Foreignness and Otherness in Pedagogical Contexts

Wilfried Lippitz


This paper considers the issue of alterity in education, first defining the question of the "other" or the "foreign" as it appears in a number of educational discourses and contexts. The paper then presents two different, historically-localizable aspects of the pedagogical encounter with foreignness or otherness. Both of these are associated with periods that have an important place in German cultural and intellectual history. The first is the transition from the middle ages to the early-modern period, the time of John Amos Comenius' Orbis Sensualium Pictus. Despite the achievements of this particular work as an encyclopedic and pedagogical introduction to the "visible world," it presents a rather deleterious treatment of the foreign in its contemporaneous manifestation in Northern Europe. The second historical period is the 19th century, and what is of principle concern here is the treatment of the foreign in grand, synthetic neo-humanistic theories of time. While the processes of dialectical assimilation and integration to which the foreign or other was subjected in these theories were not as explicit or overt as in preceding periods, they are still comparable in terms of their ultimate effect. This paper concludes by considering two 20th century articulations of education or Bildung in which the irreducible presence of the foreign or other in human development is explicitly acknowledged and affirmed, and the issue of its respect and recouperation is directly addressed, sometimes with significant and valuable consequences for pedagogy.

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ISSN: 1913-4711