Dina El Odessy
Despite the new-fangled challenges and opportunities presented by the advent of the 21st century, the hegemonic and uniform nature of the postmodern colonial world order continues to inform educational, economic, social and cultural institutions all over the world.
Now more than ever, there arises the need to narrate the different and more diverse variations of the human story that were silenced for around five centuries.
In attempting to address this yawning need, both the Center of Study and Investigation for Decolonial Dialogues in Spain (Global Dialogue), headed by Dr Ramon Grosfoguel and the International Institute for Scientific Research (IISR) in Holland, headed by Sandew Hira, have come together to put decolonial thought and ideas into practice through annual summer schools and Decolonizing The Mind courses. These event, which have attracted a growing number of researchers and activists from different parts of the globe, have been the first sown seeds to developing the Decolonial University (DU) Global Dialogue and IISR are members of the Decolonial International Network.
In contrast to the traditional Eurocentric concept of university, with its characteristic emphasis on the concept of universality in all forms of knowledge, the DU is a higher education e-learning institution that does not pretend to adopt any sense of universality. On the contrary, it promotes “pluriversity”, acknowledging and respecting the historical fact that there are inclusive and distinctive ways and modes of producing knowledge.
The curriculum of the DU is focused upon the integrative relationship that binds human beings with nature and the cosmos from the diverse vantage points of world civilizations; and from a decolonial perspective that departs from the exploitative approach of “modernity”. In so doing, there will be a number of multifarious courses that attempt to revisit the economic, social, political, geographic, and cultural dimensions that define such a relationship. Essentially, the DU is led by three guiding concepts: combating mental slavery through decolonizing the mind, acknowledging the contributions of different civilizations to human knowledge and promoting critical learning.
Accordingly, since the vision and curriculum of the DU is not one of docility but empowerment, the learners will be given the space and opportunity to develop critical knowledge and praxis through a number of student-centered pedagogies, which aim to present students with a transformative learning experience. For example, one of the early courses that will be presented in the DU e-learning platform is the “Decolonising Education” module, which aims to deconstruct how the machinations of colonialism employed education as a tool of subjugation, in order to perpetuate its supremacist fallacies and break the ontological and epistemological worldview of the subjugated nations. They will also research how the systematic institutionalization of learning and mass education, based on discipline, categorisation and market needs, is only a relatively nascent development that has been popularized and normalized as the one and only method of education.
In this module, learners are expected to embark on a journey of discovery from the past to the present, back and forth, in order to discover how holistic pre-modern paradigms of learning in Africa, India, Asia and America provided alternative and, at many times, progressive education. They will also be introduced to contemporary innovative models of education throughout the world, particularly the ones that aim to focus on creativity, empowerment, critical thinking, spirituality, holistic education, and multiculturalism. By the end of the module, students will be able to transform the gained knowledge into action through designing an educational model that aims to escape the stamp of old and neo-colonialism, through reimaging alternative school designs, structures curricula, pedagogies and assessment methods.
By institutionalizing the DU, our attempt is not only to reclaim the past, but also to redesign the possibilities of the future in spite of the seemingly grim and bleak present status quo. Our hope is to share and care for the whole planet we inhabit by crossing the fabricated dividing binary lines of the colonial experience that falsely separated a decentralized world into East/West, center/periphery and so forth.
The Decolonial University is going to early 2019 and, as a prominent expert in your field, we invite you to join us by providing your valuable feedback and suggestions on the nature of the courses that could be provided. We also welcome your suggestions on the content, pedagogy, and the educational material that could be used in the upcoming “Decolonising Education” module.
We invite you to embark upon our new and exciting journey as we work together to march towards a hopefully more accepting and diverse world.