Important Keywords

What is Decolonisation?  

Terminology is always a tricky thing, terms being defined and understood differently by different people, and used in contexts that modify meanings and inflections. So to begin, perhaps it is best to lay out the main distinctions between ‘decolonisation’, ‘decolonising’, and ‘decoloniality’, as they are commonly understood in the discourse and discussions around this area. The following formulations might be considered standard in the field.  

Decolonisation: The achieving of independence from colonial countries, withdrawal of colonial powers from occupied territories, etc. (largely after WW II); a political event. 

Decolonising: The term refers to movements after decolonisation; more comprehensive historical and political processes; laws being reformed (for instance, laws regarding homosexuality, sedition, etc); student-led movements in South Africa urging the revision of university curricula, and other ongoing democratic struggles. In this sense, decolonising an area (for instance, higher education, can be termed the decolonisation of that area.  

Decoloniality: This is a specific theoretical concept originating in South America, and refers to the idea of epistemic disobedience; a moving away from Euro-colonial concepts and categories that have been naturalised as ‘universal’. In universities and higher education, this concerns knowledge that is inherited from colonial contexts and regarded as ‘natural’. (Menon, 2022 ).