The Argonauts of postcolonial modernity: elite Barbadian schools in globalising circumstances

Cameron R McCarthy, Ergin Bulut, Michelle Castro, Koeli Goel, Heather Greenhalgh-Spencer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In her book, Neoliberalism as Exception, Aihwa Ong usefully observes that the North American university has been dirempted from it historical role of preparing young people for democratic citizenship. It has instead, according to Ong, become the great global marketplace and grand bazaar for international students' ambitions. In what follows, we draw on Ong's insights. Specifically, we report on a global ethnographic study that looks at the way in which six form students (whom we are calling the 'Argonauts') in two Barbadian elite schools - Old Cloisters and Ardent Arbors - are orienting themselves to the future in a moment of aggressive recruiting by North American universities. These developments bring students' global imaginations into profound tension with historical narratives and traditions linking these schools to England. This new context is epitomised by the transactions between the students and international college representatives at an annual international college fair that brings North American recruiters to the island in search of academic talent. We document this encounter at some length, pointing to the collision between the students' roiling ambitions and the schools' deep sense of heritage and tradition linked to the metropolitan paradigm of British public school traditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)211-227
Number of pages17
JournalGlobalisation, Societies and Education
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2014


  • Argonauts
  • Barbadian elite schools
  • global ethnography
  • international college fair
  • post-developmentalism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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