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On “Becoming-International”

2015-05-29 20.20.36In the next few days, I hope to blog regarding the many provocations, thoughts, and questions that have emerged in my immediate post-graduation life.  Over the past two weeks I have been traveling to attend and present at two outstanding conferences: the International Congress on Qualitative Inquiry (ICQI), which was held at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; and the International Association for the Advancement of Curriculum Studies (IAACS), which was held at the University of Ottawa in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.


It may be surprising to many that traveling to Canada this past week was the first time I actually left the “boundaries” of the United States.  In the next week I will be departing the United States again, headed to Santiago, Chile to participate in a field experience as part of LSU’s Geaux Global initiative.

I must admit that leaving the “bounded confines” of the United States caused me some minor trepidation – even if I was only heading to Canada.  I was concerned about standard issues – money, language, technology. I was worried I would lose my passport.

There was and is this central question: what does it mean, becoming-international? This idea of “becoming” is prevalent throughout my own scholarship. Becoming was and is a central theme of both conferences where I presented, but I want to focus specifically on IAACS since this idea – the internationalization of education and curriculum – was and is a central focus of that group.

Deleuze & Guattari on Becoming

Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari (1987), in their book A Thousand Plateaus, discuss becoming in terms of deterritorialization and reterritorialization.  Their conception of becoming, as I currently understand it, involves not linear, predictable pathways, but rather the multiplicities and possibilities that emerge through relationships.  While Deleuze and Guattari highlight becoming throughout their book in relation to physical relationships – wasps and flowers, viruses and cells, for example – they also take up semiotics and discourse.

Deleuze and Guattari (1987) ask us to consider “deterritorializing” terms – to write in the rhizome – where the “circulation of intensities” (p. 10) push us to “extend the line of flight to the point where it becomes an abstract machine convering the entire plane of consistency” (p. 11).

At IAACS, delegates and participants sought to deterritorialize many terms – in particular, words such as ‘international,’ ‘internationalization,’ and ‘global.’  I do not know what these terms mean in the present moment. Does crossing an artificially defined state/nation-border mean I have ‘become-international?’ Has my engagement with ‘international’ writers or streams of thought deterritorialized my thinking enough that physical departure from the United States was or is not necessary?  For example, I presented a well-received paper at IAACS on pushing the boundaries of identity work in college student affairs education beyond Western perspectives.  I focused on Buddhism, where concepts such as identity are practically non-existent.  Why the hegemonic narrative of the West?  In that case, what is East/West?  2015-05-27 21.10.34

What is Canada?

It struck me that I knew very little about the history or politics of Canada. This is in sharp contrast to many of my Canadian colleagues who, over the years, have asked me fairly profound questions about historical or political situations in the United States.  Thus, I picked up Margaret Conrad’s (2012) A Concise History of Canada, where the first line of the book is “What is this thing called Canada?”

There are interminglings, connections, rhizomes that connect place, thought, ideas.  I recognized that living in Louisiana the Cajuns had settled here having been expelled from Canada – though I knew little of the actual history of how, why, or when that occurred; the perspective offered by Conrad (2012) is partial and incomplete, but gave me a greater understanding of this history.

I was particularly fascinated by the history of the U.S. revolutionary period.  We are not often taught in American history that, following the war of American Independence, many Loyalists fled and immigrated to what was then called “North Canada,” not wanting to be part of the new country called the United States.  Or that in the War of 1812 US military forces, seeking to defeat the British, tried to invade Canada – and were pushed back by these anti-American Loyalists who had fled to Canada.

There is a fascinating history here of how Great Britain, in trying to reconcile what was once French colonial territory, created different governing structures throughout the eastern part of what is now considered Canada.

There is the indigenous, or First Nations, history as well.  While Conrad (2012) covers this history to some extent, there continues to be, as in most histories of North America, a focus on European colonial history, rather than First Nations history.  While I was in Ottawa, the conference organizers arranged a trip to the Kitigan Zibi Kikinamadinan school, where we learned about the tragic history of residential schools, and ongoing efforts to educate people of the First Nations.  In fact, this week, Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission will be releasing it’s report.

Deterritorialize International

There is a lot of complicated discussion here – but how this all fits in with ‘becoming-international’ is the need to consistently deterritorialize the language we use. IAACS provided a fertile ground for thinking about how such deterritorialization might occur not only in scholarship, but also through understanding and seeking to continually unlearn what we have been taught in relation to concepts such as ‘nation,’ ‘state,’ and ‘boundary;’ to decenter the dominant narratives that shape our history and perspectives on education; and to follow the “line[s] of flight” (Deleuze & Guattari, 1987, p 10) that emerge as we seek to deterritorialize these concepts.  This might offer possibilities for the processual of ‘becoming-international.’


Conrad, M. (2012). A concise history of Canada. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Deleuze, G. & Guattari, F. (1987). A thousand plateaus: Capitalism and schizophrenia. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.

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