To crash or not to crash the canon? Seeking to address coloniality in a one-year social science programme in Norway

by Maren Seehawer

The decolonising academia movement came to Norway not in form of student protests, but as a – pretty heated – feuilleton debate between academics. During summer 2018, there was strong disagreement between those for whom the inclusion of multiple voices violates the principle of professionalism and is contrary to the whole idea of ​​academia and those who argue that decolonisation, will bring about more complex and nuanced perspectives about the world and thereby, in fact, lead to more robust knowledge generation. Last year, I was asked by a colleague to teach two classes on this debate in one of my institution’s social science bachelor programmes. As part of my classes, the students discussed whether and, if so, how, coloniality found expression in the courses they attended. From this exercise, it was a short way to reflecting on, and introducing some first tentative changes to, the courses which I am responsible for myself.

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Decolonisation on a T-shirt : On cooptation and academic careers

by Julia Schöneberg

Before I share some observations on how I feel ‘decolonising’ is coopted in academia, I want to start by situating the position from which I am arguing. I am a white, well-educated, middle-class, able-bodied woman living in Germany and working in a Western university. Inevitably, my approach to decolonisation is shaped by this positionality. Also, when I talk of ‘we’, I think of people holding similar privileges like myself, living and working in similar spaces, especially in institutions of Higher Education (HE) in the global North.

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The Case for Inter-Philosophical Dialogue: An African Philosophical Perspective

by Ompha Tshikhudo Malima

The History of Philosophy: An Injustice to Africa  

The practice of philosophy cannot be done with innocence and ignorance while true history and reality shows that “the blurred and dotted picture of the history of Western philosophy is a deformation of the African identity.” This was done through denying humanity and thus philosophy to the African. The use of the Cartesian maxim cogito, ergo sum (I think, therefore I am) resonates with what Mogobe Ramose problematized as the abuse of the Aristotelian maxim “man is a rational animal.” The false logic then goes, because the African cannot think, s/he is thus not human. Subairi Nasseem argues that the link between epistemology (the study of knowledge) and ontology (the study of the nature of being) leads to the same thing, and this is why I use the Cartesian and Aristotelian maxims. Emevwo Biakolo categorized these colonial attitudes and plots into “cross-cultural cognition of the African condition” and concluded that they serve no purpose in understanding African philosophy and their purpose is only to derail the discipline. Western philosophy created an imaginary centre which marginalizes other philosophical traditions such as Asian, African and Eastern philosophies. It was founded on “scientific and spiritual racism” which was perpetuated by famous thinkers such as Immanuel Kant and Georg Hegel. This historical injustice to (African) philosophy lacks valid reasoning and should not have a place in Africa. According to Dennis Masaka, the problem of philosophical racism is attributed to, and located “within the context of Western cultural imperialism, which has historically tended to take its own testimony as having transcultural relevance and application”  while falsifying the idea of an epistemic centre. A historical injustice was committed by the failure of philosophy in not  “understanding different realities differently.”

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Decolonial Praxis, Education and COVID-19: Perspectives from India

An Interview with Sayan Dey

by Hadje Cresencio Sadje

Background: Since the global outbreak of COVID-19 on December 2019, there have been 271.963.258 confirmed cases, including 5.331.019 deaths, reported to World Health Organisation (WHO, 2021). To address the ongoing challenges of the global pandemic, various governments and non-governmental organisations agreed to continue and strengthen cooperation to address the devastating ripple effects of the COVID-19 (Amaya, 2021). Despite these efforts, the impacts of COVID-19 pandemic have posed unprecedented challenges, especially to the poorest, most vulnerable, and marginalized groups. COVID-19 has disproportionately affected racial, ethnic minority, and marginalized groups (Tai et. Al, 2020). According to recent studies, the poorest, most vulnerable, and marginalized groups are left far behind (IFRC, 2021; Economic Policy Institute, 2020).

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The Zapatistas’ “Journey for Life” and its Implications for a Global Solidarity

by Franca Marquardt

Meeting the Zapatistas

“We have given you the seeds of rebellion against colonialism and capitalism” – this is what the group of Zapatistas that visited us here in Leipzig announced on our last night together. I am still processing this important moment, one that now seems like a dream. But it was quite the opposite, something very real: a coming-together of worlds for the prospect of a global solidarity. The Zapatistas and their resistance against colonial capitalism have been an inspiration to me and to many fellow students and activists. I have never been to Chiapas or studied their political organisation in depth. But when I heard about this “journey for life” and the Zapatistas’ plan to travel to Europe and meet local movements, I was intrigued. As an anthropology student and social activist, I am constantly confronted with the impasse we face in our actions and reflections that are still contained within a limited, Eurocentric framework. Ultimately, a just transition cannot be advanced unless we take into account all voices and perspectives and form alliances between actors across the world. The journey of the Zapatistas, I thought, could be a chance to put these ideas into practice while dealing with socio-ecological issues in a way that considers local fights in a global context and provides the global movement with the most important tool: hope.

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Decolonising Development Research: Why it is urgently needed and what steps must be taken

by Aram Ziai

The endeavour of ‘decolonising’ is very much on vogue (not only, but also) in recent discussions and debates in academia and Higher Education. But what does this claim practically and tangibly entail for academia generally and development research and development studies specifically? In this blog, I want to  briefly outline what I see as eurocentric or even colonial structures in development studies in terms of its knowledge basis and its knowledge production before pointing to possible ways of decolonising development research.

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On feminist entanglements and white politics of knowledge

by Lisa-Marlen Gronemeier

This contribution is situated within the beginning of my un-learning the single feminist story and its underlying violence, which constitute whiteness in German universities’ gender studies departments. I argue that the dominant knowledge politics enforces and normalizes white feminists’ epistemic privilege as well as practices that are “considered ‘unmarked’ – yet unmarked only if viewed from the perspective of normative whiteness”. As white feminists, ‘our’ epistemic privilege is reproduced through specific knowledge politics that has as a referent white, middle-class, cis-female herstory and experience. Insisting on ‘gender’ as isolated meta-category, this politics upholds patriarchy as a universal and transhistorical phenomenon, whilst trivializing the enmeshment of power relations resulting from (neo)colonialism and racial capitalism. Disconnected from ‘other’ (her)stories of struggle, ‘our’ story is not only produced as normative; white feminists are also authorized as ‘natural’ inhabitant of gender studies departments, with the prerogative of speaking for, on behalf, and instead of ‘others’. Thereby, knowledge politics re-produces violence against knowledge holders and knowledges beyond white feminisms’ genealogy. As Audre Lorde diagnosed long ago, white feminists’ self-centeredness and ignorance signify that “only the most narrow parameters of change are possible and allowable”.

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LONG READ: An immanent critique of decolonisation projects

by Sunny Dhillon

The contemporary neoliberal university in the UK is necessarily unable to enact decolonisation. What the university may do, however, is cultivate an intellectual environment ripe to discuss the ongoing pervasiveness of colonialism. In other words, instead of ten point plans or toolkits to award ‘decoloniality’ scores to be highlighted in ‘inclusive’ marketing campaigns to attract historically underrepresented groups, staff and students ought to undertake a relentless critique of the contemporary university apparatus. Such a critique of existing social issues must be immanent, as opposed to transcendent. I argue that an immanent critique can be helpfully guided by the negative dialectics of the late Critical Theorist, Theodor W. Adorno.

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On Coloniality/Decoloniality in Knowledge Production and Societies

by Henning Melber

Social organisations tend to be based on asymmetric power relations – almost always, almost everywhere. Inequality characterises interaction both inside and in between societies. Class-based hierarchies, peppered by gender imbalances, sexism, racism, xenophobia, homophobia and many other forms of discrimination are the order of the day, both nationally as well as internationally. Colonial power structures and mindsets – understood as a hierarchical system imposing normative values which exclude and discriminate – remain almost always an integral part of any form of social reproduction, even when we believe that colonialism as a system in which foreign powers occupy and execute rule over other territories and people, is a matter of the past. Following such broad understanding, social reproduction tends to inherently maintain colonial structures, and individuals remain colonised subjects.

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How to be an ally? An ongoing (un-)learning journey

by Maren Seehawer

“Indigenous and non-indigenous alliances cut across localities, nations, and continents” and the struggle for decolonisation and “recovering indigenous peoples’ identities … knows no borders”, writes Norwegian professor Anders Breidlid in his (2013) book Education, Indigenous Knowledges, and Development in in the global South.

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