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ECPR Journals Virtual Special Issue

Decolonising the Politics Curriculum: Obstacles, Opportunities, and Debates

Political Theory
 
Knowledge
 
Race
 
Education
 
Higher Education
 
Presenter
Simon Choat
Kingston University
Authors
Simon Choat
Kingston University
Manjeet Ramgotra
School of Oriental and African Studies

Abstract
Global calls to decolonise or liberate the university curriculum have over the past decade become increasingly vocal and widespread. There is, however, no agreement about what 'decolonising the curriculum' should entail. Various strategies have been proposed for decolonising the study of Politics: expanding the geographical reach of syllabi to study a wider range of countries and thinkers; including more writers of colour on reading lists; acknowledging and interrogating the legacy of colonialism on global institutions, relations between states, and dominant theories and concepts; and recognising alternative models and methods of knowledge production. In this paper, we use our experiences of decolonising political theory curricula at two London universities and of editing a 'decolonised' political theory textbook to reflect on how and why the discipline of Politics can and should be decolonised. Using examples from our experiences, we argue that there are political, moral, epistemological, and pedagogical reasons for decolonising. Drawing on surveys of textbooks and UK university curricula and reading lists, we demonstrate the extent to which the sub-discipline of political theory remains dominated by white, male thinkers and silent on the colonial contexts within which many canonical texts were written. We reflect on the difficulties of decolonising political theory - for example, should we seek to expand or abandon the canon? - and consider whether there are wider lessons for political science and international relations. Finally, we discuss how the impact of curriculum changes can be assessed - what would count as a 'successful' decolonisation? - and whether the formal support of universities for decolonisation and its subsequent institutionalisation enhances or constrains the process.
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