Uses of history in elite schools: An assemblage of sense and sentiments

Aaron Soon Lee KOH, Fazal RIZVI

Research output: Contribution to conferencePapers


How do elite schools construct, represent and utilize their histories in the processes of elite formation, not only to provide their community a sense of historical continuity but also to brand themselves in an increasingly competitive global market? In this presentation, we will discuss the uses of history in case studies of three elite schools in India, Hong Kong and Singapore. Attention is drawn to how these elite schools select and 'sanctify' the history of their school to mobilize an historical sense and sentiments of distinction. The historical deposits in elite schools, we will argue, comprise a mixture of colonial, postcolonial, nationalist, modernist and global sentiments. These deposits are displayed in a variety of ways that highlight the achievements of the schools and their various notable alumni, the architectural grandeur of the schools, and the everyday narratives of the schools that connect the contemporary experiences to historical trajectories. These references of historical continuity are designed to produce particular forms of sensuality and desire not only among students, teachers and parents at the schools but also the wider community (Anholt 2009). We are particularly interested in how these sentiments are visually assembled (in a Deleuzian sense) to craft elite identifications (for students and staff) and elite distinction (for the public). In this way, our presentation will foreground the 'geo-semiotics' (Scollon & Scollon, 2003) of history in each school and discuss how they use the (visual) narratives of their history to shape the ways in which they negotiate the contemporary processes of globalization.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2012


Koh, A., & Rizvi, F. (2012, December). Uses of history in elite schools: An assemblage of sense and sentiments. Paper presented at the Joint International Conference of the Australian Association for Research in Education and the Asia Pacific Educational Research Association (AARE-APERA 2012): Regional and global cooperation in educational research, the University of Sydney, Sidney, Australia.


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