One of the most exciting new discourses in cultural studies is the one that has developed around decoloniality.  My most recent exposure to it is not in its Latin American context but rather in Africa.  It is a project that attempts to disconnect from the colonial project and its contemporary legacies, to deconstruct the ways that knowledge is produced in a broader critique of the Colonial project’s (to quote the Wikipedia entry)  “…social constructions, imaginaries, practices, hierarchies, and violence….”

It is a broad project that crosses an increasing number of literatures.  I’m most interested here in the way that social understandings and imaginaries underlie our thinking, and specifically the role that academic and scholarly discourses play.

At a recent symposium on “Social Imaginaries, Social Inclusion, and Decoloniality,” held at the University of the Free State in South Africa, the emerging and compelling African perspective was at the center.  One of the most powerful voices was that of William Mpofu of the University of Witwatersrand.  What I took from his talk was the idea that decoloniality scholarship recognizes the role that scholarship itself, and the academy played in the colonial project and that a broad re-thinking and critique of some very fundamental things are necessary.  In Africa, perhaps more than elsewhere in the world, it is obvious that one of the most profound acts of intellectual control exercised by the colonial university was its secularism.

The distribution of the Western university model to Africa insisted that African spiritualities be excluded from scholarly attention, that they were beneath serious academic scrutiny.

If Decolonial theory is right, we are all living and working in colonial universities. The entire academic infrastructure of the West is rooted in that time and in those traditions.  This got me thinking about my own field and about how it has so definitively excluded the category of religion from its agenda.  This continues to today.

So perhaps what is needed is to focus the decolonial lens on the field, its research, and its curricula, with this lacuna in mind.

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