On the problematique of decolonisation as a post-colonial endeavour

Davids, Nuraan (2018)

CITATION: Davids, N. 2018. On the problematique of decolonisation as a post-colonial endeavour. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 50(14):1434, doi:10.1080/00131857.2018.1462518.

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Article

Inasmuch as postmodernism has enjoyed commonalities and convergences with post-colonialism, the relationship between the two has been a somewhat uncomfortable one. Does the demise of postmodernism, therefore, open the path for a re-emergence and re-consideration of post-colonialism? Conceptions of post-colonialism lean extensively on the idea of turning the world inside out, and upside down so that it might be seen differently, or how it might otherwise be. Post-colonialism uses a post-structuralist language to bring into contestation binary understandings of dominance/subjugation, centre/margin, and superiority/inferiority. Implicit in this contestation is that an undermining of hegemonic discourses and ideologies will redress historical imbalances, inequalities and displacements. In this regard post-colonialist theory has bode well for post-apartheid discourses in South Africa. Of late, however, post-colonialism has uncontestably – and rather recklessly - been conflated with, and subsumed into calls for decolonisation. Calls for decolonising the university curriculum and space, have found renewed impetus in the #feesmustfall campaigns, which have not only disrupted classes, but have left numerous campuses vandalised. What the #feesmustfall campaigns have revealed is a complex collision between the postcolonial binaries of dominance/subjugation, centre/margin, and superiority/inferiority – all the while underscored by a grand narrative of Race. There are two immediate oddities about the calls for decolonisation. Firstly, there is seemingly no consensus, let alone clarity about what a decolonised university in South Africa might look like. Secondly, and ironically, the very violence, which post-colonialism is meant to offset, has defined the decolonisation project, thus far. Following the above, and in response to the question: ‘What comes after postmodernism?’ I offer the following points of discussion in this article. Firstly, calls for decolonisation by South African university students is a misnomer, because the language of decolonisation cannot be extricated from colonisation. Secondly, in light of the promises of openness, and re- imaginations, promulgated by post-modernism, it seems rather contradictory to look towards constructions of other forms of ‘post’, unless the intention is to return to what was before. Thirdly, South Africa is not in need of a decolonisation project. It is, however, in need of an educational theory that is less concerned with what has already been – that is, being trapped in the abyss of a ‘post’. It should, therefore, be more concerned with (re)-evoking that which already resides in all of us, and that which we might yet become.

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