Social Justice Usage
Source: Bhambra, Gurminder K., Delia Gebrial and Kerem Nisancioglu (eds.). Decolonising the University. Pluto Press. Kindle Edition, p. 2.
“Decolonising” involves a multitude of definitions, interpretations, aims and strategies. To broadly situate its political and methodological coordinates, “decolonising” has two key referents. First, it is a way of thinking about the world which takes colonialism, empire and racism as its empirical and discursive objects of study; it re-situates these phenomena as key shaping forces of the contemporary world, in a context where their role has been systematically effaced from view. Second, it purports to offer alternative ways of thinking about the world and alternative forms of political praxis.
New Discourses Commentary
Literal decolonization refers to the withdrawal of colonial powers from a country it had seized control of and exploited. Decolonization can also refer to the undoing of broader effects of that colonialism, such as systems of government, law, culture, religion, and language and recovering prior systems. This is not what is meant in the Social Justice application of the term, though it is where the roots of the term come from.
In the Social Justice sense, which has adopted postmodern (mostly French) concepts of power and knowledge, decolonization is understood more broadly still. As indicated above, it seeks to read everything through a framework of colonialism and uncover how it has shaped all sorts of power dynamics in society, particularly in the realms of discourse—ways of speaking about things. Thus, it is common to hear that everything from university curricula to hairstyles needs to be “decolonized.” Further, because this approach to decolonialism is postmodern, science and reason as ways of obtaining knowledge are considered the property of white, Western men. It is therefore imperialistic (or colonizing) to expect people from other cultures to use them. A need to value “other ways of knowing” is therefore central to the decolonial methodology.
Decolonization is therefore best understood as a deconstructive and reconstructive project within Social Justice to remove “white” and “Western” influence or centrality from essentially any and everything. Decolonizing university curricula often entails reducing the quantity of material studied that came from Western, white (and male) authors and researchers and replacing it with material that came from non-white and non-Western sources (see also, citational justice and research justice). Decolonizing hairstyles would refer to problematizing interest in, appreciation for, or appropriation of them by white people and challenging or disrupting “white” cultural expectations about them, which may only exist in tendentious accounts from critical race Theory or in the form of microaggressions (see also, cultural racism).
It is worth noting that decoloniality—a disposition toward decolonizing, in this sense—is explicitly a project within educational spaces under the critical pedagogy of Theorists like Joe Kincheloe. That is, there has been a deliberate project to train our educators in colleges of education to take up a decolonizing mindset and to make their teaching into activism in that direction.
Citational justice; Colonialism; Critical pedagogy; Critical race Theory; Cultural appropriation; Cultural racism; Deconstruction; Discourse; Knowledge(s); Imperialism; Microaggressions; Orientalism; Postcolonial; Postcolonial Theory; Postmodern; Power (systemic); Power-knowledge; Research justice; Science; Social Justice; Western; Western-centric; White
Revision date: 7/13/20