Feb
27

Decolonising the University

Following demands - Rhodes Must Fall, Why is My Curriculum White?, #LiberateMyDegree - three editors brought together a diverse group of authors to think about what decolonising the university means (historically and pedagogically) and its experience (in universities and curricula) and reflections of those leading such efforts. Decolonising the University is edited by G. K. Bhambra, D. Gebrial and K. Nisancioglu (2018). I find most edited books challenging to review, as each chapter tells its own unique story, the book aimed to "question the epistemological authority assigned uniquely to the Western university as the privileged site of knowledge production and to contribute to the broader project of decolonising through a discussion of strategies and interventions emanating from within the imperial metropoles." (p. 3)

Dalia Gebrial (one of the editors) writes a chapter on the Rhodes Must Fall in Oxford movement, and situates it as "the university is a site of knowledge production and, most crucially, consecration; it has the power to decide which histories, knowledges and intellectual contributions are considered valuable and worthy of further critical attention and dissemination. This has knock-on effects: public discourse might seem far off from the academy's sphere of influence, but 'common sense' ideas of worthy knowledge do not come out of the blue, or removed from the context of power - and the university is a key shaping force in this discursive flux." (p. 19)

From Shauneen Pete: "When I question faculty about why they want me to do this work for them [e.g. guest lectures], they often reply, 'You are so good at it...' or 'You have the experience...' and when I press them further, then I come to understand that their lack of understanding actually makes them feel fearful of saying the wrong thing, or being perceived as racist. That settler 'move to innocence' that Tuck and Yang address has a real effect on the distribution of work in our faculty. Now that I've been here for ten years, and have served as the cultural broker for all that time, I am no longer willing to allow my colleagues to shirk the responsibility for this work. This is not my work alone. I need my colleagues to address their own learning needs and I need them to engage deeply in the process of curricular decolonisation." (p. 183-184)

Why curriculum? William Jamal Richardson suggests that 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 the metropoles and settler colonies, manifests itself. Works such as The Death of White Sociology and White Logic, White Methods have highlighted how the 'imperial unconscious' of these curricula shapes how undergraduates, graduate students and academics understand and study the world. This is one of the reasons why curricula have become a popular target of marginalised students and academics seeking to decolonise the university." (p. 231) 

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Sep
15

An African Renaissance: Ngugi wa Thiong'o

Ngugi wa Thiong'o is one of the most important voices on language and decolonization. His works include Decolonizing the Mind (1986) and Theory and Politics of Knowing (2012). This post shares some notes on his 2009 Something Torn and New: An African Renaissance (copy appears available here).

"colonialists did not literally cut off the heads of the colonized or physically bury them alive. Rather, they dismembered the colonized from memory, turning their heads upside down and burying all the memories they carried. Wherever they went, in their voyages of land, sea, and mind, Europeans planted their own memories on whatever they contacted." (p. 7)

"In his attempt to remake the land and its peoples in his image, the conqueror acquires and asserts the right to name the land and its subjects, demanding that the subjugated accept the names and culture of the conqueror. When Japan occupied Korea in 1906, it banned Korean names and required the colonized to take on Japanese ones. But one might ask: What is in a name? It is said that a rose by any other name would still smell as sweet; however, the truth is that its identity would no longer be expressed in terms of roses but, instead, would assume that of the new name. Names have everything to do with how we identify objects, classify them, and remember them." (p. 9)

"Africans, in the diaspora and on the continent, were soon to be the recipients of this linguistic logic of conquest, with two results: linguicide in the case of the diaspora and linguistic famine, or linguifam, on the continent." (p. 17)

"In the continent as a whole, the postcolonial slumber would not be disturbed by memories of the African holocaust. Slavery and colonialism become events of shame, of guilt. Their memory is shut up in a crypt, a collective psychic tomb, which is what Oduche symbolically does when he shuts the python, a central image of his people's cosmic view, in a box." (p. 61)

"Pan-Africanism has not outlived its mission. Seen as an economic, political, cultural, and psychological re-membering vision, it should continue to guide remembering practices. Economic Pan-Africanism will translate into a network of communications—air, sea, land, telephone, Internet—that ease intracontinental movements of peoples, goods, businesses, and services. Africa becomes a power bloc able to negotiate on an equal basis with all other global economies. But this is impossible without a powerful political union, as championed by Kwame Nkrumah." (p. 88-89)

"In the year 2000, a number of African scholars and writers met in Eritrea and came up with the Asmara Declaration on African Languages and Literatures, a ten-point document that begins by calling on African languages to take on the duty, challenge, and responsibility of speaking for the continent. It then lists nine other conditions—including recognition of the vitality, equality, and diversity of African languages as a basis for the future empowerment of African peoples; the necessity of communication among African languages and their development at all levels of the schooling system; promotion of research, science, and technology in African languages; and the necessity of democracy and gender equality in the development of African languages—and it concludes by emphasizing that African languages are essential for the decolonization of African minds as well as for the African renaissance." (p. 93)

"Memory resides in language and is clarified by language. By incorporating the colonial world into the international capitalist order and relations, with itself as the center of such order and relations, the imperialist West also subjected the rest of the world to its memory through a vast naming system. It planted its memory on our landscape. Egoli became Johannesburg. The great East African Lake, known by the Luo people as Namlolwe, became Lake Victoria." (p. 113)

"We have languages, but our keepers of memory feel that they cannot store knowledge, emotions, and intellect in African languages. It is like possessing a granary but, at harvest, storing your produce in somebody else's granary." (p. 114)

"We must produce knowledge in African languages and then use translation as a means of conversation in and among African languages. We must also translate from European and Asian languages into our own, for our languages must not remain isolated from the mainstream of progressive human thought in the languages and cultures of the globe." (p. 124)

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Feb
12

Reading that should be more common...


Ibn Khaldun (2015 translation, 1377 original) Al Muqaddimah 

Cesaire, A. (1950) Discourse on Colonialism

Fanon, F. (1952) Black Skin, White Masks 

Fanon, F. (1959) A Dying Colonialism

Baldwin, J. (1962) The Fire Next Time

Fanon, F. (1963) The Wretched of the Earth 

Fanon, F. (1964) Toward the African Revolution

Memmi, A. (1965) The Colonizer and the Colonized

Ture, K. (1965) Stokely Speaks

Ture, K. and Hamilton, C. (1967) Black Power

Nkrumah, K. (1968) Revolutionary Warfare

Freire, P. (1970) Pedagogy of the Oppressed

Nkrumah, K. (1970) Class Struggle in Africa

Rodney, W. (1972) How Europe Underdeveloped Africa 

Nkrumah, K. (1973) The Struggle Continues

Gaddafi, M. (1975) The Green Book

Amin, S. (1976) Unequal Development 

Biko, S. (1978) I Write What I Like 

Said, E. (1978) Orientalism

Thiong'o, N. (1981) Decolonizing the Mind 

Amin, S. (1988 French, 2009 revision) Eurocentrism

Sankara, T. (1988) Thomas Sankara Speaks

Mazrui and Mazrui (1998) The Power of Babel

Thiong'o, N. (1993) Moving the Centre

Said, E. (1993) Culture & Imperialism

Amin, S. (1997) Capitalism in the Age of Globalization

Mills, C. W. (1997) The Racial Contract

Smith, L. T. (1999) Decolonizing Methodologies 

Ahmad, E. (2000) Confronting Empire

Mamdani, M. (2001) When Victims Become Killers

Mbembe, A. (2001) On the Postcolonly

Neocosmos, M. (2001) Thinking Freedom in Africa

Chang, H.-J. (2002) Kicking Away the Ladder

Mutua, M. (2002) Human Rights

Asad, T. (2003) Formations of the Secular

Amin, S. (2004) The Liberal Virus

Taiaiake, A. (2005) Wasase

Kiros, T. (2005) Zera Yacob

Mamdani, M. (2005) Good Muslim, Bad Muslim

Shivji, I. (2007) Silences in NGO Discourse

Eze, E. C. (2008) On Reason

Tandon, Y. (2008) Ending Aid Dependence

Thiong'o, N. (2009) Something Torn and New

Ho Chi Minh (2011) Selected Works

Mignolo, W. (2011) The Darker Side of Western Modernity

Amin, S. (2011) Ending the Crisis of Capitalism

Thiong'o, N. (2012) Globalectics

Mamdani, M. (2012) Define and Rule

Abu-Lughod, L. (2013) Do Muslim Women Need Saving?

Ware, R. (2014) The Walking Qur'an

Dabashi, H. (2015) Can Non-Europeans Think?

Lumumba, P. (2016) May Our People Triumph

Thiong'o, N. (2016) Secure the Base

Cabral, A. (2016, translation) Resistance and Decolonization

Mills, C. W. (2017) Black Rights / White Wrongs

Mbembe, A. (2017, English translation) Critique of Black Reason

Asad, T. (2018) Secular Translations

Ndlovu-Gatsheni, S. (2018) Epistemic Freedom in Africa

Mamdani, M. (2018) Citizen and Subject

Ibhawoh, B. (2018) Human Rights in Africa

Mbembe, A. (2019, English translation) Necropolitics 

Getachew, A. (2019) Worldmaking after Empire

Mamdani, M. (2020) Neither Settler Nor Native


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