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Coloniality and Whiteness in the Academy: Towards Decolonial Futures (Special Issue of Philosophy and Theory in Higher Education)

Welikala, Thushari, BOEHM, Carola, Davids, Nuraan, Dunne, Gerry, Herath, Manel, Schildermans, Hans, Trahar, Sheila, Valcke, Jennifer, Eltayb, Amani, Båge,, Karin, Ibrahim, Abdalla Mohamed, Jellinek, Natalie, Preet, Raman and Säflund, Zoe (2023) Coloniality and Whiteness in the Academy: Towards Decolonial Futures (Special Issue of Philosophy and Theory in Higher Education). Philosophy and Theory in Higher Education, 5 (3). Peter Lang, Alabama, USA. ISBN 2578-5753 (In Press)

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Abstract or description

This special issue addresses the timely and under-theorised area in higher education, contributing to the knowledge and understanding about the complexities, paradoxes, tensions, and possibilities of designing decolonial futures in higher education. The idea for a special issue emerged during a series of Club Meet conversations within the Philosophy and Theory in Higher Education Society in October 2021.

Projecting ‘otherness’ on the non-white and the colonised, (Bhabha, 1994), the western university could be said to maintain and perpetuate colonial power structures, body-politics and geo-politics of knowledge-making. This can further reproduce designs for recolonising people, their Being and Becoming (Welikala, 2021), while suppressing and eradicating the knowledges of the ‘other’ (Bhambra et al., 2018).

The recent surge in decolonising curriculum, pedagogy and research in higher education is reinforced by social movements and student activism. Focusing mainly on curriculum, pedagogy and research leaves the structural and systemic coloniality aside, encouraging the practice of embedding decolonisation predominantly within equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) policies and practices. Subsequently, the notion of decolonisation is often conceptualised as a neutral, apolitical signifier/metaphor that can be used for a wide range of agendas within the neoliberal university, focusing on social justice (Tuck and Yang, 2012).

As guest co-editors, we argue that homogenising a wide range of experiences of oppression under the term ‘decolonisation’ can mask decolonisation as philanthropic enterprise initiated by the ‘powerful’ global centres to offer voice to the ‘powerless’, marginalised non-white groups (Cesaire, 2000). This ‘refined’ and comfortable approach to decolonising higher education focuses on limited areas of activity: diversifying the established knowledge/disciplinary cannons by introducing non-white authors; demonstrating interest in the acceptance of ‘alternative’ epistemologies while focusing on the existing epistemic hegemonies; and increasing minority (BME) representation in operationalising EDI work that is led by the majority (white) groups. Rather than effectively addressing coloniality, such activities intensify the centrality of existing knowledge cannons while re-confirming the self-endorsed power of whiteness and the colonial imaginary within the academy (Maldonado-Torres, 2007).

The proliferating scholarship on decolonising education in the North, has seldom considered the pioneering, politically-informed perspectives of the global South and its theoretical underpinnings. The more radical decolonial turn pioneered by the scholars in the global South was focused on challenging the implications of modernity/coloniality and dismantling the colonial power hierarchies by transforming epistemic values and improving democracy in education (Mignolo, 2011). The absence of theoretical rigour and the lack of knowledge of the historicity of colonisation and coloniality has led towards a predominantly tokenistic approach to decoloniality in the academy in the global North.

Item Type: Book / Proceeding
Faculty: School of Digital, Technologies and Arts > Music and Sound
Depositing User: Carola BOEHM
Date Deposited: 23 Feb 2024 15:43
Last Modified: 24 Feb 2024 04:30

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