Shopping to save the world? Reclaiming global citizenship within Irish universities

Gaynor, Niamh (2016) Shopping to save the world? Reclaiming global citizenship within Irish universities. Irish Journal of Sociology, 24 (1). pp. 78-101. ISSN 0791-6035


Patterns and causes of poverty and underdevelopment have shifted considerably over the last two decades. Growing global inequality within and between nations is now inextricably linked to both the exigencies and impacts of the global economy. In this article I argue that our universities, while developing students’ core skills and competencies to work within this global economy, fall short in providing them with the contextual competencies to critically engage with the multi-faceted challenges posed by it. In other words, our universities are failing to produce critically engaged global citizens. As universities opt to leave this contextual educational component to NGOs within the development sector – a sector with its own challenges and limitations – I go on to argue that global citizenship education as popularly promoted within this sector is also limited. In equating global citizenship and activism with consumerism, it depoliticises and individualises acts of engagement, thereby eroding the potential for collective, transformative action. I conclude by urging that, as teachers, mentors and public sociologists, we reclaim global citizenship as a collective project engaged in the political struggle for meaning and ‘truth’ within our classrooms and institutions.

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