16 April 2018
by Emily Varni, INEE Intern
Each year, the Comparative and International Education Society (CIES) recognizes a recently published book with the Jackie Kirk Outstanding Book Award. Created in 2010, the Award honors the late Dr. Jacqueline (Jackie) Kirk’s profound commitment to and continued impact on the field of international and comparative education.
The Jackie Kirk Outstanding Book award pays tribute to Jackie’s life and legacy by acknowledging a book that emulates one or more of her areas of commitment.
The 2018 Book Award winner is Michelle Bellino’s beautiful book – Youth in Post-War Guatemala: Education and Civic Identity in Transition — which captures the critical voices, experiences, hopes, frustrations, and dreams of young people in Guatemala. Dr. Bellino’s ethnography follows several young people in four different schools in urban and rural communities across the country as they learn about Guatemala’s history of authoritarianism and both develop and negotiate their civic identity in the country’s post-war democracy. Dr. Bellino effortlessly weaves together the students’ stories and academic literature in a form and style that is reminiscent of Jackie’s special touch in co-constructing and further elevating stories of the participants that we come across on our research journeys.
Dr. Bellino’s book embodies Jackie’s commitment to youth and raises the voices of those who otherwise may not have the opportunity to tell their stories.
An excerpt from Dr. Bellino’s award acceptance speech:
I recently spoke to one of the youth participants, Alfredo, who is in high school in the book and eager to return to his village to take on a leadership role. He has since returned to his Maya pueblo and is now becoming a teacher. When I asked what he hopes for his students, he said this: “I want my students to be critical. I want my students to ask questions, to ask how is it that we became how we are, what happened that things are this way? I want them to ask, where does this violence we live today come from and is it fair that we live the pain and consequences of a war we still don’t understand—because no one taught us… I want them not to accept that this is the only way things can be—to see that Guatemala does not have to be… a place where a few have everything and many have nothing. I want them to think, how else could we live together…? This is why I became a teacher, and this is what I hope for my students.”
Dr. Michelle Bellino is an Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan School of Education. Her research centers on young people’s understanding of historical injustice, whether experienced directly or shaped through school curriculum, family narratives, or social movements. In her work, she traces youth experiences from schools to their homes and communities in order to understand how knowledge and attitudes toward historical injustice travel across public and private spaces, as well as between generations. She asks how young people construct the past while shaping an evolving sense of themselves as local and global civic actors.
Dr. Bellino is committed to exploring the relationship between historical consciousness and civic development in conflict-affected and post-conflict contexts undergoing transitional justice or democratic transition. Dr. Bellino’s work has been featured in Education, Citizenship, and Social Justice; International Journal of History Teaching, Learning, and Research; International Journal of Social Education; and several collections on history education and human rights.
The 2018 Book Award honorable mention was granted to Jennifer Riggan’s book, The Struggling State: Nationalism, Mass Militarization and the Education of Eritrea, which provides a richly detailed ethnography of the role of teachers in the lesser known context of Eritrea. The focus on the role of teachers was near and dear to Jackie’s heart.
In August 2008, Jackie Kirk was tragically killed with her colleagues Mohammad Aimal, Shirley Case, and Nicole Dial while working for the International Rescue Committee in Afghanistan. Jackie was an extremely active INEE member and a passionate advocate for quality education in emergencies. A technical specialist in education in emergencies and post-conflict, with a particular focus on gender issues, Jackie founded and convened the INEE Gender Task Team in 2005. Jackie’s efforts and her legacy live on in many of the INEE tools and resources that she helped develop and that continue to be used by thousands of education workers today.
As we approach the 10-year anniversary of losing Jackie Kirk - a brilliant scholar, committed practitioner, and generous colleague and friend - the work that she dedicated her life to remains critically important.