Spiritual Discourse in the Academy

A Globalized Indigenous Perspective

by Njoki Nathani Wane (Volume editor) Francis Akena Adyanga (Volume editor) Ahmed Ali Ilmi (Volume editor)
©2014 Textbook XIV, 246 Pages


Spiritual Discourse in the Academy focuses on the value of spirituality as a subjugated knowledge from globalized contexts. The book's central tenet is that spirituality is the core of one's intellectual growth and that its inclusion in education acknowledges the sum total of who we are. It not only offers strategies for transformative education, but also embraces global diversity and inclusive education for the twenty-first century.
The book also provides a detailed examination of spirituality from a global context, acknowledges the detrimental legacies of colonialism on indigenous spirituality, knowledge systems, traditional justice systems, and on indigenous peoples. Spiritual Discourse in the Academy reaches out to educators, scholars, and students who are interested in the multiple roles of spirituality in schooling and society at large. It can be used for teaching courses in spirituality, education, religious studies, and cultural studies.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Dedication
  • Table of Contents
  • Acknowledgements
  • Foreword
  • References
  • Chapter One: Introduction
  • Chapter Overview
  • References
  • Theme One: Context
  • Chapter Two: African Spirituality and the Traditional Justice System: Pedagogical Implications for Education
  • Introduction
  • Personal And Profesaional Context
  • Literature Review
  • Historical Context
  • African Spirituality And Mato Oput To Augment Ciemency And Reconciliation
  • Pedagogical Implications For Education And Society
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Chapter Three: Spirituality: An Intersubjective Practice
  • Introduction
  • Scope Of Spirituality
  • Spirituality As An Intersubjective Practice
  • An Alternative Interaubjective Project
  • Spirituality As A Horizontal Interaubjective Practice
  • Spirituality, Ancestors, And The Visual Arts
  • Contemporary Challenges To Intersubjective Spirituality: The Mungiki In Kenya
  • Conclusion: Reflections
  • References
  • Response to the Context Theme
  • Theme Two: Pedagogy
  • Chapter Four: Supporting Aboriginal Learners in Post-Secondary Education Institutions in Ontario
  • Introduction
  • Theoretical Framework
  • Research Design
  • Findings
  • Aboriginal Student Services
  • Traditional Knowledge
  • Community
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Chapter Five: Claiming the Sacred: Indigenous African Spirituality and Schooling
  • Introduction
  • Conceptualizing Spirituality In Somali Societies
  • A Personal Spiritual Moment
  • Paradigms For Conversations About Spirituality
  • Reflective Spiritual Journey
  • Traditional Schooling And Spirituality
  • The Role Of Spirituality And Schooling For Communities In The Diaspora
  • Implications For A Spiritually Centered Education
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Chapter Six: Swaraj, Spirituality, and Saraswati: Conceptualizing Post-Colonial Indian Secular-Cosmopolitanism, as Identity, and Education
  • Introduction
  • Situating The Indian National Education Movement Within Colonial Indian Nationalism
  • Situating Indian Spirituality (Secular-Cosmopolitanism) In South Asian History
  • Reaffirmation Of Indigenous Spirituality And Experience: Indian Secular-Cosmopolitanism As The Foundation Of Post-Colonial National Identity And Education
  • Conclusion
  • Note
  • References
  • Chapter Seven: Spirituality as a Strategy for Survival: An Igbo Perspective
  • Introduction
  • Locating Myself
  • What Is Spirituality?
  • The Concept Of Chukwu And Chi
  • Indigenous Values And Spirituality
  • Service
  • Surviving
  • Songs For Encouragement
  • Spiritual Bypass
  • The Paradox Of Spirituality And Our Present Social System
  • Implications For Education
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Response to the Pedagogy Theme
  • European Colonialism And The Rhetoric Of Education
  • European Education In Settler And Non-Settler Societies
  • Theme Three: Discourse
  • Chapter Eight: Students’ Spiritual Self: Implications for Classroom Practices
  • Introduction
  • Overview Of The Course
  • Situating Ourselves In The Discourse Of Spirituality
  • Spirituality And Student Development: Theoretical Connections
  • Spirituality In The Classroom
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Chapter Nine: Spirituality and a Mad People’s Commons
  • Introduction
  • Relationships
  • A Mad Commons
  • References
  • Chapter Ten: The Liberation of Critical Pedagogy: Towards an Understanding of Spirituality and Education
  • Introduction
  • Latin American Context
  • Latin American Liberation Theology And The Prophetic Tradition
  • The Spirituality Of Liberation
  • Critical Pedagogy
  • Bridging Liberation Theology With Critical Pedagogy
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Chapter Eleven: Dispiriting the Spiritual in Classroom Education: Critiquing Spirituality as a Tool for Transformative Education in the 21st-Century Academe
  • Introduction
  • Locating Myself In The Text
  • Literature Review
  • Spirituality In Education: What Really Is Spirituality?
  • Colonization Of Spirituality And Education: Sequel To Cultural Colonization
  • Re-Colonizing The Spiritual: Universalizing Spirituality In Education
  • Implications For Teacher Education
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Chapter Twelve: The Creative Individual: Identity Construction and Individuality in African American Spirituality
  • Introduction
  • Defining (African) American Spirituality
  • African American Spirituality: The Individual, Creativity, And Identity Formation
  • African American Spirituality At Work: Identity Formation In Spiritual(Ist) Churches Of New Orleans
  • Collaboratively creating identity using two spiritual(ist) rituals.
  • Individually creating identity using personal Black Hawk altars.
  • Dynamically creating identity using a public “Uncle Bucket” ritual.
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Chapter Thirteen: Chinese Spirituality: Implications for Western Educators
  • Introduction
  • Locating Myself: Chinese Funeral Traditions
  • Chinese Religion
  • Spiritual Transformation And Resistance
  • Spiritual Practices And Transformations
  • Eastern Philosophy
  • Conclusion: Implications For Education
  • Note
  • References
  • American Emerson: A Response to the Discourse Theme
  • Introduction
  • Holistic Education: Reconceptualizing Learning With The Farm And Nature
  • Keeping The Faith: Spirituality In The Academy
  • The Individual-Community Tension
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • References
  • Conclusion: An Invitation to Continuous Dialogue on Indigenous Spiritual Ways of Knowing
  • References
  • Contributors



Putting together a manuscript of any kind requires consultation, collaboration, commitment, and most of all, passion. The meeting of the minds for this work was first and foremost a collaborative effort. The vision of a common purpose, the mobilization of diverse spiritual ways of knowing, and the courage to center it within the education system were aspects of a collective idea to celebrate, honor, and validate the multiple ways of spiritual knowing.

Therefore, it is with utmost honour that we wish to acknowledge the following individuals for their steadfast support and industriousness in contributing chapters, reading, editing, contributing ideas, and shaping central arguments of the book for consistency and sequential flow. These individuals invested a considerable amount of their scarce time, with wisdom and guidance from different spiritual philosophies.

We thank Professor Wane and the students in her Spirituality and Schooling class of Fall 2010. It was during the introductory remarks for this course that Professor Wane announced to her class that she was going to be putting together another volume on spirituality and schooling, and that all the students were welcome to revise their papers for consideration. We would like to take this opportunity to thank all those students who have worked diligently with us to make the “idea” a reality. We sincerely acknowledge all of you “chapter contributors” for your insights in presenting your thoughts on spirituality in such unique and captivating ways. Your multiple ways of articulating issues of spirituality will push the debates on spirituality beyond the current scholarship, where many are still questioning the validity and the legitimacy of spirituality as a branch of study or as a theory.

We cannot forget Dr. Dillard and the whole publishing team. Your endless guidance during the work on this volume was invaluable.

Dr. Onek Adyanga and Dr. Bradley Rowe, who wrote responses to the chapters, are equally recognized. They have provided unique, cutting-edge scholarship with deep, epistemological foundations rooted in spirituality. Their responses also tied the different chapters together, while threading the commonalities and differences binding key themes.

We also thank our families for their never-ending support of our academic endeavours. Their support in different capacities was outstanding. Asante Sana.

We also acknowledge the unwavering support from the Centre for Integrative Anti-Racism Studies (CIARS) at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto. This research centre provided the space from which to work. Many evenings and weekends, this space became our home, where we would read and edit the chapters. The publishing of a spirituality book from the Centre goes to show how integrative anti-racist epistemology works.

Above all, we recognize the existence of our Creator as the key source of knowledge. It is in his or her mighty power that working on this book was anchored. And we are optimistic that those who yearn for deeper and diverse spiritual knowledge find this book a thirst quencher as they embark on the long spiritual journey.




Many universities, both in the West and East, have their basis and inception in religious traditions. For example, the major centers of learning in Bologna, Italy and Fez, Morocco were both inspired by religious beliefs. While religion and spirituality are not identical, one cannot deny the role of spirituality in many original centers of higher learning such as the ones mentioned. However, gradually, but especially with the rise and popularization of the liberal notion that the public and secular are identical, both the religious and spiritual dimensions of learning have been marginalized in many mainstream, publicly funded institutions of higher education.

In the last 20 years or so, with the impact of neoliberalism in all aspects of life both in the West and the East, the attack on the spiritual dimensions of learning, including in the area of the humanities, has had a very negative effect. Martha Nussbaum (2010) referred to the gradual marginalization of the humanities in universities as the “silent disease”—a disease which is eroding democratic values. Neoliberalism has marginalized notions of community and cooperation, robust public discussions, and the value of the spiritual and the philosophical. The almost exclusive emphasis has been placed on the instrumental and narrow usefulness, efficiency, rampant individualism, and competition. Moreover, the neoliberal ideology has been bolstered by two major concepts: accountability and evidence. While both concepts are crucial, their proper meanings have been thwarted by popular, neoliberal sloganeering. There is much more to accountability than simply accounting for what happens. Documenting what one does in no way guarantees moral responsibility in one’s actions. Likewise, reducing evidence simply to empirical data reduces the notion of evidence to the empirical and material. The popular articulations of these central concepts, in fact, marginalize the spiritual and philosophical dimensions, and even exclude the possibility that these dimensions can be considered as meaningful forms of evidence—that is, forms of seeing and justifying, as the root meaning of evidence clearly indicates. The limitations and exclusions that neoliberalism (which, in a sense, is a “natural” development of certain forms of liberalism) has created contribute immensely to the “silent disease,” and hence are antithetical to the democratic values of equity, social justice, fairness, creativity, and openness.

Within the dangerous climate in which we live, the collection of these thirteen essays is very refreshing, for the general purpose of the collection is to explore the different forms of spirituality within a global context and with a multidisciplinary focus, in order to offer justifications for the importance of the spiritual dimension in a genuine education, as well as experiences of the spiritual dimension in education. While focusing on various aspects and utilizing different disciplines (sociology, philosophy, history, psychiatry, and anthropology), the authors are careful not to privilege one tradition over another, although the political and educational stances of each are clear and well argued. In this regard, the essays clearly show that the current explicit and implicit power dimensions in knowledge production and knowledge mobilization privilege narrow and exclusionary forms of empiricism, which has become a more recent form of imperialism and colonialism. In this sense, the aim of this collection is to contribute to the ongoing struggle to regain the proper place of the spiritual and the philosophical within the academy. We cannot claim to be democratic and open in our academic inquiries, and at the same time marginalize perspectives that are rooted in the spiritual lives of human beings.

The neoliberal emphasis on standardization by definition (that is, no empirical evidence is needed to demonstrate this reality) excludes certain perspectives that do not fit what is deemed to be “normal” and “standard” from a privileged position. Unfortunately, the ideology of standardization or one-size-fits-all has infiltrated organizations such as the World Bank and UNESCO which possibly unwittingly are reproducing new forms of colonialization through education.

How can we conceive of human life in ways that honour the different knowledge traditions? How can we restructure educational institutions to really honour the various spiritual traditions? How can the spiritual dimension assist in eliminating new forms of colonialization and marginalization? How can the spiritual dimension be authentically included in teaching without either falling into a form of indoctrination or being dismissed as superficiality? How can the vital issue of the meaning of life be meaningfully re-introduced in the academy and schools? Such are the kinds of questions tackled by the authors of this collection. It is by seriously engaging in such questions that we can avoid another form of the “banality of evil”, to borrow a phrase from Hannah Arendt (1963), that has emerged from the bureaucratization of neoliberalism and the concomitant “cult of efficiency” (Stein 2002).

Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), University of Toronto
August 2013


Arendt, H. 1963. Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. New York, NY: Viking Press.

Nussbaum, M. C. 2010. Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Stein, J. G. 2002. The Cult of Efficiency. Toronto, ON: House of Anansi Press.




This book, Spiritual Discourse in the Academy: A Globalized, Indigenous Perspective, offers unique contributions on the discourse of spirituality that different education stakeholders and professionals from other disciplines will find beneficial. The book’s emphasis on the value of spirituality as a subjugated knowledge from global contexts, and the recommendations for its inclusion in the mainstream formal-education system not only offer space for transformative education, but also embrace global diversity and inclusive education for sustainable social, economic, and political development in the twenty-first century. Because of the emerging interest of scholars in the subject of spirituality, the book is an open invitation to the advancement of more research and scholarship on possibilities and also challenges in the discourse of spirituality, and on its inclusion in formal education.

The first aim of this book is to reach out to educators, scholars, students, and other interested community members who are looking for a collection that examines multiple roles of spirituality in schooling and society at large. The second aim is to add to the scarce literatures on spirituality from a globalized Indigenous lens situated within a Canadian context. It is on these bases that the editors of the book embarked on a project of discussions on spirituality from an anti-colonial perspective informed by multiple voices that represent diverse cultures globally. The premise of this book is to anchor different spiritual understandings in education. Thirdly, the book aims to rupture the lopsided power relations in knowledge production, validation, and dissemination. ← 1 | 2 →


XIV, 246
ISBN (Hardcover)
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2012 (August)
transformative education diversity intellectual growth
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2014. 246 pp.

Biographical notes

Njoki Nathani Wane (Volume editor) Francis Akena Adyanga (Volume editor) Ahmed Ali Ilmi (Volume editor)

Njoki N. Wane (PhD, University of Toronto) is a professor at the University of Toronto. She has won many awards for her teaching and scholarship, including the Harry Jerome Professional Excellence Award (2008). She also received the Decolonizing Education towards the Advancement of Anti-Racism Award (2014) from the University of Toronto. Francis Akena Adyanga received his PhD from the University of Toronto. Ahmed Ali Ilmi received his PhD from the University of Toronto.


Title: Spiritual Discourse in the Academy