Why Fish Don’t Exist’: Postcolonial Quests for Education from Asia

SunInn Yun, Incheon National University; Hiromi Ozaki, Toyo Eiwa University; Rowena A. Azada Palacios, Ateneo de Manila University; Seung-hyun Choi, Chungbuk National University

In this symposium, we explore the postcolonial dimensions of identity formation through education in relation to the nature of language. Central to this theme is Lulu Miller’s (2020) book “Why Fish Don’t Exist,” which challenges readers to recognise that fish do not exist as a biological category. Miller’s work reflects on the meaning of life and warns against a perilous mindset that fixates on replacing individual uniqueness with generic categories. It also illustrates how such fixed ideas, spanning scientific fields, contribute to the creation of hierarchies and the exertion of political power, as observed in the history of 20th-century (Lee, 2019; Sato, 2011; Standish, 2011).

Having a cue from Miller’s exploration of the nonexistent category of fish, we contemplate the idea of Asia. This prompts us to reflect on our identity as Asians and consider specific points in education related to identity formation from our unique perspectives (Azada-Palacios, 2022; Mahon, 2017). In so doing, we also recognise the need to move beyond merely introducing local cultures from Asian countries to Western countries, our focus extends to critically examining how Western-educated Asian researchers navigate the incorporation or struggle with both local and Western cultures in their respective contexts (Liuying Wei & Enslin, 2022; Yun, 2021). Therefore we would like to explore a strategic approach to understanding what we have learned, how it has shaped us individually and collectively, and how this knowledge has been institutionalised in our daily lives (Kwak et al., 2022). To this end, the symposium serves as a platform to explore concrete ways to problematise our understanding of identity formation and the related struggles faced in the postcolonial era.