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World Philosophy Day: What is Decolonization of Knowledge & Why We Need It?

© AP Photo / Pablo SpencerBooks stand in the Palafoxiana library, the oldest public library in the Americas, in Puebla, Mexico
Books stand in the Palafoxiana library, the oldest public library in the Americas, in Puebla, Mexico - Sputnik Africa, 1920, 16.11.2023
On November 16, 2008, UNESCO established World Philosophy Day, aimed at highlighting the enduring value of philosophy for the development of human thought. Marking the Day on Friday, Sputnik Africa sat down with a history professor to reflect on the world's current system of accumulated knowledge and the desirable trends in its development.
The world needs a decolonization of knowledge, which is bringing philosophical ideas from other geospatial spaces, especially from the global South, constituting the world's majority, Prof Sabelo Ndlovu-Gatsheni, Professor and Chair of Epistemologies of the Global South with Emphasis on Africa at the University of Bayreuth in Germany, told Sputnik Africa.
According to the professor, at present, the dominant philosophy still comes from Europe and North America and does not represent the knowledge of the vast majority of the planet.
"Who are the theorists? Or who are the widely quoted philosophers? They are always white dead men of Europe and North America," he pointed out. "The knowledge which drives this world is a knowledge of a minority and we can't rely only on religion for minority."
For instance, the professor noted that in order to grasp sociology, one must understand, among other things, the worldview of an African sociologist or philosopher, which Western philosophy, claiming to be universal, fails to do.
Ndlovu-Gatsheni added that the dominance of Western thought has ushered in crises and depletion of knowledge. He referred to the global financial crisis, environmental catastrophes and pandemics, suggesting that the knowledge of the Global South could be called upon to resolve them.
"This [Western] knowledge is exhausted and because it is exhausted, we need to decolonize it for our own survival so that we take into account the knowledge from indigenous people, knowledge from the so-called native people, the black people, Asians, the Caribbeans, the Latin Americans. And in that way, we will actually have a richer knowledge, which might actually be able to take us out of this civilizational and epistemic crisis," Ndlovu-Gatsheni noted.
In this sense, the professor noted that indigenous knowledge was marginalized by the colonists, since "it was not in tandem with the colonial project of civilizing mission."

"It [indigenous knowledge] was pushed out because it was resistant to a particular knowledge which wanted to define, rule, and own, and exploit other people," Ndlovu-Gatsheni remarked.

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In terms of concrete practical steps, the expert suggested changing the curriculum to reflect not "European dominance" but the plurality of the world, including indigenous knowledge systems. Likewise, the expert emphasized the need to de-patriarchize knowledge by bringing in a feminine philosophy.


Continuing the theme of Western domination, the professor noted that Russia, China, and other emerging powers in the East are taking the lead in de-westernization.
"They are shifting from worshiping the West as the leader of the world into recreating the global East," Ndlovu-Gatsheni opined.
He cited the BRICS bloc, whose expansion Europe "fears the most and wants to interfere with."
Moreover, the idea of de-dollarization and the use of local currencies is actually a disruption of Western hegemony, the expert concluded.