Understanding decolonisation: “the modern world was shaped by western dominance”


“What is decolonisation?”, asks Radio 4’s John Humphrys on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Well luckily for their listeners, SOAS’s Dr Meera Sabaratnam was on hand to answer.

“I think we all recognise that the modern world was shaped by western dominance in many ways. And that’s affected how universities function and how lots of other institutions function. What we are saying is that those legacies of western dominance place limits on our ability to understand the world, to empathise with other people, to understand how histories are contested and how dialogue must be done.

“So we’re saying the university should be a space which challenges, and tries to overcome, many of those limits.”

Meera also challenged Humphrys when he incorrectly announced whilst introducing the topic that “it’s being left to the students to decide which philosophers, writers and politicians they should study”.

“I must say that it’s not correct to say it’s being left to the students. What students and staff are engaged in at SOAS is a dialogue about how the curriculum should be organised. And this is informed by up-to-date research on racialised attainment gaps within universities as well as the freshest thinking of the scholarship in those areas.”

The Times’ columnist David Aaronovitch raised his concerns about what he felt was the overly “political” nature of the movement.

“I think it’s naive to suggest that curriculums have never not been politicised”, Meera countered.

Listen to the full interview in iPlayer (starts 2m54s).

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