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by Anne-Marie McCallion

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Linda Tuhiwai Smith: What’s left if knowledge is decolonised?
September 28, 2021 7:00 pm UK time
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Abstract

My talk will pose some questions about the conceptual and practical challenges for decolonising knowledge. The question about ‘what is left?’ confronts a fear that some may hold about a decolonising knowledge agenda but it also identifies the problem of framing our understandings of decolonising approaches. My talk begins with that question.

Biography

Linda is the author of numerous ground-breaking scholarly works which focus on critical epistemology and indigeneity. Most notably, her book Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous People (1998) traces how Western scholarly research has facilitated the racist exploitation and colonization of indigenous peoples. This book remains today a core contribution to the study of coloniality in the academy and the process of indigenising research methodologies. 

Most recently, Linda was Professor of Indigenous Education and Māori Development, Pro-Vice Chancellor Māori and Dean of the School of Māori and Pacific Development as well as the founding Director for Te Kotahi Research Institute at the University of Waikato in New Zealand. She was also a founding Joint Director of New Zealand’s Māori Centre of Research Excellence from 2002-2007 and a Professor of Education at the University of Auckland. 

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Veli Mitova: Epistemic Decolonisation for Today’s Africa
October 6, 2021 5:00 pm UK time

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Abstract

The call to decolonise knowledge is finally gaining deserved attention worldwide, in both academia and society more generally. But as the call’s popularity rises, so does scepticism about its benefits. In this talk, I develop a conception of epistemic decolonisation that is geared to withstanding such scepticism in the contemporary African context, rather than to engaging better established, more theoretical scholarship. I focus, in particular, on African philosopher Bernard Matolino’s recent paper ‘Whither Epistemic Decolonization?’. Matolino issues three challenges to the continued theorising epistemic decolonisation. First, it politicises the knowledge enterprise in an unacceptable way. Second, it seems to leave the black African forever stuck in a negative project of trying to define herself in contrast to the coloniser. Finally, dwelling on the epistemic wrongs of colonialism obscures important aspects of the African’s condition, such as her continued political and material disempowerment. If these challenges are on the right track, they threaten to derail the whole project of epistemic decolonisation. But I argue here that such pessimism is premature. I first offer a sketch of what I take epistemic decolonisation to involve. I then show how this sketch can help us defuse Matolino’s challenges.

Biography

Veli is Professor in Philosophy and Director of the African Centre for Epistemology and Philosophy of Science, at the University of Johannesburg. She is also the South African team leader for The Geography of Philosophy Project, and a PI for the Epistemic Injustice, Reasons, and Agency project funded by a Newton Advanced Fellowship.

Veli works at the intersection of epistemology, metaethics and the philosophy of action. At the moment, she is thinking about epistemic injustice and decolonising knowledge. She is the author of Believable Evidence (CUP 2017), and the editor of Epistemic Decolonisation (2020) and of The Factive Turn in Epistemology (CUP 2018).

Before joining the University of Johannesburg in 2015, Veli taught and researched at Universität Wien, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de México, Rhodes University (her alma mater), and Cambridge (where she obtained her PhD).

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Murad Idris: Re-Framing Islam: Submission, Reformation, Pacification—Decolonization?
October 13, 2021 5:00 pm UK time

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Abstract

The definition of Islam as submission, the claim that Islam needs a Luther, and the desire to identify jihād with private and spiritual struggle, all reflect a series of compulsions and elisions. The three idioms are fundamental to how Islam has been constituted in language as a subject and as a problem. They each also have forgotten genealogies. This project outlines these genealogies and their intersection through the politics of translating Islam as submission, peace, or salvation; of narrating its place and temporality in modernity; and of reinterpreting historical texts and exemplars through the prism of liberalism and toleration. These three moves take Islam out of history. The dislocation of Islam winds through three disciplinary moments that track political theory’s investments in philology, teleology, and philosophy. The seminar concludes by pointing toward critical possibilities and resources that emerge out of alternative discursive formations. In the process, it reflects on the implications of these genealogies for the project of decolonizing “Western thought” and “Islam”—whether as object or subject of discourse—and its limits.

Biography

Murad Idris is Associate Professor of Political Theory at the University of Michigan. Before coming to Michigan in 2021, he held positions and fellowships at Cornell University’s Department of Government, Columbia University’s Society of Fellows in the Humanities, the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton NJ, and the University of Virginia. He received his PhD in Political Science from the University of Pennsylvania.
Murad’s work focuses on Islamic political thought, Islam in political theory, empire and postcolonialism, global intellectual history, international political theory, the politics of comparison, and disciplinary history. He’s currently working on two books: one on constructions of Islam and another on Sayyid Qutb’s international political thought.
Murad is the author of War for Peace: Genealogies of a Violent Ideal in Western and Islamic Thought (2019), which won the David Easton Award from APSA and two Best Book Awards from the ISA. He co-edited The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Political Theory (2020) with Leigh Jenco and Megan Thomas.

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Leigh Jenco: Is “Decolonizing” Enough? Premodern Chinese Thought and the Challenges of Disciplinary Inclusion
October 19, 2021 5:00 pm UK time

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Abstract

Recent calls to decolonize the curriculum of a variety of disciplines have rightly focused on the impact of European imperialism on what can be said and thought in the modern academy. But is this critique sufficient, even in its own terms, to fully capture the range of historically possible modes of thinking and being that should inform our contemporary politics? In this talk I argue that a more radical kind of curricular diversity is required to take account of premodern traditions of thought–to include not only those that exhibit continuity with contemporary forms of knowledge and experience, but also those that may have been marginalized and truncated by non-European practices of imperialism or forms of knowledge. I focus in particular on premodern Chinese thought, a multidisciplinary, internally self-referential intellectual ecosystem, with pervasive connections to questions of philosophy. Yet these connections are not readily visible within its corpus of texts spanning more than 2000 years, whose sheer abundance and linguistic distance from living languages inhibits easy navigation or comprehension. Being less subject to reorganization by modern European imperial power, its categories continue to animate certain forms of present-day knowledge, making its inclusion in curricula all the more urgent—even as its very breadth and complexity demand wide-ranging transformations in what we take philosophical knowledge to be. How are these challenges to be met, particularly if we recognize that this body of thought has sustained normative enquiry for centuries, in terms unrelated to more familiar commitments to freedom and justice?  How, moreover, can we comprehend the exclusions this body of thought has enacted over centuries, including the subjugation of non-Han Chinese and non-textual forms of knowledge and experience? 

Biography

Leigh is Professor of Political Theory at the London School of Economics’ Department of Government. Before joining the LSE in 2012, Leigh taught and researched at the Institute of Modern History, Academia Sinica, Taiwan; the Department of History, National Taiwan University; and the University of Heidelberg. She obtained her PhD from the University of Chicago. 

Leigh’s scholarship is focused on Chinese political thought, Taiwan studies, global intellectual history, comparative political theory, epistemology, and metahistory. One of her current research projects focuses on articulations of otherness and equality within late Ming neo-Confucian scholars including Jiao Hong and Chen Di. 
Leigh is the author of Making the Political: Founding and Action in the Political Theory of Zhang Shizhao (2010) and Changing Referents: Learning Across Space and Time in China and the West (2015). Leigh also co-edited The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Political Theory which compiles a series of articles paving the way towards establishing comparative political theory’s guiding principles and methodologies.

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