Education and extraversion: naming, valuing and contesting ‘modern’ and ‘indigenous’ knowledge in post-war Somaliland.

Christina Woolner*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


In response to critiques of the extraverted and mimetic nature of post-colonial education have come various efforts to decolonize Africa's universities. At first blush, the University of Hargeisa’s Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies’ (IPCS) stated commitment to teaching indigenous knowledge appears to follow this trend. In practice, however, IPCS has established itself as an intentionally ‘modern’ Institute valued by staff and students alike for the ‘extraverted’ globally oriented education it provides. Against the view that this proclivity for the modern simply represents the presence of an enduring colonial mentality, this article explores how, why, and to what effect an intentionally ‘modern’ education has been implemented at IPCS. I build on Bayart’s concept of ‘extraversion’ to show how invocations of modern and indigenous knowledge entail various claims to inclusion that reflect internal social changes, Somaliland’s hybrid political order, and lack of recognition. Drawing on ethnographic research that included classroom observation, interviews and informal interactions with staff and students, and reflection on my own teaching experiences, I explore how staff and students have embraced particular modes of education as a means to both ‘engage the world’ and increase their own opportunities for domestic political and socio-economic inclusion. Furthermore, I show that IPCS’ approach has not led to the devaluation of indigenous knowledge, but has instead facilitated debate about the relative merits of different knowledge systems for contemporary Somaliland. This case highlights the value of approaching (post)colonial educational institutes not simply as sites where knowledge is passively ‘imbibed’, but rather as compelling windows into complex processes of social change.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)413-433
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Eastern African Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jul 2016
Externally publishedYes

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