In recent times, the term decolonising has acquired a new meaning. Departing from its traditional use of identifying anti-colonial political struggles for liberation, the new meaning is rapidly being adopted in academic and activist circles to represent a conscious shift towards addressing the Euro-centric basis of research and the taught curriculum.
We are witnessing the growing importance of the decolonise movement within development studies, particularly in the aftermath of the Rhodes Must Fall campaign. The decolonise movement is enabling many contemporary scholars and groups both from the global south, and more widely, to identify problems and innovate theory and practice, including within university curriculums.
The Euro-centrism of modern Social Sciences has been pondered for decades by post-colonial, and more recently decolonial, thinkers. In different ways, they remind us that even critical strands of scholarship that promise emancipatory politics are infected with Euro-centric assumptions, which silence the rainbow of other forms of knowledge and philosophies that guide present mobilisations in the postcolonial world.
Myriad collective actions led by indigenous people, landless rural workers, women, people of colour, refugees, immigrants and precarious workers are exposing the limitations of the modern social sciences and the implications of this for social intervention and practice. Today, with the climate change crisis and the outbreak of the Covid-19 global pandemic, decolonising knowledge has become an unavoidable task for all disciplines and professional practices. It is now imperative to find ways to enrich sociological theory and find alternatives to development which make use of what B. de S. Santos calls the ‘ecology of knowledge’ that already exists in the world.