What does it mean to decolonise the curriculum: is it possible?

Ruth Heilbronn, UCL Institute of Education

This article attempts to address two main questions. The first asks what decolonising the curriculum (DtC) entails. The second question asks if it is possible to decolonise the curriculum in the current context. To answer these questions, I distinguish between a thick and thin idea of DtC. I define a thick idea of DtC in terms of acknowledging that alternative knowledge systems exist, other than our western view of knowledge as evidence based, that is ‘justified true belief’. A thick definition of DtC is also a call for justice and a recognition of the epistemic injustice done to indigenous people when their culture is downgraded as inferior. In many cases this downgrading amounts to epistemicide (De Sousa Santos). The language of colonisation plays a part in this downgrading. Being obliged to adopt the colonisers’ language can distort indigenous knowledge. A thin conception of DtC is where minor modifications are made to curriculum content to include contributions of indigenous minorities and racialized people and/or an acknowledgement of the wrongs done to colonised people. While a thin conception of DtC is to be welcomed, it is not sufficiently radical to combat the wrongs done in repressing or ignoring indigenous knowledge systems and therefore cannot compensate for epistemic injustice.

Reconsidering education with postcolonial stories: A subversion of historical narrations

Halil Ibrahim, University of Bayreuth

Post-colonialism became the umbrella term to attack the non-Western ways of knowing. For the European right-wing, it became an Islamo-leftist ideology which is an ally of Putin and Jinping. These oxymoronic accusations are not new. Post-colonial theory has been attacked since its very beginning. It was accused of being Eurocentric and culturalist. Unlike its popularity within the conservative circles, its death was announced in Western academia. As an ‘old’ fashionable theory, it was replaced by new trends like eco-criticism and new materialism. At odds with this Eurocentric linear narration, this theory has been traveling since its birth. Postcolonial stories subverted the methodology of European historiography. They re-represented the linear narrative of civilization and modernity. Renaissance, Reformation, Enlightenment, and French Revolution were all re-narrated from a non-Western epistemology. Colonialism became a constitutive pillar of this narration. The West was demystified. Liberté, égalité, fraternité became captivité, différence, hostilité. The Age of Reason became the precursor of the Age of Colonies. With the 1990s, the curricula in Western universities were renewed. Recently, postcolonialism traveled to decoloniality, but the type of alternative education is still discussed. Should it be cultural or political? With the help of decoloniality, this paper philosophizes this vision as a total re-education.