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Why Efforts to Decolonise Can Deepen Coloniality and What Ubuntu Can Do to Help

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Abstract

Efforts to decolonise societies, and in particular the field of higher education in South Africa, have frequently been framed in terms of “dismantling” strategies. This article examines the ethico-cultural assumptions implicit in this idea and shows that it derives from a realism of what Michael Karlberg (Beyond the Culture of Contest. Oxford: George Ronald, 2004) calls “normative adversarialism”, where power is negotiated conflictually and contests, struggles, and protests are seen as natural and inevitable strategies of social organisation. Such approaches are unattractive, as they effectively deepen coloniality rather than unravelling it. The African moral philosophy of ubuntu provides a very different realism, where processes of decolonisation can be framed as evolutionary, developmental, and integrative. Through the lens of ubuntu, decolonisation can be reimagined as a constructive process of resilience that significantly transcends coloniality. As such, this article also provides a non-exhaustive discourse analysis of how and to what end some decolonisation debates shape and are informed by various understandings of power.

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... In the second part of my article, I discuss how these have often been informed by understandings of social change that betray an adversarial or neoliberal realism and which view such processes as 'rebellions', 'secessions', 'struggles' and 'dismantling' strategies. An alternative way of conceptualizing decolonization is again provided from the perspective of ubuntu, which, as I argue, offers the idea of transcendence and enables a project of decolonization as 'constructive resilience' (Baha'i World Center, 2007; see also Tavernaro-Haidarian, 2018b). In the last section of this article, I build on the working definitions of development and decolonization I've generated and show how these form the basis of re-curriculation efforts in a project in Limpopo. ...
... Decolonization efforts are often framed as strategies that 'de-link', 'dismantle', 'reject', 'contest' or 'struggle against' existing norms and which employ many other broadly conflictual approaches (see Booysens, 2016). In this way, decolonization often becomes a 'reaction' rather than a 'response to' or a 'way forward' from neoliberal/colonial norms (see Tavernaro-Haidarian, 2018b). Yet, these strategies reflect but one prevalent attitude in contemporary discourses. ...
... From within the worldview of ubuntu and in the context of efforts to emerge from colonial histories and detrimental educational practices, we can think of 'decolonization', as a process that does not seek to dismantle or even ignore colonial realities in favor of something else, but rather as a process that 'builds on' these yet 'evolves' from the status quo by 'including' and 'integrating' more values. It can be thought of as a process of 'constructive resilience' (Baha'i World Center, 2007; see also Tavernaro-Haidarian, 2018b) or a strategy of cohesion and harmony. This is different from passive non-violence or even peaceful protest in that is 'contributes' and 'creates'. ...
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In view of the importance and urgency of transformation within post-colonial educational settings, this article considers key concepts in relation to re-curriculation efforts. It specifically discusses how the concepts of development and decolonization are typically understood and how they can be reimagined through the realism provided by the African moral philosophy of ubuntu. Ubuntu foregrounds deeply relational and immaterial notions of power, and through its lens development can be thought of in terms of ‘mutual empowerment’ and decolonization as a process of ‘constructive resilience’. The author elaborates on these definitions and draws on a practical example from an educational project in Limpopo, South Africa, to show how this can be operationalized and translated into the genesis of materials and methods that facilitate participatory citizenship.
... There has been much debate about how this putative African theory of relational autonomy might inform institutional, curricula, and pedagogic decolonisation (Ramose, 2004;Venter, 2004;Horsthemke and Enslin, 2009;Le Grange, 2011;Enslin and Horsthemke, 2016;Tavernaro-Haidarian, 2018;. In contrast, Piet Naudé unsettles ubuntu's claim as a marker of African authenticity (Naudé, 2019). ...
Thesis
Having received renewed intensity from student movements across the South African higher education landscape, decolonisation, as an intellectual project, remains a popular emancipatory framework within universities, disciplinary communities, scholarly networks globally and in South African higher education. In South Africa, demands for a decolonised African university are not new and are often inscribed within multiple genealogies and intellectual traditions that examine the relationship between colonial formations and the politics of knowledge production. Given this historicity, there is often a rich inheritance of diverse frameworks, idioms, and vocabularies that articulate collective efforts to transcend what decolonial theorists call the ‘coloniality of knowledge’. Given this historicity, there is always a pressing need to continually interrogate these inheritances in the ever-changing world in which they are deployed. One such idiom of decolonisation is Africanisation, which it conceives as a project of making X— disciplines, universities, knowledge about Africa, etc—more African. Among advocates of intellectual decolonisation in African Studies, Africanisation intuitively registers discourses of Africa-centredness and African renaissance as avenues to epistemic justice and relevance. It is a process of attenuating the extent to which universities and disciplines, as sites of discourse on and about Africa, are overdetermined by Western discursive formations. Although much has been done to advance this project, it often raises questions riddled with tension, particularly around the issue of identity. Although an intuitive concept on the surface, the grammar of Africanisation raises complexities pertaining to the subject of decolonisation—that is, the African for whom representation is sought. Locating my discussion in the post Rhodes Must Fall context in South African higher education, I participate in ongoing conversations around decolonising the university by asking, in a dual sense, whether decolonisation is Africanisation. Firstly, the question is descriptive, and examines the dimensions in which decolonisation is premised on the insufficiently African character of universities in South Africa and what this means. The more critical dimension of this question is normative and interrogates the perceived limits of Africanisation as an idiom of decolonisation. By employing the interrelated notions of citizenship and belonging, I develop a concept of epistemic citizenship to explore the boundaries of Africanity within the dynamics of inclusion and exclusion observable in efforts to decolonise universities in South Africa. Building on debates in the University of Cape (UCT) Town and Stellenbosch University (SU), I argue that while an inclusive Afropolitan sensibility and epistemic identity exists as an intellectual aspiration, one also observes contestations over perceived exclusions along configurations of race, nation, and indigeneity such that within the decolonisation-as-Africanisation paradigm, successfully claiming Africanity is far from a fait accompli.
... As Interconnectedness (Tutu,1996(Tutu, , 2015Denton, 2018;Toit, 2019;Molose, Goldman & Thomas, 2018;Metz, 2011;Metz & Gaie, 2010 ;Koopman, 2014;Tavernaro-Haidarian, 2019) Collectivity and As a Holistic (Metz, 2011;Sibanda, 2019;Tomaselli, 2018;Tavernaro-Haidarian, 2018;Zvomuya, 2020). ...
... In light of such an approach, the idea of development can be reframed and reenacted beyond even the idea of "humble togetherness" toward a process of active "mutual empowerment" (Tavernaro-Haidarian 2019), where people and societies, individuals and communities realize their full material, social, and spiritual potential together and in concert. The idea that "a person is made a person by other persons" (Tutu 1999) suggests that everyone has the capability to enter more deeply into community with others and to become more human and fulfilled in this way. ...
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Two arguments apparently support the thesis that collective identity presupposes an Other: the recognition argument, according to which seeing myself as a self requires recognition by an other whom I also recognize as a self (Hegel); and the dialogic argument, according to which my sense of self can only develop dialogically (Taylor). But applying these arguments to collective identity involves a compositional fallacy. Two modern ideologies mask the particularist thesis's falsehood. The ideology of indivisible state sovereignty makes sovereignty as such appear particularistic by fusing “internal” with “external” sovereignty; nationalism imagines national identity as particularistic by linking it to sovereignty. But the concatenation of internal sovereignty, external sovereignty, and nation is contingent. Schmitt's thesis that “the political” presupposes an other conflates internal and external sovereignty, while Mouffe's neo-Schmittianism conflates difference (Derrida) with alterity. A shared global identity may face many obstacles, but metaphysical impossibility and conceptual confusion are not among them.
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"The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed." Like all of Steve Biko's writings, those words testify to the passion, courage, and keen insight that made him one of the most powerful figures in South Africa's struggle against apartheid. They also reflect his conviction that black people in South Africa could not be liberated until they united to break their chains of servitude, a key tenet of the Black Consciousness movement that he helped found. I Write What I Like contains a selection of Biko's writings from 1969, when he became the president of the South African Students' Organization, to 1972, when he was prohibited from publishing. The collection also includes a preface by Archbishop Desmond Tutu; an introduction by Malusi and Thoko Mpumlwana, who were both involved with Biko in the Black Consciousness movement; a memoir of Biko by Father Aelred Stubbs, his longtime pastor and friend; and a new foreword by Professor Lewis Gordon. Biko's writings will inspire and educate anyone concerned with issues of racism, postcolonialism, and black nationalism.
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This paper describes the attempts of Iranian governments and the clerical establishments of the past 150 years to cripple or suffocate the Iranian Baha'i community. The paper outlines the steps undertaken to exterminate the Baha'i Community through physically, mentally, emotionally and culturally oppressive means. The motivational sources and socio-cultural circumstances leading to the mistreatment of the Baha'is are going to be explored, as well as the initiatives taken by the Baha'is of Iran and Baha'is around the world to deter their eradication. As such, the Baha'is of Iran are a case in point that intentful organized action can prevent ideological genocide.
Article
The response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa has so far ignored important traditional African values and attitudes toward disease and commerce. These values and attitudes are significantly different from the libertarian, market-driven, profit-oriented values and practices of important sectors of the Western world. To deal with this epidemic, the world should consider respect for, and possibly even adoption of those African values, which provide for people in genuine need, irrespective of their ability to pay. HIV/AIDS vaccine research indigenous to Africa is also not always taken seriously, and struggles to find adequate funding for such research within or outside of the continent have been extremely difficult. A better appreciation of knowledge systems and values indigenous to the African experience is important in the fight against the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
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