Thinking differently about cultural diversity: Using postcolonial theory to (re)read science education



This paper makes use of postcolonial theory to think differently about aspects of cultural diversity within science education. It briefly reviews some of the increasing scholarship on cultural diversity, and then describes the genealogy and selected key themes of postcolonial theory. Postcolonial theory as oppositional or deconstructive reading practice is privileged, and its practical application illustrated by using some of these key ideas to (re)read Gloria Snively and John Corsiglia's (2001) article “Discovering indigenous science: implications for science education” and their rejoinder, from the special issue of Science Education (Vol. 85, pp. 6–34) on multiculturalism and science education. While many would regard the expressed views on diversity, inclusivity, multiculturalism, and sustainability to be just and equitable, postcolonial analysis of the texts reveals subtle and lingering referents that unwittingly work against the very attitudes Snively and Corsiglia (2001) seek to promote. Such postcolonial analyses open up thinking about the material and cultural conditions in which science education is produced, circulated, interpreted, and enacted. They also privilege a unique methodology already prominent in academic inquiry that is yet to be well explored within science education. Finally, I conclude this paper with some general comments regarding postcolonialism and the science education scholarship on cultural diversity. © 2004 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Sci Ed88:819–836, 2004