Penn State

Consortium forSocial Movements and Education
Research and Practice

Jose Cossa

Jose Cossa

Associate Professor of Lifelong Learning and Adult Education, Comparative and International Education, African Studies
Jose Cossa

Professional Bio

José Cossa, Ph.D., is a Mozambican scholar, writer/author, researcher, poet, blogger, “twitterer”, podcaster, entrepreneur, and an Associate Professor in the College of Education at Pennsylvania State University. Cossa holds a Ph.D. in Cultural and Educational Policy Studies with a depth area in Comparative and International Education from Loyola University Chicago. He is the author of the book Power, Politics, and Higher Education: International Regimes, Local Governments, and Educational Autonomy. Currently, Cossa is engaged in a new (exterior to modernity) theorizing about and for justice, which he coined as Cosmo-uBuntu.

Research Interests

Justice (global)

Related Materials

This book addresses the manifestations of power dynamics in negotiations between international organizations operating at the global level (e.g., the World Bank, WTO, and UNESCO) and international organizations operating at the regional level (e.g., NEPAD, SADC, and AAU). It further addresses how these dynamics influence the educational autonomy of governments in the region. Although it focuses on Southern Africa, the principles drawn and the models developed therein can contribute to a better understanding of inter-organizational interactions in other regions of the world.

This study also illuminates specific and general instances of power dynamics, which resulted in models and categories of power that are useful to inform a wide variety of academic disciplines in the social sciences and the humanities. The RIF model (Regimes as Intermediate Factors) adds to the regime formation discourse by providing a visual representation of the complex role of regimes as intermediate between a system’s power structure and the negotiations and decision-makings that occur within the system. The NSPD model (Necessary and Sufficient conditions plus Properties and Dimensions) provides a tool with which to engage in basic conceptual analysis. The FET model (Filter Effect Theory) adds to the periphery-center discourse by providing a visual representation of the interactions between Global International Regimes, Regional International Regimes, and Local Governments in relation to the code of international negotiations. The SRHP model (Schematic Representation of Hermeneutical Power) adds a discourse of hermeneutical proximity-distance in areas concerned with textual interpretation.

This book addresses the crucial intersection between the African Renaissance and higher education. While using the case of Christian higher education in SouthAfrica, the value of this Renaissance-style book extends beyond the impact of the phenomena on religious affairs in South Africa into all aspects of present-day African life. Africans cannot deny that the core influence of the phenomena, i.e., to revalidate African traditions in the face of challenges such as post-colonialism, neocolonialism,and globalization, is sweeping the continent, thus an understanding of its impact is crucial in situating African perspectives in regards to African identity in academia and other spheres.
Centered on the experience of Eduardo Mondlane in three universities in the United States, this article highlights the importance of universities to assume a social responsibility stance that is critical of its philosophical foundation and roots itself on perceptions of human beyond the current cartesian ethos. Conceptually, the article centers its discourse on the divergent conceptualizations of human drawn from humanism and uBuntu, as foundational differentiators of perceptions and practices of justice and social  responsibility. Theoretically, it leans on a critique of modernity and humanism by presenting uBuntu and Cosmo‑uBuntu as alternative philosophical and theoretical lenses for problematizing and explaining justice and social responsibility. Methodologically, it draws from reflexivity, hermeneutics (especially, textual criticism), and archival documentary research. Its purpose is to inspire universities to engage in reflexivity about their social responsibility claims and to encourage an intentional commitment to social responsibility that is informed by exterior to modernity theorizing.

Prior to COVID-19, the CIES 2020 Program Committee had begun integrating virtual participation options to expand access and reduce the conference carbon footprint. In parallel, for several years, the African Special InterestGroup (ASIG) has been engaged in efforts to increase conference access by integrating a virtual component into the annual meetings. In 2019, ASIG was finally able to experiment with a contributor to the Bantaba,1Kabba Colley,who was featured via Skype.2However, in response to the global health crisis,the entire CIES 2020 conference became virtual, that is, vCIES, and its call for climate consciousness and access aligned with the challenges of COVID-19restrictions for travel and reliance on virtual platforms such as Zoom. This move opened an opportunity for ASIG members, previously unable to travel to the conference, to attend and participate in its events, including a virtual adaptation of the Bantaba, ASIGs usual signature event. CIES and ASIGs preparedness paid off, and ASIG is committed to continuing to offer a Global vBantabaand other hybrid options going forward to allow for more people based in Africa to attend and participate in the conference and ASIG events. This is particularly important for people in institutions that do not enjoy large travel budgets. However, it is critical to address connectivity issues, as virtual participation is also a privilege that is not enjoyed by a majority of people on the continent (Huawei Technologies 2019). 

This article explores the interaction between Globalization and the African Renaissance. Its main concern is twofold: to engage the intellectual and policy communities in further reflection about the intricacy and complexity of this interaction; and, consequently, to challenge these communities to exercise more caution when creating and adopting policies and action plans for Africa under the pressure of globalization. The paper (a) employs a conceptual analysis to tackle questions of adequacy, or inadequacy, of the term African Renaissance, (b) discusses connections between language, education, and freedom in post-colonial Africa; and, (c) suggests a response that Africans can adopt in their effort to position Africa as an equitable player amidst the influence of globalization. The author also challenges conceptions of knowledge and cognition, research practices and what constitutes valid research, publication culture and what constitutes publishable material, and the overrated celebration of cosmopolitanism by intellectuals.

Based on lessons learned from examining the relationship between several international organizations and African higher education, this paper unveils the subtleties and complexities of power dynamics in negotiations, provides illustrative cases to enhance such understanding, discusses the implications of power dynamics in negotiations over higher education policy, and provides a glimpse at the necessary ingredients to build sustainable and healthy international partnerships. Based in a conceptual framework of power dynamics, the paper hinges on international regimes for its theoretical foundation, and on the intersection of conflicting agendas for a transformative higher education in Africa, as advocated by the Association of African Universities (AAU) and the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), for its historical framework. An understanding of the subtleties and complexities of power dynamics in international negotiations is critical for Africa at this crossroads of her relationship with BRIC countries, particularly amidst the competition between China and other superpowers and their respective organizations over Africa as a market arena. This understanding will also be important for examining newly claimed ‘reformed’ policies originating from the historically dominant Western countries because (a) the dimensions of this relationship are still being negotiated/established, thus a good time to address power dynamics; (b) Africa is engaged in a quest for development through partnerships; and, (c) African scholars are often confronted with the idea of a higher education system by African design. With a focus on Africa that simultaneously highlights the problem of developing nations more generally, this paper discusses four categories of power – hermeneutical, informational, manipulative, and monetary – that must be taken seriously into account in international negotiations as they have dire consequences for the developing world.

Cossa, J. (2011). Education and System Transfer in Mozambique. International Journal of Education Policy and Leadership, 6(2).
In this study the author used conceptual historical method to assess the phenomenon of system transfer and the association between education and development in Mozambique. The assessment was administered through critical analysis of documents pertaining to the Salazar (1924-1966), Machel (1975-1986), and Chissano (1986-2005) administrations. The findings were that (a) the colonial government created economic and educational systems for colonizing Mozambique, whereas the Machel and Chissano administrations adapted foreign systems of government and education (i.e., Socialism, Soviet, Democracy, Portuguese, etc.), to their particular context without altering the inherent theoretical basis of the systems transferred; (b) the Machel and Chissano administrations, implicitly or explicitly, perceived the relationship between education and development as circular causality rather than a unidirectional linear causality, while the Salazar administration perceived it as unidirectional linear causality; and (c) while the Machel and Chissano administrations focused on primary education, literacy campaigns, and education of women and girls, they differed in the reasons for such focus.

Cossa, J. (2021). Cosmo-uBuntu theorizing about the global citizen in modernity's frontiers: lived experience in Mozambique, United States, Swaziland, South Africa, and Egypt. In Susan Wiksten (Ed.), Enactments of global citizenship education: social justice in public spheres of education. Routledge.


Cossa, J. (2020). Cosmo-uBuntu: Toward a New Theorizing for Justice in Education and Beyond. In Abdi, A. A. (Ed.). Critical Theorizations of Education. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill | Sense.

In this chapter, José Cossa examines the Modernity-confined dominant conceptualizations and theorizations about critical perspectives on justice in education, with important analytical and livelihood attachments to other areas of human existence. The chapter’s perspectives derive from Cossa’s earlier and original theoretical and philosophical critiques of the contemporary global situation, where unequal power dynamics accentuate the shortcomings of critical Cosmopolitanism, which requires the indispensable de-bordering, de-centering, de-peripherizing, and de-colonializing of the world. In addition and as an important component of achieving the needed conceptualizations and theorizations, the author proposes a new concept, epistemic genocide, as complimentary to the more widely used concept of epistemic violence. To achieve these objectives, the chapter deploys conceptual critical analysis, thus evoking what Cossa calls Cosmo-uBuntu theorizing as an ‘orientation for a new exterior (to Modernity) theorizing.’ This is perspectively mixed with issues of justice education and epistemologies with extra connections to’ data, data science, and Artificial Intelligence (AI) as relatively new dimensions of conceptual-theoretical interaction.’

Our Research

Assié‐Lumumba, N. D. T., Cossa, J., & Waghid, Y. (2019). Freire and Africa: A Focus and Impact on Education. The Wiley Handbook of Paulo Freire, 149-166.

Literature on Freirean educational theory and practice in Africa covers a wide range of areas and perspectives. Throughout the African continent, Paulo Freire and his pedagogical influences in the areas of dialogical praxis and conscientization and functional literacy were known in countries still engaged in the decolonization struggle as well as in those in search of postcolonial transformative educational systems. Indeed, for colonial and postcolonial educational institutions, the seminal works of Paulo Freire can be considered among the most significant scholarly contributions to have been made in education. From colonial oppression and postcolonial autocracies in many parts of the African continent to apartheid in South Africa, “organic intellectuals” (according to the concept used by Antonio Gramsci) or “transformative intellectuals” (to borrow a term coined by the critical scholar Henry Giroux) have emerged to contest, epistemologically, and undermine such heinous forms of inhumanity. The works that these intellectuals drew on were situated, poignantly, in the erudition of Paulo Freire, one of the world's most famous contributors to an educational discourse of conscientization, hope, praxis, and imagination. The thoughts and actions of African enlightened education theorists and political actors such as Amilcar Cabral (1973) of Guinea-Bissau or Mwalimu Julius Nyerere (1967, 1973) of Tanzania converged with Paulo Freire's analytical perspectives and praxis. This contribution starts off with a discussion of the educational background and life of Freire, tying this to African thought and practice followed by an outline of his notable contributions to educational theory and practice. The third focal point of this chapter is an examination of the influence of his transformative ideas and liberation pedagogy on education conceived holistically and particularly higher educational institutions in Africa. The paper is a conceptual essay with practical illustrations drawn from levels and types of education across the African continent.

This chapter addresses the challenge of coloniality in the promises of modernity and cosmopolitanism to higher education in Africa by highlighting that Western higher education was founded under classical modernist and classical cosmopolitan perceptions of how the world ought to be ordered (or modernity) and how to nurture planetary conviviality (or cosmopolitanism). When we conceptualize higher education and scholarship within perspectives engendered by narratives of modernity and cosmopolitanism, even if at a critical modernist level, we rule out the problem of coloniality and fall short of being critically critical. I call for an engagement toward a de-bordering, de-centering/de-peripherizing, and de-colonilizing.