RPP # 6

The readings from seminar seven concerning non-canonical and marginalized scholarship contained ideas with what I was certainly familiar, but had never before seen manifested in this way. I believe it is fair to say that the fundamental argument of the Decolonizing our Minds movement at SOAS can be boiled down to the common tropes of systemic racial inequality. What seems to make this movement unique is that it specifically critiques the academic world, which is typically thought of, and certainly sees itself as, more progressive. Ultimately I was underwhelmed by the arguments from the Decolonizing our Minds movement, not because I disagree with their critiques, but because they did not seem to offer, at least from the article, an innovative solution. Their initial argument seems to have been to remove the white scholars, or at least most of them, from the curriculum because they represent, by virtue of their identities, historic systems of oppression and marginalization. When professor Malik confronts the students however, they reportedly backdown and claim alternatively that traditional white scholars should be taught, just within a critical framework – one that makes aware their systemic privileges and personal failings, moral or otherwise. Whereas the first argument seemed like an over reaction, this compromise does not seem to be saying much at all. It seems to me that a critical approach should be – and more often than not is – applied to all scholars and ideas presented students, at least in higher education settings. So while I certainly do not disagree with the students claims, I fail to see how this argument is original, or how it particularly pertains to the white scholarship antagonists that the whole movement is founded on “decolonizing” themselves from.

Professor Morris, in my opinion, makes a much more interesting argument in his study of the historical account of American sociology, and particularly W.E.B Du Bois. While neither professor Morris, nor any rational person, denies that race almost certainly played a part in Du Bois’ marginalization, Morris argues that an equally important factor was the heterodox nature of Du Bois’ and his schools, claims. This argument highlights a flaw within the academic elite which has likely remains much more salient today than outright racism. I am in no way claiming that racism has entirely subsided from the academic world, rather that this paradigm of orthodoxy remains both more prevalent, and less understood than racism. I have been particularly exposed to this in my economics courses. Any findings which challenge commonly held beliefs have historically required mountains of data to support them, while findings which support the orthodoxy are overly inflated. The example of structural adjustment programs in development provides a clear example of this. It is because economics has historically been so reluctant to accept challenges to the orthodoxy that I will have to be cautious in the future to not fall into the same traps. While certainly not all critiques will be paradigm shifting, it will be important for me to keep myself open to the possibility.

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