Decolonial Black

Personal Blog/Website of William Jamal Richardson

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​Understanding Eurocentrism as a Structural Problem of Undone Science

(Derived from a course paper for Politics of Knowledge taught by Steven Epstein at Northwestern University)

The tiles of the landmark volumes The Death of White Sociology (Ladner, 1973) and White Logic, White Methods (Zuberi and Bonilla-Silva 2008) highlight a particular truth about sociology, its methods, and theories which is that they are heavily influenced by European and colonial social thought. This influence is evident in the presentation in most introductory sociology courses of Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, and Max Weber as the founders of sociological inquiry. Their influence compounded with the influence of countless other white male scholars has led to the development of what Julian Go describes as the “imperial unconscious” of sociology that influences how sociologists carry out their research and construct theory (Go 2013).
The effects that sociology’s Eurocentrism has on its scholarship and institutions are well documented. Eurocentrism has largely rendered invisible in the discipline the sociological perspectives and work of both scholars of color and the societies they come from. In addition, Eurocentrism in the discipline also allows for intrinsically racist and colonial theory and findings to be developed and disseminated within academe and among the public (Hunter 2002). The sum total of these processes is that in many spaces sociology, like many other social science, perpetuate systems of inequality and the social logics that justify them.

Although powerful on its own, the Eurocentric critique of sociology by scholars does not often move beyond an analysis of the epistemic silencing of marginalized communities and knowledge to address the structural, non-epistemic relations that help maintain the current state of affairs. I argue that by understanding eurocentrism in sociology, at least partly, as a structural problem of “undone science” we can begin to see how phenomenon such as racism against academics of color and the norms of academic training and production help reproduce the epistemic problems identified by scholars working in postcolonial, decolonial, and ethnic studies spaces. This relation between the structural and epistemological will allow for a conception of intellectual decolonization that is both structural and epistemological in nature. Continue reading