A ‘topological’ approach to understand the historical role of higher education in state formation

Thursday 20 Apr 2023, 15:00 - 17:00
Campus Woudestein

Langeveld building 2.12

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You are cordially invited to attend the Center for Historical Culture research meeting on the topic of "A 'topological' approach to understand the historical role of higher education in state formation" with guest speaker Dr. Lourens van Haaften, History of Education, University of Groningen (Netherlands). The meeting will be held on April 20th from 15-17h at Erasmus University Rotterdam, Campus Woudestein, Langeveld building 2.12. We look forward to an engaging and enlightening discussion on this topic.


Over the past two decades, the field of history of education, like its allied disciplines in sociology, political science and history, has been greatly influenced by the ‘spatial turn.’ Space has become an important concept in discussions about educational governance, internationalisation, educational transfers and in understanding the complex entanglement between state formation and the rise of educational systems. New modes of conceptualising space have been introduced to meet the challenges of the persistent methodological nationalism in the discipline and to address the issue of global/local interconnectedness. Several scholars have proposed a ‘respatialisation’ based on a relational understanding of space and as a socially constructed phenomenon.

This presentation critically discusses the notions of space and place in relation to the historical role of higher education in state formation. Drawing from the work of Jeff Malpas, it will argue for a more profound understanding of place as an entity that is distinct from space and has more fundamental characteristics than is acknowledged in the current spatial discourses on educational development. The paper suggests to neither take place as merely a spatial location nor as a socially produced site, but as a bounded open structure within which social relations and networks can emerge. It discusses what this would mean for understanding the historical role of higher educational institutes in the creation of socio-economic and political complexes – taking “globalized” business management schools in India as an example.

Dr. Lourens van Haaften


Van Haaften is a historian interested in the question how higher educational institutes, as nodes in a transnational network of knowledge institutes, have transformed societies. His research has a strong focus on South Asia, particular India. He has published in academic journals and edited volumes, covering issues related to the business and management education, the history of testing and assessment, governmentality and the geopolitics of education.

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