Epistemicides vs Epistuicides: What are we missing in the decolonial movement?

Academia has always been political. On some occasions, it has been appropriated and deployed to meet political ends while in other occasions it has modelled itself to challenge politicisation. In their study of curriculum framework governing economics teaching in Brazilian higher education, Guizzo, et al (2021: 258) show how the idea of a pluralist education system is under threat from a “strong disciplinary, institutional and wider political pressures with both domestic and global roots”. Indeed, the threats towards education systems in the global South often have global as well as local origins. These days, the threat of epistemicides – that is the killing of a people’s knowledge – has displaced and suffocated academic spaces in the global South (de Sousa Santos 2016; Ndlovu-Gatsheni 2018). This killing has taken both subtle and unsubtle forms. One way this has happened has been through dominant and domineering western oriented knowledge production institutions and systems which disregard approaches and writings from the global South.

In this discussion, however, I will use the case of the University of Zimbabwe to show how domestic roots have also contributed towards the suffocation of academic spaces. I argue in this piece that epistemicides work together with epistuicides (see Kufakurinani 2022) – a process where a people kill their own knowledge systems. The twin evils of epistuicides and epistemicides have suffocated knowledge production in the global south. Indeed, the problem of a dominant western centric gaze has been a subject of examination by decolonial thinkers. Mainstream journals in many disciplines have been known to promote certain perspectives and specific research approaches at the expense of others.  It is in this context that there has been a huge global movement to decolonise and decentre knowledge systems and knowledge production in many disciplines. Admittedly, decolonisation has become a buzz word over the years to the point of losing meaning. For me, decolonisation is simply about elevating alternative and at times rare voices and perspectives, particularly those from the global south. These voices and perspectives may be parallel or even contradictory to dominant perspectives and voices.

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Feminist political economy, land, and decolonisation: Rama Salla Dieng in conversation with Lyn Ossome

By Lyn Ossome and Rama Salla Dieng

In this interview, Rama Salla Dieng shares her thoughts on methods, feminist political economy, land questions in the Global South, radically reclaiming parenting as a political terrain of subversion and resistance, commitments to decolonisation while located in the western academy, radical acts of self-care, and African feminism.

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 A People’s Green New Deal: A Symposium

Max Ajl’s A People’s Green New Deal intervenes in current debates regarding green planning, green future, green stimuli, and eco-socialism. It surveys a wide range of existing literature on the ecological and social crisis, ranging from ruling-class “great transitions,” to eco-modernist elixirs of the right and the left which bank on technological solutions to today’s social and ecological problems. It then considers and critiques an array of liberal, left-liberal, and social democratic proposals, some of them going under the eco-socialist moniker, and shows how they rest on continued exploitation and primitive accumulation of the periphery. 

A People’s Green New Deal contributions lie in, first, using frameworks of dependency theory, accumulation on a world scale, and ecologically uneven exchange to illuminate the costs and consequences of distinct approaches to the climate crisis, left and right. Second, the book’s emphasis on agriculture, land use, and agro-ecology makes it unique amongst books on the Green New Deal and parallel debates. Its emphasis on decolonization, national sovereignty, anti-imperialism, and climate debt repayments from the North to the South is a third contribution. A fourth is how it deals with technology. 

This review forum assesses the contribution of A People’s Green New DealSakshi situates APGND in terms of a counter-epistemology to Eurocentric and empire-blind resolutions, if not really solutions, to the social and ecological crises to which mainstream Green New Deals are addressed. Sheetal Chhabria assesses APGND’s contribution to thinking on a planetary scale about appropriate planning for a just transition, while criticizing the book’s uncritical embrace of certain Indian nationalist tropes. Güney Işıkara raises questions regarding political agency and organization, the role of national-level planning in any form of national-level green transition, and how to approach anti-imperialism on a world scale.  

Read the contributions:

Dismantling and transcending colonialism’s legacy

In “decolonial” discourse, the African leadership landscape is flattened to the point of becoming a caricature. In an earlier variation of this caricature, Kwame Nkrumah’s injunction of “seek ye first the political kingdom” was presented by political scientist Ali Mazrui as a deficient obsession with political power to the neglect of the economic. In the current variation, the neglect of epistemic “decoloniality” is characterized as the deficient underbelly of the “nationalist” movement.

Kwame Nkrumah, Sédar Senghor, and Julius Nyerere are not only three of the most cerebral figures of Africa’s “nationalist” movement, but unlike Amilcar Cabral they lived to lead their countries in the aftermath of formal colonial rule.

Contrary declarations notwithstanding, Senghor, Nkrumah, and Nyerere were acutely aware of the colonial epistemological project and the need to transcend it. Indeed, philosopher Souleymane Bachir Diagne’s re-reading of Negritude as epistemology argued that its salience lies in the dissolution of the binary opposition of subject and object in the logic of René Descartes. Whatever one’s take on the specificity of Senghor’s claims of Africa’s modes of knowing—by insisting on the interconnectedness of subject and object—he deliberately sought to mark out what is deficient in modern European epistemology and valorize African systems of knowledge. This epistemological project is built on a distinct African ontological premise.

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