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Global Perspectives on Decolonisation

We asked an international host of experts about how they understood decolonisation and its importance. This is what they told us.
What can we understand by  ‘decolonisation’? Why is it important? Decolonization is such a loaded word these days  and it’s one that feels culturally divisive.   I don’t think it necessarily should be because  really when you get down to brass tacks what   it essentially means is that we understand  knowledge not just in a one-dimensional way  
but that we give it context: historical context,  social context, cultural context, and that we   understand knowledge exists within cultures. It’s  shaped by the cultures that it comes out of and   if we’re going to appreciate that then we need a  broader understanding of where ideas come from. Science is a valid way of knowing but is  not the only valid way of knowing. There   are other ways of knowing and even science, as  a valid way of knowing, should be scrutinized.   So there is no relativism here.
That  is not to say that everything goes   or all kinds of knowledge are equally valid,  no, they are valid for different purposes.   And that’s why science has to be also submitted to  these second criteria which is that which kind of   science for which kind of purposes. So basically  and of course indigenous knowledge it cannot be a   good kind of knowledge to take me to the moon -  is a different object. Probably it is very good   for ecological struggles because it brings me  into harmony with mother earth, with nature,   which probably western-centric  knowledge will never do that. It’s a multi-dimensional approach to  teaching and learning as much as it is about   re-engaging with the content that we’re using to  teach.
So it’s about first of all understanding   how the practices of teaching and learning have  led to a curriculum that is colonial in essence,   and how we can work together to try and first  of all critique it dismantle - it doesn’t mean   destroyed it means dismantle it, unpack it if  you would - and then understand those mechanisms,   and then introduce the kind of literature  and bibliography that is in par with our   imperatives and our changing society. So  it’s about unpacking and introducing material   that are relevant to our to our communities, and  I mean communities - the global community really. Decolonizing the curriculum is a  process of struggling fundamentally  
over the dominant epistemologies and traditions of  thought that have continually been placed at the   center of the knowledge project of the university.  You know, it’s for me this process of properly and   justly constituting what we could call an assembly  of mind. I think that in trying to move away from   the over-articulated cannons of the  remnants of the colonial university,   it’s this notion of an assembly of mind that is  properly constituted in its worldly dimensions,   that one is looking for here. And the  last thing I’ll say for now is that   in thinking about that assembly of mind, we  know that one of the most excluded parties  
and misremembered forms of knowledge are african  knowledge systems and histories of black thought. I think that colonialism is one of the three  metrics of contemporary society, the other two   being capitalism and patriarchy, and therefore  doesn’t make any sense from my point of view   to tackle one without confronting the other  two. That is to say, we decolonize to the extent   that we decommodify the university and  to the extent that we de-patriarchalize   the university. Decolonizing separated from  entitled capitalism or anti-patriarchalism   is a very weak type of struggle in my view.
We have been accepting the way we do certain,  the way we teach certain disciplines, the way we   do for example history. And this has resulted in  the exclusion of part of the communities that make  
that make several countries. So, if we look  at Britain, that has excluded extra-european   literature and bibliographies and knowledge-based  expertise as well. So it’s very important to   address these issues and to respond to the  vibrant changing faces of our communities. If you don’t have a good thorough  historical and cultural framework for   science then you become prone to committing the  same kind of mistakes that scientists have made in   the past. So we know that scientists, for example,  had very damaging, dangerous and fallacious ideas  
about human difference in the 19th century: sexist  ideas, racist ideas that now we understand were   wrong but scientists are still at risk of falling  into those logical traps again. If they understand   those mistakes that were made in the past, then  we can make sure that that doesn’t happen again. Of course the curriculum and the pedagogy  have to change because we cannot teach the   same type - different types of knowledge through  the same pedagogies. But it is most of the non  
western-centric knowledge is oral knowledge, so we  have to have other forms of teaching, of learning:   the circles of conversation, the other forms the  of more collaborative, more horizontal forms of   co-learning. What Paulo Freire called the Pedagogy  of Liberation or the Pedagogy of the Oppressed. We’re dealing with a scale of inequality  both here and across the world that is   somewhat unprecedented.
And certainly racial  justice has a key part to play in that context,   but I wanted to find a language in which  we could think about the redistribution of   multiple dimensions of the university, because  after all the university is such a complex entity   and so one that speaks to economic  pressures, racial injustice, but also,   Madhu, in many ways you know notions of how we  might redistribute the the sense of belonging   in an institutional context, the sense perhaps  we could we could refer to as ‘habitability’,   the capacity to be listened to. And so all of  these things start to feed into what I think   university ought to be.
And part of that process  for me is resting it away in a de-colonial manner   but also in a broader manner, not only from  the remnants of the colonial university but   also from the languages of the technocratic  and neo-liberal university which really   doesn’t want us to think about these questions  of symbolic injury, belonging, economic justice,   and some kind of system of reciprocities which I  think also has to be at the heart of a university.

Decolonisation is often a misunderstood and sometimes a contested word. To get a better sense of what it entails, and why it is important especially in education, we asked a host of international experts about their views on decolonisation.

The international experts in the video, who you will see again later in the course, are:

Angela Saini, science journalist and author of Superior, the Return of Race Science published by Estate

Boaventura de Sousa Santos Professor and Director of the Centre for Social Studies at the University of Coimbra, Portugal

Sarah Nuttall Professor of Literary Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand , South Africa

Olivette Otele Professor of History of Slavery and Memory of Enslavement at the University of Bristol

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Decolonising Education: From Theory to Practice

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