Kirchgasler co-authors article examining ‘colonial residues’ of investment in girls’ education


UW–Madison’s Christopher Kirchgasler is an author of an article published in the August 2020 issue of Comparative Education Review, titled “ ‘Girl’ in Crisis: Colonial Residues of Domesticity in Transnational School Reforms.”

Kirchgasler is an assistant professor with the School of Education’s Department of Curriculum and Instruction.

The article, which Kirchgasler co-authored with Karishma Desai of Rutgers University, examines investment in girls’ education in Kenya as a “salve to the Global South that will alleviate poverty, prevent terrorism, and curb gender-based violence,” according to the paper’s abstract.

“Colonial discourses (have) positioned African women and girls as akin to slaves who required colonial liberation to assume their rightful place in their homes and colonial homelands,” said Kirchgasler. “This made women and girls as exceptional targets for development for earlier colonial educators, who hoped that the acquisition of skills and attitudes associated with ‘domesticity’ would lead to the economic and social development of the colony.”

Kirchgasler continued: “Karishma’s and my hope is to make visible a common sense that remains pervasive in development — that the girl is an exceptional figure towards which reforms should be directed. While domesticity is less and less referred to as an explicit aim of reforms, associations of girls and women as being responsible for family health, hygiene, and local community economic development remains pervasive. We argue that today these tropes are wrapped in a correlational logic that makes it difficult to examine their colonial foundations — namely, how girls’ value is essentialized by their becoming future mothers, responsible providers, and laborers.”

“Rather than this representing a more inclusive or progressive gesture (as is often presumed), the risk of efforts that ‘turn to the girl’ is that they reactivate the racist, sexist justifications for colonialism under the auspices of empowerment and voice.”

Access the full article via the Comparative Education Review website, here.