeneutic practice of tracing out the lineages of the past, and revealing their potential for openness in the present, that the possibility of saying something hopeful about the future emerges.

Dwayne Donald Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Curriculum Studies and Indigenous Wisdom Traditions
Department of Secondary Education
University of Alberta, Canada

Now and then a clear and authentic voice emerges from the surrounding cacophony as the machinery of the education establishment relentlessly grinds away: a voice of conscience and wisdom rising above the babble of technocratic, bureaucratic, ideological, and market-driven survivalism that permeates educational discourse today. I recognize such a voice in this newest book by Canadian educator Professor David Geoffrey Smith. Smith’s “reading the world,” to use Paulo Freire’s expression, is particularly helpful to us in today’s world teeter-tottering between denial and panic. I firmly believe that any hope for sanity in our time rests in our collectively and individually investigating how we have gotten ourselves into this current material and existential predicament. Smith’s investigation shows an incredible intellectual depth of understanding gained through plumbing Western and Eastern philosophical traditions in an intercultural life journey on three continents through forty years of teaching and research. I delight in hearing his voice of wisdom that insists, for instance, that the nature of reality cannot be reduced to “any human construct, scientific or otherwise” and that we must “die into a new human freedom found in the joy of a new shared reality.” Ultimately, his is a voice of unwavering hopefulness and a gaze that courageously faces a challenging world. I value his work more than any others’ in the contemporary curriculum theory field.

Heesoon Bai
Professor, Philosophy of Education
Simon Fraser University, Canada

Introduction. SECTION I: ORIENTATIONS. Journeying: A Meditation on Leaving Home and Coming Home. Not Just as We Please: A Meditation on What It Means to Make a Difference. A Meditation on an Answer From Ku Shan. SECTION II: HERMENEUTICS AND THE HUMAN SCIENCES. The Mission of the Hermeneutic Scholar. Hermeneutic Inquiry. The Hermeneutic Imagination and the Pedagogic Text. Experimental Hermeneutics: Interpreting Educational Reality. Experience and Interpretation in Global Times: The Case of Special Education. Postcolonialism and Globalization: Thoughts Toward a New Hermeneutic Pedagogy. On Being Critical About Language: The Critical Theory Tradition and Implications for Language Education. SECTION III: THE POSTSTRUCTURALIST TURN. Brighter Than a Thousand Suns: Facing Pedagogy in the Nuclear Shadow. Teacher Education as a Form of Discourse. On Discursivity and Neurosis: Conditions of Possibility of (West) Discourse With Others. Modernism, Hyperliteracy, and the Colonization of the Word. Modernism, Postmodernism, and the Future of Pedagogy. SECTION IV: GLOBALIZATION AND ITS DISCONTENTS. The Geography of Theory and the Pedagogy of Place. Teacher Education and Global Culture. The Problem for the South Is the North (But the Problem for the North is the North). The Specific Challenges of Globalization for Teaching and Vice Versa. A Few Modest Prophecies: The WTO, Globalization, and the Future of Reason. From Leo Strauss to Collapse Theory: Considering the Neoconservative Attack on Modernity and the Work of Education. Not Rocket Science: On the Limits of Conservative Pedagogy. Engaging Peter McLaren and the New Marxism in Education: An Essay Review of McLaren’s Rage+Hope. The Deep Politics of War and the Curriculum of Disillusion. SECTION V: EAST/WEST ENCOUNTERS AND THE SEARCH FOR WISDOM. Identity, Self, and Other in the Conduct of Pedagogical Action: An East/ West Inquiry. “... the Farthest West Is but the Farthest East”: The Long Way of Oriental/Occidental Engagement. Wisdom Responses to Globalization: The Pedagogic Context. Can Wisdom Trump the Market as a Basis for Education? On Studying Confucius: Pitfalls and Possibilities in Global Times. Spiritual Cardiology and the Heart of Wisdom. SECTION VI: SPECIAL WORDS FOR TEACHERS AND TEACHER EDUCATORS. Children and the Gods of War. Fake News and Other Conundrums in “Reading the World” at Empire’s End. References. About the Authors.