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Colonialism and Education

Learn more from a professional lecture about the relationship between colonialisation and education.

In this video Professor Leon Tikly (one of the lead educators on Week 2 of this course) interviews Professor Boeventura de Sousa Santos.

Professor de Sousa Santos talks about the relationship between colonialism and education, in particular universities. Some of the topics you will learn about include:

  • The role of metropolitan universities and their subsidiaries in the colonies in providing the human resources required to support the colonial project. Santos explains how these universities were not interested in indigenous, knowledge but rather in supporting ‘epistemologies of the North’, i.e. the ‘knowledge of the winners’. (0 – 5.20).
  • How this ‘knowledge of the winners’ was based on five main ‘monocultures’, i.e. exclusive conceptions of the world. These include the monocultures of knowledge itself (i.e. the exclusive focus on Western science, theology and philosophy); of the naturalisation of differences between humans and nature, between the so-called ‘races’, between men and women etc.; the dominance of linear conceptions of time and of Western ideas of ‘progress’/ ‘development’; the universal nature of (Western) knowledge and its applicability independent of context; the monopoly of productivity (i.e. of the capitalist mode of production) (5.20 – 10.00).
  • The role of the universities in supporting the ‘national project’ which involved the creation of the ‘abyssal line’ between those deemed fully human and members of metropolitan society and those excluded form this conception including people of colour, slaves and women who were were racialised and sexualised (10.00 – 13.25).
  • How universities directly benefitted from the proceeds of colonialism through funding (13.30 – 14.00).
  • The institutionalisation of racial segregation in universities in countries such as South Africa and the USA (14.20 – 14.50).
  • The discussion then turns to key historical moments in demands to decolonise the university. The first of these according to Santos included demands for greater autonomy for universities and the expansion of access to higher education in the context of struggles for national independence (14.50 – 18.07).
  • The second moment was in the context of the civil rights movement and its aftermath in calling for affirmative action for Black, indigenous and other disadvantaged groups (18.10 – 20.30).
  • Third moment is linked to contemporary struggles to decolonise the university including a focus on decolonising knowledge itself (20.30 – 22.52).
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Decolonising Education: From Theory to Practice

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