Black Academic Caucus
Black Academic Caucus

Decolonising knowledge doesn’t contradict ideal of academic excellence

By Shose Kessi

Real and lasting social change does not take place without theory. Theory crafts, guides, sustains and legitimises social systems. In order to dismantle the social systems we live in, which are characterised by racism and other forms of oppression, we need to advance our theories. These theories should and must emerge from the relationship between the knowledge production that is taking place in institutions of higher education and people’s lived experiences, in particular those who are the most marginalised in society. Without knowing about the lives of those who are most ostracised by social systems, how would we know what needs to change in order to achieve an egalitarian society?

The university, the place where alternative theories should emerge, is itself plagued by racism. Representations of black students and black academics as lowering the standards of the university and not being promoted on merit are commonplace – and have become part of our social imagination and everyday discourse. In all of these arguments, what is missing is a historical analysis of how white scholars came to secure a predominant space in historically white universities. The Extension of University Education Act of 1959 and subsequent acts served to exclude black South Africans from access to the university and from certain fields of study. Hence white scholars in our universities did not become established academics based on merit alone, particularly as one of the main criteria was to be white, the legacies of which continue to this day.

What is needed to understand the concept of “merit” is a questioning of the role of the university as a cultural and historical expression of our society. What is taught in universities and for what purpose is key in understanding what theories will emerge in order to advance our society.

A white professor at the University of Cape Town wrote in a media article last month that:

“ … colonialism, whatever its political and cultural sins, did generally improve the economic lot of the poor – better public order, improved food and public health all lead to longer lives and growing populations”.

If this is the type of thinking that is being imparted, then it follows that our students are being taught to believe in values and systems that serve to oppress Africa and Africans. It also means that the economists that we are producing will not find solutions to economic poverty but rather recreate theories that re-inscribe processes of inequality, inferiorisation, and control. What type of meritocracy does this imply? How does one become a professor in an African institution when holding such beliefs?

Graphic/John McCann

Graphic/John McCann

Racist thinking continues to be used to justify the exploitative practices of powerful people and institutions. We have seen how privileged white South Africans argue against attempts to re-distribute white power and privilege by constructing Africans as immoral and underserving. In a recent exchange on social media, a white woman, a high court judge claimed that:

“99 percent of criminal cases I hear is of black fathers/uncles/brothers raping children as young as five years old. Is this part of your culture? (…) And they do it to their own children, sisters, nieces, etc”.

We have to ask ourselves how such representations of blackness have influenced the decisions of court cases that have impacted in very real ways on the lives of many. In the context of higher education, how do such beliefs influence the direction of research projects and influence curricula and the types of thinking and values that are being promoted?

Hence, black academics in historically white universities, in South Africa, have inherited an elitist and oppressive context that excludes people based on their race, but also their gender, sexuality, and class. Fundamentally, what transpires across these realities is that transformation and decolonisation are framed as a contradiction to academic excellence and academic freedom. As a result, it erases the theoretical and methodological contributions of black academics in higher education that could generate change and that are the most likely to do so.

Academic freedom in our context is about the freedom to challenge racist ideas and oppressive policies and practices through critical debate and dialogue. Ideas are what we produce and ideas need to be challenged to remain relevant. When an institution keeps repeating or recycling old practices without dialogue and consultation, or without evaluating what it does, then colonial thinking will remain. Our ability to participate in and generate ideas and research that can reshape this society depends on our ability to be recognised for our intellectual contributions. What I mean by that is, if we are not recognised and valued for who we are, how we think, and the work that we do; if we are told that we bring standards down, or need help to catch up – then there is little hope that our universities can have any relevance in this society.

Dr Shose Kessi is a senior lecturer in the department of psychology at the University of Cape Town and a member of the UCT Black Academic Caucus.

Tags: , , ,

  • Some Remarks On A ‘Good’ University
  • Aesthetics of power and questioning what a ‘good’ university is
  • Beyond Trevor Noah and Mandela’s rainbow: Towards a politics of empathy
  • #ScienceMustFall in retrospect: Three lessons to help us move on
    • Richard

      Is it possible to rewrite Quantum Physics or Newton’s Laws of Motion from a black perspective? Or the mechanics of motor construction? Or what about the effects of excessive use of antibiotics in treating infection? None of these things to my knowledge has its origins in “black” science. Should they then be ignored in African academia? I am uncertain what the impressive words used in this piece actually relate to.

    • Sankara

      Excellent article…precise and informative…Thank you Dr Kessi we really need to change the colonial practices that now are taken as common sense….

    • Manu

      [None of these things to my knowledge has its origins in “black” science.]

      Science has a race? I didn’t know that.

      But isn’t it ironic that the very same people who argue that decolonization has no merit in regards to science are the same people who will boast of the west’s rich scientific traditions. If science is aracial, then you can’t argue against decolonization in the sciences in Africa and at the same time imply that science has origins in other racial groups.

      That said culture influences scientific thinking and how science is generated. It can both benefit it and retard it.

      Those who argue against decolonizing the sciences begin with the assumption that African culture has nothing positive to offer the science … which is itself evidence of colonial thinking.

      Final note. The scientific method starts with an observation. Our prejudices determine what we choose to observe about the world.
      The interesting to question ask at this point is what insights has science been denied by not looking at the world from the African perspective?

    • Richard

      The writer is racialising the debate, which the whole point of the article, presumably. The idea is that “knowledge” has to be “decolonised” but if the science taught and practised is not indigenous – for instance, Isaac Newton was not (black) African, nor was Albert Einstein, Faraday, etc. In that case, surely simply by teaching what these people produced is a colonial enterprise? If a black African scientist then uses the work of these people, are they not simply building on a colonial edifice?

      The question is: is there a sufficient corpus of (black) African work upon which to build a “non-colonial” tradition? If there is, that would be a good starting point to reject Newtonian and Einsteinian physics, for instance, but I cannot see that such a body of work exists.

    • Shaun Stanley

      I have a few issues. One is that there does not seem to be a single, monolithic ‘African culture’, there are, rather, many different cultures. Secondly, for any given delineated example of a culture not all people within the relevant geographic region practice it fully or consistently. Thirdly, not all aspects of ‘culture’ are relevant to science at all – put another way, not all practices which could be called cultural have theoretical import or export for empirical questions within the sciences.

      Moreover I think it is only a misguided essentialist who would suppose that the natural sciences ‘had their origins in other racial groups’. But it is only someone uninformed about the history of what we call ‘natural science’ who would suggest that it did not develop largely in ‘the West’. I think the point Richard wanted to make is that it is incorrect to think that just because, Say, Darwin was English, Watson was American and Crick was British the theory of evolution by natural selection is somehow ‘Western’ and inappropriate for ‘African’ (or ‘black’) students.

      The question you pose at the end is a speculative one – I wonder if you have any speculations about it. Which subfield of which natural science in which way would benefit from an ‘African’ perspective – and what is to count as ‘African’? Homo Naledi is one such advancement made by African researches, but it is not to add an ‘African’ tinge to evolutionary science, its just to add more data into a theoretical paradigm.

      That said, certainly, ‘culture’ influences the sorts of questions which motivate scientific research – but this is obvious, because scientists are people who’s interests are, in part, shaped by the social situation in which they reside. But that doesn’t mean that the theoretical achievments of those scientists are relativized to their culture – the theoretical achievements stand or fall (to simplify a bit) with the empirical data, and not with the origins of ones passport.

      It’s for that reason that the natural sciences are seen as immune to these calls for decolonization – not, as you say, because we want to say that western culture is ‘better’ in some unqualified and colonialist sense. And I think this is a fair point. The most sensible location for ‘decolonization’ of curricula to occur is in those disciplines in which the measure of the value of their output is not objective. Literature studies, dramatic arts are the obvious examples, but this will include certain portions of sociology, anthropology, history and psychology too, those portions anyway which see their enterprise as one of ‘interpretation’ of the social world – as weaving a ‘narrative’ of our societies and, ultimately, ourselves. Some parts of ‘Philosophy’ too will be included – those areas of philosophy which are less to do with the search for truth and are more continuous with the above speculative social sciences, rather than the lately mentioned natural sciences. In terms of obvious candidates for content change and revision that then comprises a large portion of the humanities and social sciences – and I see no reason why one would not want to accept that?

      More empirically driven disciplines starting at the bottom with certain portions of psychology and economics, or skills based disciplines, stats, marketing, etc, can be re-oriented at a more surface level. The examples and focuses used in these curricula can change, the vision of career path given to students of these disciplines can become more socially conscious, etc. And, then, for empirical science, apart from basic pedagogic sensitivities (language of instruction, adequate information for students, adequate researches for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, etc.) can be altered but little more.

      And then, on not too unreasonable grounds, we’ll find that it is truly within the humanities and social sciences that large curriculum change is possible and perhaps desirable. The more intimate a discipline is with the evaluation, production and systematization of empirical data, the less nationalistic, moralistic or other non-empirical considerations can and should affect the content of that discipline.

      One can argue about the nature of observation, and its relation to theory, and we can argue about the nature of objectivity and all the rest – and those are abstract conceptual enterprises within science and tackled by the philosophy of science. The content here, and its revisability, has properties similar to (because transitive from) the science of which it is a philosophy.

      Richard’s point was poorly expressed, perhaps, but so too is yours and so too, frankly, is the general discussion we have about ‘curriculum decolonization’. The above is a starting point, and the article in which these comments feature is, I’m sure despite good will, abortive to any decent discussion about the matter.

    • masero

      Stop lending your ears out – “if we are not recognised and valued for who we are, how we think, and
      the work that we do; if we are told that we bring standards down, or
      need help to catch up” Thats what you want to hear!! And IF!! Realy?! It is with His grace that you are in the position now. God is control. He see and hear the nonsens that you want to listen to and Want to believe. Alot of afrikaners saluuts you for your hard work and what you achieved. NO MAN CAN HURT YOU IF YOU NOT ALLOW TO GIVE YOU PERMISSION. Keep your status as academic.Focus on the positive the land and youth needs positeve people. Not worship negativity and blame. 3 fingers is pointing back to you while pushing you finger around. And God as witness standing like your thump errect. To blesss and love you. Stop if and speak growth & healing.

    • Rod MacKenzie

      I would like to know the white professor who made that remark and in which context he or she said or wrote that. Without that information the intent of what the professor is saying can easily be skewed. I suspect it has.

    • david

      The things you mention are not solely white in origin either, but rather the result of centuries of knowledge and research from around the world. True scientists keep asking questions, looking for new knowledge. The thing that gave Europe its power was the fact that it existed as crossroad and was able to continuously draw in new information from around the world. Globalization in its earliest form.

    • Manu

      You should avoid writing long responses because it makes it very difficult to respond to.

      The first part of the problem with those who argue against decolonization is that they begin with fantastical notions that Africans want to re-write scientific knowledge. This is an absurd and dare I say dishonest approach to the subject. I have not read anywhere of anyone asking for this. The only people saying this are those who argue against decolonization.

      The second part of the problem is that academics (mostly of European descent) won’t even consider the possibility that the curricula they teach are framed or tinged by colonial legacies. The most obvious legacy is language. In South Africa students are taught in English or Afrikaans and these languages don’t necessarily share the same words for scientific terms. So why is it so difficult to consider the possibility that other more subtle legacies might exist in the curricula?

      Finally, we are now communicating in English. Every language is limited in the ideas it can communicate and English is not an exception. I make this observation to remind us that how we are taught limits how we solve problems.
      I am willing to consider the possibility that embedded within the African way of being there may be insights that may have escaped the European way of being. This may be speculation to you, but then again you haven’t even considered the possibility.

    • Manu

      You are putting your own spin on the subject of decolonization and that is where the problem begins.

    • Manu
    • Richard

      The writer is calling for “decolonisation” of knowledge, in other words, the rejection of non-African knowledge (whatever that means). Europe did not call for “decolonisation” of knowledge, but built on existing frameworks, and created new ones where others did not exist. That is precisely my point, and that is why Europe made modern science. If Africa continues to sulk in the corner, it will always remain undeveloped and hopeless.

    • Richard

      Roman colonisation of Britain brought improvements to Britain, nobody denies that. Roads, infrastructure, increased literacy, etc. British colonisation of Africa brought literacy, road, infrastructure, etc. I don’t think anybody can deny that, either.

      The real issue is, why this intense navel-gazing? Africa remains the poorest country in the world, its citizens are desperate to flee ANYWHERE as long as it’s away from the continent, and yet all people seem to do is want to remove statues of people from a century ago, and debate issues from even longer ago. In their place – history textbooks and seminars – that is fine, but to dominate national debate in a country with the problems this one has? It is infantile.

    • Twakkies du Toit

      To Americans – and to Richard – Africa is a “country”. Sigh.

    • Shaun Stanley

      Fair enough, I will try and be briefer.

      You are correct that nowhere has anyone said that they wish to re-write scientific knowledge. What people do say is either or both of two things: that they wish to decolonize ‘university curricula’ (and hence, by inference, scientific knowledge) or they simply leave their statements vague or ambiguous, in which case the reader can interpret such claims as including the desire to ‘re-write scientific knowledge’. If, simply put, the focus is not on ‘scientific knowledge’, then those who advocate for decolonization should simply say so.

      To your second point: there is a large difference between revising/updating the methods of teaching a course and revising/updating a curriculum. What everyone has advocated for is updating a curriculum (i.e. updating the content of the course), and few if any (except me, actually) have said anything about language of instruction.

      To your third point: Yes, we are now communicating in English. But I deny that particular languages, relative to others, are limited in their expressive powers (simply translate what it is you wish to express into the appropriate idiom and we’ll be able to communicate further). I deny further that there is any single ‘African’ way of being (for the obvious reason that the African continent is full of diverse perspectives and people), ditto for any ‘European’ way of being.

      Moreover, it is my professional duty to consider such possibilities (hence my initial lengthy post), and my view on your points here are 2-fold. Firstly, regarding natural languages, there are always going to be translations from one idiom to another and hence from one language to another. Different languages do not necessitate deeply incommensurable ways of thinking. Secondly, more importantly, most of natural (and social) science is not, really, in English, but in a theoretical language invented for the empirical purposes of the practicing scientists. The meanings of the theoretical terms of any science are provided by the theories in which they feature (and these can be construed as more or less artificial languages, hence inter-translatable into other natural languages).

      Again, the point seems to have been missed, I’ll simplify. If the issue is not with the natural sciences then people should simply say so – but no one has, and some even deny this. Secondly, I wholeheartedly endorse that the issue is with the disciplines in the humanities the value of which cannot be objectively measured. Where the conflict lies, then, is unclear to me – perhaps you can spell it out?

    • Waxfoot

      …and you should avoid making broad sweeping statements of opinion masquerading as fact and setting up straw men.

      There is a burden of proof issue here.

      “Decolonization of the curricula” remains such a vague, imprecise concept that no-one so far seems to have been able to articulate cogently.
      If you follow the threads on TL, the chief protagonists of the concept of decolonization hail from the Humanities viz. political sciences and philosophy. Like you, their writing is expressed in non-specific generalisations, such as using all encompassing terms like “the curricula”.

      I agree with Shaun Stanley that it is both possible and probably desirable to transform a large portion of the humanities curricula.
      Whether it is possible or even desirable to transform the empirical sciences is another discussion entirely.

      There lies the burden of proof:
      How do you decolonize the fields of mathematics, physics, chemistry, engineering, pharmacology, medicine etc.?

      A less emotive and constructive discussion might be helpful here rather than combative and frankly defensive rhetoric to any critique that only serves to shut down the debate.

    • Richard

      My error, I meant continent.

      People climb onto the undercarriages of aeroplanes in Cape Town and fall out of the sky over London. South Africans are also desperate to get out, and who can blame them?

    • Richard

      What do you then propose to change? Evidently not physics, maybe medicine? Or mathematics? Or is it philosophy? Do you want to drop Descartes? Many of us would like to have some idea of what you mean by decolonisation of knowledge? When I travel abroad, people ask me about this, and I can’t tell them anything at all. They want to know about African physics, or African medicine, or African mathematics, as separate disciplines. Many know about Chinese medicine, for instance, but nothing about African medicine.

      I can tell them about African languages, and beadwork, and the architectural design of kraals and huts, but nothing at all about knowledge. That is very sad to my way of thinking.

    • Richard

      Hong Kong is decolonised. In 1997, it ceased being a British colony and reverted to China. However, they still use Western scientific traditions, Western medicine (they haven’t gone back to Chinese medicine to any appreciable extent) and drive various types of European or Chinese motor-cars (the Chinese ones are just lower-quality copycats). They will proudly show you pictures of Chinese space-craft that are identical to American space-craft from the 1960s. In fact, they even still use a lot of English.

      Does that mean they still need to decolonise? What does decolonise actually mean, outside the political arena? The teaching of history, yes, I can see that (to the victor, the spoils) and Hong Kong history is certainly differently interpreted and taught from pre-1997 days, I have no doubt. If they build the best rockets they know how, and those rockets are from the designs of Tsiolkovsky, are they then still the pawns of colonialism?

      The devil is in the detail. We need to know.

    • RSA.MommaCyndi

      I agree with the premise, but those are TERRIBLE examples.

      If I could be so forward as to ask, would it be possible to write an article about the type of academic work that you WOULD like to read. I understand what you do NOT want to be forced into, but I am not completely understanding what the ‘transformed’ academia would look like. It is something that I would be very excited to see.

    • Waxfoot

      Spot on.

    • Barry Saayman

      “The university, the place where alternative theories should emerge, is itself plagued by racism…… If this is the type of thinking that is being imparted, then it follows that our students are being taught to believe in values and systems that serve to oppress Africa and Africans…….. Fundamentally, what transpires across these realities is that transformation and decolonisation are framed as a contradiction to academic excellence and academic freedom. As a result, it erases the theoretical and methodological contributions of black academics in higher education that could generate change and that are the most likely to do so. Academic freedom in our context is about the freedom to challenge racist ideas and oppressive policies and practices through critical debate and dialogue. Ideas are what we produce and ideas need to be challenged to remain relevant. When an institution keeps repeating or recycling old practices without dialogue and consultation, or without evaluating what it does, then colonial thinking will remain.” – Dr Shose Kessi

      This is the experiences of black academics and it is shocking….

      In my opinion Africanisation/decolonisation – whatever it may mean in practice – and the changes envisaged by Black Academic Caucus should not be opposed and rather be implemented without much further ado.

      Africanisation however is in my opinion a form of forced cultural assimilation / appropriation and that is unacceptable because national groups don’t share the same values and no one has the right to force his or her culture and values on anybody else.

      Respect for diversity is very important.

      Sections 30 and 31 of the Constitution, 1996 as well as the Freedom Charter, 1955 recognise the importance of culture. The FC states-

      “All National Groups Shall have Equal Rights!

      All people shall have equal right to use their own languages, and to develop their own folk culture and customs;

      All national groups shall be protected by law against insults to their race and national pride…….

      The Doors of Learning and Culture Shall be Opened!

      The aim of education shall be to teach the youth to love their people and their culture, to honour human brotherhood, liberty and peace……”

      I wonder how these ideas could be implemented in schools and at the various conflicts prone institutions of higher education without the serious conflicts of interest highlighted by this column and discussed ad nauseam without any clear solution.

    • Warren Jeremy Rourke

      You have me, in the first place; at the disadvantage of a mask as you seem to not want your thinking associated with your identity and even the likes of a Jean-Jacques Rousseau who it would do you well to read – against the decrepit thinking of his own times – had the decency to let his adversaries at least know that it was he that was speaking when he chose to do so.

      And secondly; you premise knowledge only in terms of the sciences and not humanit(ies) while at the same time trying to vociferate on a humanist debate. Please do attempt to try and explain to me what exactly Quantum Physics et cetera has to do with identity politics or an African cosmology or the construction of consciousness or structuralist value or politico-ontology et cetera.

    • Warren Jeremy Rourke

      Walter Mignolo would be proud of you here, my good man. He calls it the “hubris of zero-point epistemology”.

    • Warren Jeremy Rourke

      Sir, you seem to be under the impression that the sciences are things-in-themselves objective and not questions of value, perspective and relativism. “The most sensible location for ‘decolonization’ of curricula to occur is in those disciplines in which the measure of the value of their output is not objective”. Mmm, this is going to perhaps come as a shock to some but the ‘value of the output’ of the sciences is, in point of fact, deeply questionable.

      Discovery in the service of financial gain for instance (think research funding on one side and its effectuation into unquestioned human and environmentally detrimental knowledge production on the other). A healthy dose of “knowledge” garnered from the history of art would be useful here…

      And lastly just here; the prejudice that it is in the humanities that curriculum decolonization is most needed is the same little politico-economic legerdemain that has been used to shift attention from ontological questions to epistemological ones, from sociogenetic ones to isolationist questions.

      Kindest Regards

    • Warren Jeremy Rourke

      Hear Hear! The competition is slanted from the very beginning. Not only to mention questions of instructive language acquisition and capability once students reach university, there is the added disadvantage for those who have not benefited economically from birth (butter, spoons and DSTV come to mind) and have not had the educational toys, the cultural inheritance, the private tutors et cetera et cetera to be able to adequately compete (and it is very much a competition in the type of society we live in). Privilege merely recapitulates itself but always comes under the auspices of inability!

      Moreover, it is not only about possibilities – which I wholeheartedly agree with – it is also about prevention. The ethic of the current order and way of Being is in fact a “worldhood” putting the entire planet in jeopardy and unless we can bring some of the hetero-ethic of suppressed world cultures or alter-natives back and supplant this Lemming effect that we are forced to endure from our forced inheritance, a new human will be our swan song.

      Kindest Regards my Good Man

    • Warren Jeremy Rourke

      Yes I do want to drop Descartes for his dualism as it has done the human consciousness enormous empathetic damage but I wouldn’t because it is important that all perspectives be pluralistically considered.

      The problem here is ideological: There is no Africa sir, that is a mere construct of the mind passed down to us by colonizers. As to “African Knowledge” I think you move to the heart of the question; but not what African knowledge is but what knowledge itself is and cui bono (to what purpose?)

    • Warren Jeremy Rourke

      Yay! an opponent (e4 if you play chess). But, you will first need to go and read Walter Mignolo’s ‘The Darker Side of Western Modernity: Global Futures, Decolonial Options’ (2011) before you will be able to make a move of any sort as you seem to not be able to understand the rules of the game.

      I will in passing just say that it is a question of form and not so much content as you mistakenly think.

      Kindest Regards

    • Shaun Stanley

      Hi there,

      I don’t know know in which sense you are using the terms ‘sociogenetic’ and ‘isolationist’. Nor is it fully clear how you are using the terms ‘ontological’ and ‘epistemological’. Nor is it clear how, in general, your last paragraph relates to your criticism or to my post. If you can clarify those points, I will address them.

      But, to your others: ‘Science’ is a term of convenience but, in replying to your criticism, is one which should be dropped for other fine grained terms. There are areas of science (theoretical physics, say) which are composed of theories which do not seem capable of political influence in terms of the content of those theories (if only because the theories are expressed in mathematical inequalities, variables and equations and not any natural language). There are other areas of science, say, if we are using the term broadly, microeconomics in which quite obviously the models used to explain and predict human behavior can be politically influenced. Different areas of science will be susceptible to political influence to different degrees, and their susceptibility is a function of the nature of the content of their theories and the aims of their pursuits.

      All of that, therefore, I must concede. What I think you ought to concede, however, is that there appears to be a sharpish divide which can be drawn between even unreliable sciences, like psychology and economics and areas in the humanities which purport to get us closer to some kind of truth – history, anthropology, certain areas of political studies and sociology, etc. And there is an even sharper divide between those disciplines and areas of the humanities (the arts) which are not in the game of producing ‘knowledge’ in anything like the manner in which the sciences are – such as fine arts, dance and performance studies, etc.

      Drawing the sharp divide between ‘science’ and ‘humanities’ is convenient so as to brush over the more complicated story briefly told above, but it is not a division arbitrarily chosen. The considerations for changing the curricula of, say, fine arts will be different and far less concerned with empirical adequacy than changing the curricula in microeconomics, and that too will differ from changing the curricula in genomics.

      That is why I suggest that the humanities are the easiest place for africanization/decolonization to occur because they comprise disciplines which (1) are peculiarly capable of political influence within the *content* of their disciplines and (2) they are peculiarly insensitive to empirical adequacy.

      Kind Regards

    • Shaun Stanley

      Any course in philosophy which teaches about Descartes dualism is likely to be a history of philosophy course or an introduction to philosophy of mind or language. In other words – we do not ‘teach’ dualism (as if it were true), we teach about it (often acknowledging that it is likely false) – hence the immense strides made in cognitive science.

      Many postcolonial theorists, however, argue as if we are all closeted Cartesians and that because of this we find it easy to abstract our thoughts from the material conditions of our bodies – generating a disposition to be unempathetic with wordly suffering. But this is a straw man position, and one which you shouldn’t uncritically reproduce.

      The matter of ‘decolonizing’ philosophy is another, complex, one for – as in my last reply to you – ‘philosophy’ is a term of convenience for an immense range of disciplines, some of which barely related. I know it is popular to think that the history of philosophy is all that philosophy is about, but that isn’t accurate at all.

    • Shaun Stanley

      His point, I suppose, (and as earlier expressed) is that QP and other parts of the natural sciences are not really part of the debate regarding ‘identify politics’, ‘African cosmology’, ‘the reconstruction of consciousness’, etc. Those are debates, as I emphasized, quite squarely in the humanities (and, in fact, in peculiar parts of the social sciences). I conceded previously that this separation is, in part, artificial – it’s a convenient way of glossing over certain complex debates – but even if we look a bit deeper into those debates it still comes out that this issue is one mostly for subjects in the humanities. And my point all along has been that people should say that plainly (and without the unnecessary jargon)

    • Warren Jeremy Rourke

      Richard, you need to come to grips with what decoloniality is and are being drawn out here on your identity politics for your entrenched way of thinking and I do, in no way, mean this sarcastically.

    • Warren Jeremy Rourke

      You speak as if Western medicine (god forbid how did we ever get along without it and its price) – motor-cars (including road death, pollution etc.) – and space-crafts are all just unquestionably good things for us ALL! No. No. A thousand times no. The devil you are right, is in the detail, not the passive consumption…

    • Warren Jeremy Rourke

      Hear Hear!

    • Waxfoot

      Yeah, maybe from where you stand content is not that important, Warren.

      Thanks for the awesome reading list, BTW.
      I’ll make you a deal:
      I’ll go and read Mignolo if you go and pick up a copy of Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine, 18th Edition.
      Then once we are on the same page, we’ll compare notes and see how we can decolonise neuroimaging and nephrology : )

    • Warren Jeremy Rourke

      But you are very much mistaken, sir. The natural sciences are in absolutely no way exempt from the debates and may, in point of fact, turn out to be the predicate. Let me try to elucidate by way of just one example that has much bearing on the final paragraph of Dr Kessi’s piece:
      Frantz Fanon resigned from the Joinville? Psychiatric hospital where he was the director because he saw the effects of colonization on the consciousness of those not able, nor willing, to accept French domination in Algeria. They were not for him mental patients so much as victims of oppressive life. He went on to theorise the sociogenetic principle as an ‘idea’ from these observations as a form of ‘methodological’ denunciation. What does this have to do with “QP and other parts of the natural sciences” or even let us go so far as to say the enlightenment you are asking? Everything!
      Researchers and lecturers in the natural sciences are unarguably human beings and therefore fall within the parameters of “soft knowledge” generated by humanists and social scientists and are in no way ‘split’ away from the rest of the culture and the society in which they endeavour to discover “truth”. Kuhn, Popper, Feuerabend etc have to varying degrees looked at the subjective component of research very squarely in the face but, but, but, but what becomes important here are the questions of ideas and methodology (as pointed out by Kessi) in the academy (including the natural sciences) when questions of deep-rooted ideology (I wish I could bold that) are on the table for dissecting, as they now are.
      This is not the space to go very much further unfortunately when debating epochal change (I wish I could bold that) as what happened between religion and science way back when but let us just note here that we are certainly beginning to articulate it…
      Thank-you kindly for debating

    • Warren Jeremy Rourke

      The generalisations and theory on my part are, I agree, a deterrent for meaningful debate just here, just now, and there is no need to address them; they are more to the core than the periphery of the matter and I have not the wherewithal to expound my Heidegger and Gadamer here.
      Okay, the content: the ‘language’ or theory in the sciences that are seemingly impervious to politics. They are only so if we bracket out the *form* as you seem to suggest. But don’t you see. This is very much a two-way street.
      Let me try to elucidate by way of examples.
      NRF funding is notoriously skewed to STEM subjects to the detriment of students in other disciplines who are hardly able to subsist. So why, in
      form, is there this prejudice and inequality in funding?
      South Africa seemingly needs mathematicians and not so much painters. Fine. If society believes one is more valuable than the other then fine, but that same society should not be surprised when the carpet is swept out from under it because our painter decides to set fire to the astrophysics unit who for all intents and purposes also deal largely in pretty pictures.
      You see, the value of one form of life being rationalised as more important than the other is a hallmark of the capitalist ethic which our mathematician serves more by his content than does our painter who may in fact be speaking against his society. There is the source of differentiation: utility.
      Now, when the sciences et al believe they are isolated in content from debates carried out across the campus totality they are very much mistaken. ‘Structural causality’ is Althusser’s designation. Decolonization means among many things an end to inequality (of all kinds) and so this is but just one aspect of that programme.
      To now push the envelope further: what if we are living in a society that values efficiency over creativity and is the inheritance and continuation of a European mind-set that in so many ways reinforces inequalities all across the board? We are then talking about scientific culture being better than artistic culture and this is very dangerous territory for us all.
      H. G. Wells’s *The Time Machine* comes to mind. Great movie too.
      I welcome more debate and thank-you kindly for your time.

    • Pan Jandrum

      Can Knowledge be racially defined?

    • Shaun Stanley

      The points you make simply support the point I made before.

      Fanon’s psychological views (whether correct or not) are not equivalent with quantum mechanics – his views are ‘scientific’ views regarding society, they are part of social science.

      No where did I, or anyone else, say that scientists weren’t human beings who’s behavior could be explained by some sociological/psychological/anthropological theory. But any sort of theory of that kind is a social scientific theory.

      So, obviously, the sociology of scientific knowledge takes the natural sciences (its results, methods, practices and practitioners) as its subject. But that doesn’t mean that the natural sciences have as their subjects issues related to identity politics – sociology does.

      Your examples just demonstrate my points…

    • Shaun Stanley

      The problem in this debate is that you, and others, aren’t willing to make appropriate distinctions. Issues regarding funding of the natural sciences (and whatever political/social mechanisms around that) are not the same as issues regarding the content of the natural sciences.

      The reason that the STEM fields get more funding is partly because they need more funding (they have more sophisticated equipment, for instance). It is also partly because those fields are impactful on society in a way that most of the humanities and social sciences are not.

      You can complain that this is the result of the cold calculus of capitalism, but it’s a very empty complaint. Until or unless the social sciences and humanities demonstrate the value of their contributions, I don’t think the situation will or should change.

      Our society does not need more academics writing in an obscure jargon about (largely false) metaphysical speculations. It’s all the worse that social scientists choose, mostly, to do that, because they could, if they were a bit more empirically minded, be really important in a society which clearly needs more political and social direction.