One sense in which we can conceptualize the idea of “decolonizing the university” is in the decolonization of the curriculums of instruction that are employed in the classrooms and seminars of said university. As a basic unit of the university itself, the classroom is I argue one of the key places that the colonial nature of universities, especially in metropoles and settler colonies, manifest itself. Work such as “The Death of White Sociology” (Ladner 1973) and “White Logic, White Methods” (Zuberi and Bonilla-Silva 2008) have highlighted how the “imperial unconscious” of these curriculums shapes how undergraduates, graduate students, and academics understand and study the world (Go 2013). This is one of the reasons why curriculums have become a popular target of marginalized students and academics seeking to decolonize the university.
The task of decolonizing the curriculum, at least in the social sciences, has taken the form of epistemological critiques of who produces knowledge and what knowledge those people produce. Decoloniality, postcolonialism, and other bodies of scholarship have all dissected the ways in which the ideas of the Enlightenment have structured how we think about the modern, the human, and legitimate knowledge of the social world (Quijano & Ennis 2000; Bhambra 2007). Although challenging Eurocentric epistemologies in text is an important component of decolonizing knowledge systems, there is less attention given to how structural and physical factors of the colonial world that help create and maintain the same epistemology that scholars are currently struggling to decolonize. Using the framework of undone science, I argue that the struggle to decolonize university knowledge systems is intimately intertwined with addressing forms of physical and economic colonial violence. These forms of violence including genocide, interpersonal racism in academia, and global structures of academic knowledge transmission, serve to ensure that the configurations of people, resources, and space that allow for new decolonial knowledges to emerge never come to exist. Considering these forces, I argue that to effect real decolonization of our knowledge systems that we have to consider how marginalized communities and decolonial scholars need to not only intervene in epistemic debates but also politically intervene in the physical spaces these debates often take place in.Continue reading →