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date: 20 September 2018

Decolonial Philosophy and Education

Summary and Keywords

“Decolonial philosophy of education” is an almost nonexistent term. Consequently, rigorous intellectual and scholarly conversations on education tend to be centered around a specific set of concepts and discourses that were (and still are) generated, picked up or analyzed by thinkers from a specific geographical and political space, such as Socrates, Rousseau, Dewey, Heidegger, and Foucault. This has led to the systemic ignoring and violating concepts and ideas generated from other spaces and lived through by other people.

This legacy can also be related to some philosophical aspirations for gaining total, hegemonic, and universal perceptions and representations often formulated by male Euro-American philosophers; when this intellectual passion for universality becomes coupled with or stays silent about imperial and expansionist ambitions, it can see itself implicated in creating assimilationist or genocidal practices: in education, the manifestation of universality associated with imperialism is observed in Indian residential schools. While the words education, literacy, curriculum, learning of languages, acquiring knowledge, school, school desks, and school buildings might normally echo positive vibes for many, it can make an aboriginal survivor of an Indian residential school shudder. It is furthermore hard to ignore the aspirations for a European/Universalist definition of human and man in the famous “Kill the Indian to save the child” policy of Indian Residential Schools. However, the likelihood of deeming such assimilationist attempts as benign acts of trial and error and as events external to philosophy is generally high. Therefore, the “colonial edge” of these philosophies are, more often than not, left unexamined.

This is the plane where decolonial philosopher dwell. They deliberate on essential key moments and discussions in philosophical thought that have either not been paused at enough or paused at all, and thereby question this lack of attention. There is an important reason for these intellectual halts practiced by decolonial philosophers. While these might seem to be abstract epistemic endeavors, decolonial philosophers see their work as practices of liberation that aim beyond disrupting the eminence of mainstream Euro-American philosophical thought. Through these interrogative pauses, they hope to intervene, overturn and restructure the philosophical, political and social imaginations in favor of the silenced, the ignored, the colonized, and the (epistemologically and physically) violated.

This article engages with certain key decolonial theses and is concerned with the hope of initiating and further expanding the dialogues of decolonization in the philosophy of education. The article will, however, stay away from adding new theses or theories to decolonial education. The author believes that this field, much like other paradigms, either can or will at some point suffer from theoretical exhaustion. Instead, it directs the readers to pause at some of the decisive moments discussed in decolonial theories.

Keywords: colonialism, colonization, decolonization, philosophy, philosophy of education


Valladolid is a touristic colonial town in Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, famous for its natural water wells (cenotes), its colorful walls, and its charming architectural scenery. The buildings can be categorized as “colonial architecture,” construction that was inspired by the designs of conquerors’ motherlands. The history of the town is more complicated and event-filled, as is the idea of colonial architecture, and as are the critiques of this soon-to-become analogy.

However, if one lingers around Valladolid for a while in the main park with the La Mestiza sculpture in the fountain, and around the municipal palace, one might see a contrast between the vendors—and the people hanging out and around the buildings in general—and the colonial architecture itself. The contrast is not only because it feels as though one does not belong to the other (the town was built over Mayan ruins and a pyramid, so the material in the construction is, so to speak, local). It is mostly because one might be able to feel that through the contrast and marked difference, there is a certain practice of “in and out” that is being carried out on the part of the architectural scenery.

The scenery goes beyond symbolic if one is reminded that, in 1550, in Valladolid’s namesake, the then-capital of Spain (and a town that is important since it is the place where Columbus died), a historic dialogue took place between scholar Juan Gines de Sepulveda and Bartolome de Las Casas. Held at a college of theology, the debate was inspired by the European conquest of the Americas and predicated on opinions that were then plausible among some Spaniards, such as “the Indians were almost, but perhaps not quite, men and that their capacity for becoming Christians was slight or perhaps even nonexistent” (Hanke, 1994, p. 4).

A dialogue about whether or not Indigenous people have souls and are therefore human requires as one of the premises of the discussion to leave the Native American definition outside the European definitions of humanity: or, at the very least, it requires a certain suspicion of the opinions that consider them inside this concept. The debate at Colegio San Gregorio therefore highlights the presence of latent conceptual constructions, ones that go beyond solely changing the architectural landscape of Latin American towns like Valladolid.1

Decolonial philosophies take on the task of examining and critiquing these conceptual compositions by pausing at key moments, concepts, and events that have gone unnoticed or have been underanalyzed in mainstream Western thought or Western critical philosophy. Decolonial inquiries nonetheless tend to aim beyond creating intellectual work that merely disrupts the unquestioned eminence of mainstream Euro-American philosophical thought. These intellectual endeavors are worked out in the hope of intervening, overturning, and dramatically restructuring the Euro-American philosophical conceptual assemblages, and through that social imagination, in favor of the people who have been ousted from such architecture in numerous ways.

Decolonial thought is not the only philosophical stream critiquing the dark sides of the modern period and modern structures of thinking. Western philosophers have meticulously inspected modern thought and have created elaborate analyses and critical frameworks about modernity. However, critiquing modern Western thought from decolonial vantage points helps procure critical structures other than those that European critical thought provides. This entry will examine how the decolonial conceptual structure provides the basis for radically different types of questions, inquiries, and concepts needed for transformative philosophy; means that European critiques would fall short of providing. Each part will therefore begin by first looking at how some of the critical thought in Western philosophy has led to the creation of certain critical concepts, and will then explore how the decolonial take will provide different ones: critiques and concepts that will occasionally go alongside the Western debates, or oftentimes, go against it.

The idea of “conceptual architecture” that was initially discussed will continue to be present throughout the three parts of the paper. Each part examines a few concepts that act as the building blocks for the conceptual structures of critiquing our modern times. The three parts are: Being and Colonization, Modernity and Colonization, Economy and Colonization. Each section begins with one or two quotations to help introduce and engage with the essence of discussions or arguments that are to be discussed. The concluding section recalls how education promotes the sustaining of certain conceptual structures. Essentially the entire article should be seen as a sketch of select concepts in decolonial thought, a sketch that can equip readers with a conceptual background.

The entry is not reflective of all concepts, nor is it by any means exhaustive of all critical discussions on Western and decolonial thought. It serves as an observation of the conceptual array of the two different traditions of inquiry mentioned above. Similar to other all-encompassing works, the paper leaves nuances behind (including critiques to decolonial thought itself). To that end, many undiscussed quintessential literature and concepts can potentially be placed in between the discussed voices, or brought forth to complicate and contradict the turns the paper takes. Furthermore, the discussions from European continental philosophy and European critical theory here primarily serve one of the main purposes of the paper, which is ultimately to sketch the decolonial scopes of inquiry as they extend to education.

Being and Colonization

Being and The “Cogito”

And observing that this truth “I am thinking,

therefore I exist” was so firm and sure that all

the most extravagant suppositions of the sceptics

were incapable of shaking it.

(Descartes, 1988, p. 22)

Chiefly owing to Heidegger, Being has been extensively deliberated on in modern times. Heidegger’s study of being can be seen, in a way, as a critique of modern Cartesian foundations for knowledge. In order to carry out his analysis on Being, he notes how Descartes’ discovery of Cogito ergo sum has become “the point of departure for all modern philosophical questioning” (2010, p. 43). In his magnum opus Being and Time, he critiques what he sees as modern Western philosophical questioning, and calls for a new starting point for thinking that is other than the Cartesian method of, among other things, “calculative reason.”

Before expanding on Heidegger’s critique, Descartes’ quote about his thought experiment containing cogito ergo sum is provided here. This is primarily because as Cottingham notes, many of the extended arguments of his work can be found in it (1996, p. 28), and also because “the cogito” will have a recurring presence in this article and in decolonial philosophy. Descartes’ quest for certainty begins with rejecting as false:

(E)very thing in which I imagine the least doubt, in order to see if I was left believing anything that was entirely indubitable . . . Thus, because our senses sometimes deceive us, I decided to suppose that nothing was such as they led us to imagine. And since there are men who make mistakes in reasoning, committing logical fallacies concerning the simplest questions in geometry. Lastly, concerning the simplest questions in geometry, and because I judged that I was prone to error as anyone else, I rejected as unsound all the arguments I had previously taken as demonstrative proofs. Lastly, considering that the very thoughts we have while awake may also occur while we sleep without any of them being at that time true, I resolved to pretend that all the things that had ever entered my mind were no more true than the illusions of my dreams. But immediately I noticed that even while I was trying thus to think that everything false, it was necessary that I, who was thinking this, was something. And observing that this truth “I am thinking, therefore I exist” was so firm and sure that all the most extravagant suppositions of the sceptics were incapable of shaking it, I decided that I could accept it without scruple as the first principle of the philosophy I was seeking. (1985, pp. 126–127)

Heidegger worries that this methodic process of “extravagant doubting” in order to reach certainty, or such a process “as grounds for certainty when faced with radical doubt” (Cottingham, in Descartes, 1985, p. 29) has become a foundational aspect of modern Western questioning and philosophy. However, the sum in the cogito has not been resolved. In fact, it has been “not only unresolved, not only inadequately formulated, but in spite of all interest in ‘metaphysics’ has even been forgotten” (Heidegger, 2010, p. 19). The being is just as important as the thinking and doubting, but it has remained unquestioned with “Descartes ego cogito, the subject, the ‘I,’ reason, spirit, person” dominating philosophy’s range of problems (2010, p. 19).

Conversely, for Heidegger, thinking becomes possible not when we seek a knowledge that corresponds to mathematics or physics (2010), but when Being is defined: “only when the sum is defined does the manner of the cogitationes become comprehensible” (p. 43, emphasis original). As such, Heidegger’s project culminates in a seminal study of Being and put simplistically, of humans as beings-in-this-world.

Accordingly, a critique of modern Western philosophical questioning inspires a conceptual cluster that is constructed by ideas such as forgetfulness of Being and study of Being, as well as the sum of the cogito, and it is itself later attentively appraised for its ethical and political remissness by other European philosophers.2

Being, The Cogito, and Colonization

Most Excellent Prince, in the previous chapters

I told how, after having pacified the province of Panuco,

we reconquered that of Tututepeque, which had rebelled.

Hernan Cortes, 1519 (Cortes, 1986, p. 297)


I also happened to think of something that I have observed many times

with regard to these Indians. Their skulls are four times thicker than

those of the Christians. And so when one wages war with them and

comes to hand to hand fighting, one must be very careful not to hit

them on the head with the sword, because I have seen how many

swords broken in this fashion.

Fernandez de Oviedo 1526, Natural History of the West Indies”

(Hanke, 1994, pp. 41, 42)


Europe constituted the periphery and asked, along with

Fernández de Oviedo, “Are the Amerindians human beings”

that is, “Are they Europeans, and therefore rational animals?”

(Dussel, 1985, p. 3)

The building blocks that shape up the conceptual compositions and thought experiments of decolonial inquiries are similar to what constituted Heidegger’s critique (e.g., Cartesian cogito ergo sum, doubt, and ontology). What distinguishes one from the other is that in this philosophical construction, analyses do not happen in the West, nor in an abstract space or a geopolitical vacuum, a space which Descartes’ thought experiment seemed to have occurred. They take place in a political space that has been conquered, controlled, ruled over, or exploited; spaces such as Tututepeque or Panuco or the West Indies that were mentioned in Hernan Cortes’s quote or in Fernandez de Oviedo’s mentioned above.

Space in decolonial thought is more likely to be looked upon as “existentially real spaces within the parameters of an economic system in which power is exercised in tandem with military control” (Dussel, 1985, p. 2). Such space noticeably affects the universality claims of, for example, a Cartesian thought experiment, since it necessitates taking into account the presence of different “loci of epistemic enunciation,” and different experiences of being, knowing, and doubting, this time not only by a European male, but by a Guatemalan or Bolivian Indigenous woman (Grosfoguel, 2007). In this light, the decolonial conceptual assemblage comes to be the domain for investigations on how modern universalist European claims to authority in knowing and thinking3 have resulted in bypassing the analysis of its dark geopolitical side; namely, the proto-history of Descartes’ cogito and his search for an unshakable and firm basis for his philosophy that was being experienced in Latin America prior to the conception of the cogito (Dussel, 1996). Consequently, issues that become worthy for pensive investigation are, among others, what Dussel calls the underside of cogito and modern Western philosophy (Dussel, 1996).

For Dussel, examining the proto-history of the cogito necessitates looking at the embedded and yet underanalyzed presence of colonialism in the construction of European thought experiments. Theories of modernity in the Western canon tend to represent modernity as having had its initial geographical location in Europe, during the time period of around “the seventeenth century onwards,” and as phenomena which “subsequently became more or less worldwide in their influence”(Giddens, 1990, p. 1, emphasis added), and as a force that imposed its practices beyond Europe due to its military advantage and technology (Taylor, quoted in Dussel, p. 134).

Dussel’s inquiry about the proto-history spotlights a different conclusion, “what was perhaps already the ‘consequence’ of Europe’s centrality over a world periphery, was instead presented as the ‘consequence’ of rationalization, science, and the ‘modern self’” (Dussel, 1996, p. 34). What helps clarify Dussel’s call for looking at modernity as a consequence of the invasion of the Americas—as opposed to modernity having taken place in Europe and as a quest for unshakable foundation—is his argument that modern reasoning and doubt, as well as the cogito, did not “emerge from nothing” in 17th-century Europe. Dussel sees the initiation of methods of radical questioning and doubt in the 15th century rooted in the certainty of the European subjects about their own humanity and their radical doubt about the humanness of the Indigenous peoples of the Americas, a certainty that itself rose from “conquering subjectivities.”

Prior to the Cartesian formulation, there was a construction of self and other that was happening in Europe that became formative in the development of modern subjectivity and subsequent thought experiments. Dussel displays how the cogito, the reasoning self, is therefore not solely a European phenomenon, but a result of “a continuous dialectic of impact and counter-impact, effect and counter-effect, between modern Europe and its periphery” (1996, pp. 132–133). Europe constitutes itself through a dialectical articulation of itself as the conquering civilized center, with the peripheral world as the uncivilized barbaric savages (1996, p. 133). The continuous dialectic of center and periphery, and as a consequence of the conquering ego’s invasion of the Americas, culminated in excessive doubt towards the humanity of people radically different from Europeans—as we saw in Valladolid—and later manifested itself in Descartes’ cogito.

Descartes was exposed to this articulation prior to his thought experiment as he went on to study at “La Fleche, a Jesuit college, a religious order with great roots in America, Africa, and Asia at that moment”; therefore, Dussel confirms, “the ‘barbarian’ was the obligatory context of all reflection on subjectivity, reason, the cogito” (1996). He traces this dialectic in the cogito: “The ego conquiro (I conquer), as a practical self, antedates it. Hernan Cortes preceded the Discours de la methode (1636) by more than a century” (Dussel, 1996). It is only later that Descartes creates his thought experiment in a context where the savage was already a conceptual frame.

The precedence of conquering subjectivity over the cogitating one formulates a different analysis of European scholarship on modernity. Accordingly, a point of departure in such an analysis of modernity is more likely to start with Oviedo’s conquering subjectivity and his expression of radical doubt about the humanity of Indians as well as with the certainty of the humanity of Europeans before the council in Valladolid in 1532: “[T]hey are all bestial and incapable; thus they live and die bestially of little capacity and little understanding” (Hanke, 1994, pp. 42–43). As such, in this conceptual landscape, it becomes plausible to see why critiquing modernity, seen from a different temporospatial zone, leads to different formulations like “Before the ego cogito there is an ego conquiro; ‘I conquer’ is the practical foundation of ‘I think.’” It also calls for reexamining modernity in ways that are different from the studies created inside Europe, like urging a reflection upon the under-analyzed proto-history of the cogito as well as and instead of inquiring about the neglected Sum in the cogito.

Being, Doubting, and the Cogito

Are these Indians not men?

Do they not have rational souls?

Antonio De Montesinos, 1511 (Hanke, 1994, p. 4)

I do not understand the justice of this war . . . In truth, if the Indians

are humans but monkeys, “non sent cap aces iniuriae” But if they are

men and our fellow creatures, as well as vassals of the Emperor, I see

no way to excuse these conquistadors nor do I know how they serve

Your majesty in such an important way by destroying your vassals.

Fransisco de Vitoria, 1535 (Hanke, 1994, p. 16)

Descartes’ quest for an “unshakable foundation” for knowledge (see Heidegger, 2010), has been further fleshed out in decolonial thought. Drawing on Dussel’s idea of “Ego conquiro,” for example, Maldonado-Torres contemplates the following: whether, similar to the way doubt and certainty (as core constitutive elements of modern philosophical questioning) led to a remissness of being in modernity, there also exists a radical skepticism constitutive of the imperial attitude that led to ontological exclusion and mass exterminations (2007).

Maldonado-Torres is skeptical about the idea that the characterization of Amerindians as “racialized selves” was based on a scientific categorization of different biological races. He reflects instead on the idea of “a Manichean misanthropic skepticism” manifested in the doubt about the humanity of the Amerindians: a “permanent suspicion” that becomes the means to reach certainty and provide a solid foundation to the European self, not to mention one that eventually led to genocidal practices (Maldonado-Torres, 2007, p. 245). It is not that the answer to the dubious question was never affirmative, the pope did declare Amerindians soulful. But the actual questioning, Maldonado argues, “posits certainty about an unquestioned self as well as the humanity of the European as being the universal one” (Maldonado-Torres, 2007).

This is perhaps why Mendieta writes that we collect from Descartes, “the carte blanche of radical doubt that would leave standing only that which cannot be doubted—the certainty of the thinking ‘I.’ The Cartesian project of laying an unshakable ground of epistemic certitude led to the ethical and moral evisceration of the subject” (Isasi-Díaz & Mendieta, 2012, p. 247). The theological-philosophical practice of doubting the presence of a soul in other humans, in its unshakable certainty of the European reasoning I being the universal framework of humanity, could see itself as supporting the conquering, dominating, and denial of the humanness of radically different humans. Hence Maldonado-Torres’s claim that the conquest of Americas was in itself “no less an ontological event”; one that eventually led to extermination and massive genocide.

Maldonado-Torres expands Heidegger’s critique of the cogito, by calling attention to what he neglected to see in his interpretation: “coloniality4 of knowledge” and “coloniality of Being”: From “I think, therefore I am” we are led to the more complex and what Maldonado-Torres calls philosophically and historically accurate expression: “I think (others do not think, or do not think properly), therefore I am (others are-not, lack being, should not exist or are dispensable)” (2007, p. 252). One can see how a conceptual structure in which colonization provides the essence for philosophical critiques is different from the European critiques of modernity. For example, instead of expanding on Heidegger’s Being, Fanon’s idea of non-being becomes worthy of perceptive reflection; a being that has been caught in a historical/geographical twist.

Fanon, a leading theorist on colonization, has elaborated on the idea of “ontological exclusion through non-being”: “Black man is not a man,” he writes. “There is a zone of nonbeing, an extraordinarily sterile and arid region . . . In most cases, the black man lacks the advantage of being able to accomplish this descent into a real hell” (Fanon, 1967, p. 2). A black man, after having been constructed through the eyes of the rational European as a sub-being (a sub-ontological human, not fully human), and aided by the conquering certainties and years of imperialism, already lives “in hellish existence” (Gordon, quoted in Maldonado-Torres, 2007). In essence, if Heidegger sees the uniqueness of Dasein in that each of us individually dies our own death and death then becomes the path to authorship of our lives,5 for the black man it is different. For the black man, as a not-completely human, or a nonbeing, death is experienced everyday, “as endemic famine, unemployment, a high death rate, an inferiority complex, and the absence of any hope for the future” (Fanon, 1963, p. 238). In light of decolonial investigations therefore, Heidegger’s ontological project (and ontology in general) diverges into investigating colonial practices of ontological exclusion, with concepts like coloniality of being and nonbeing being heavily speculated on in its conceptual architecture.

Modernity and Colonization

Modernity and Violence

On the other side of modernity, as virtually no one on earth

can any longer fail to be conscious, there could be nothing

but a “republic of insects and grass,” or a cluster of damaged

and traumatised human social communities.

(Giddens, 1990, p. 173)

The idea of examining and critiquing the phenomenon of modernity as originally 17th-century Western social mode of life and one that became globally influential is not new. Modernity’s double-edgedness, and its “dark sides” has been thoroughly reflected upon (See, e.g., Giddens, 1990, pp. 7, 9, 172). For instance, Giddens accentuates the discontinuist features of modernity to examine how the spread of this “tiny period of historical time” has swept us away from traditional types of social order in unprecedented ways, and subsequently how the dramatic, comprehensive, and rapid change that originated with modernity has robbed from us the opportunity to get assistance from our prior knowledge to interpret the changes (1990, pp. 5–7). Giddens understands modernity as having given rise to two seminal social transformations that make it have a “specious continuity with preexisting social orders”: the nation-states and systematic capitalist production, which he defines as “the wholesale dependence of production upon inanimate power sources, or the thoroughgoing commodification of products and wage labour” (1990, p. 6).

Added to the above grim upshots is the destructive consequences of despotic political institutions of modernity: the “totalitarian possibilities” in power, ones which were eventually contained in modernity instead of being precluded from it (Giddens, p. 8). Giddens discerns traditional despotism from the horrifying forms of modern institutional violence, like fascism, Stalinism, and the Holocaust. Totalitarianism was unprecedented before the rise of the nation-states; it was during modernity that despotism, with its interconnected concentration of political, military, and ideological power, could develop (Giddens, p. 8).

Giddens ultimately designates the “unfettered ruling of reason” as yet another consequence to modernity, suggesting that the reign of reason initiated in the first place in order to displace Christian providential outlooks. However, reason did not eventually displace the divine providence but reshaped it: the certainty of divine law was replaced by an other certainty of empirical observation. Giddens further observes how the rise of European dominance over the world secured the sustenance of this unfettered rationality. Europe’s global domination provided the material support for the assumption that the new rational scope not only offered emancipatory outlooks “from the dogma of tradition,” but “was founded on a firm base which both provided security” (p. 48).

Levinas, a key figure in continental thought (and later in decolonial philosophy), examines the persistence of this unfettered reason in other locales. Put simply, he looks at how the West aimed to have total conceptions of mankind, and this resulted in the denial of the excessive or infinite character of human beings, forming a totality—“an all inclusive knowledge”6—that excluded the infinity of humans. It left no room for our exteriority, or “an ability to stand outside of every conceptual framework,” and thereby led to modern class warfare, world wars, and the Genocides like the holocaust (Mensch, 2015). Specifically looking into how philosophical concepts, like being and totality, can lead to violence, he writes: “[totality] establishes an order from which no one can keep his distance; nothing henceforth is exterior. War does not manifest exteriority and the other as other; it destroys the identity of the same” (Levinas, 1969, p. 20). However, totality does not exclusively belong to the modern Western thought, “it dominates western philosophy” (Levinas, 1969, p. 21).

Naturally, being from the oppressed side of the political consequences of modernity, namely totalitarianism, political critiques of modernity help build conceptual frameworks that inquire about the dark “enigmatic core” (Giddens, 1990, p. 49) of modernity (e.g., totality, totalitarianism and its modern origins,7 ideology, and exteriority).

Modernity, Coloniality, and Imagination

Could it be that it is possible to think about,

and to think differently from, an “exteriority”

to the modern world system?

(Escobar, 2007, p. 183)

Decolonial thought also gazes at the enigmatic core of modernity, perhaps in tandem with modernity’s founding principle, its radical doubt that “no knowledge can rest upon an un-questioned foundation, because even the most firmly held notions can only be regarded as valid ‘in principle’ or ‘until further notice’”(Giddens, 1990, p. 48). The point of convergence between decolonial thought and inquiries about modernity in the West is Giddens’s argument that the nature of modernity has been poorly grasped. Decolonial inquiry (alongside Levinas’s ethical concerns about Western philosophy) reflects on the ethical blind spots by calling for a construction of a global optic for critiquing modernity: one through which a rereading of its myth become possible (Escobar, 2007). This section and the subsequent one (“Modernity and “Coloniality of Imagination””) look at how critiquing modernity from outside of Europe can engender concepts and analyses that are different from the ones discussed in the previous section.

If, according to Giddens, modernity has become influential and worldwide, then a worldview reading can mean critiquing modernity from other-than-Western locales. This entails the inception of different conceptual inquiries about modernity: precisely since these non-Western inquiries were not “materialized as the internal responses to European formation of imperial nation-states” (Mignolo, 2013, p. 155), the results would be highlighting certain attributes that are different from what critical thought in Europe presents.

Thinking about dark sides of modernity from outside of Europe implies doing philosophy from a terrain that is exterior to mainstream modern philosophy. More importantly, it means doing philosophy in a land that was considered empty and discovered, even though it was “teeming with millions of people and whose inhabitants already existed” (Mills, 2007, p. 27). Such practice can then mean looking at modernity from “an outside that is precisely constituted as difference by a hegemonic discourse” (Escobar, 2007, p. 186), a disposition that subsequently radically changes the nature of reflections on the grim sides of modernity, as well as the nature of struggles against it.

Thinking from this exteriority, becomes a pivotal premise to thinking and questioning about modern times “from difference.” It provides the epistemic edge in inquiring about the consequences of modernity, what can be called “a philosophically enriched alterity,” or “colonial difference” (Escobar, 2007, p. 183; Walsh, 2012). If Giddens ponders whether or not overcoming modernity’s dark side would involve a radical reorganization of time and space (p. 178), then standing in exteriority of the dominant critical discourses and attempting to assess a different beginning of modernity (such as beginning with the European invasion of the Americas) can be seen as a promising reorientation. It can lead to creation of different conceptual assemblages. Standing outside “the spatial and temporal origins of modernity” helps in undertaking the foundational reorganization of time and space that Giddens called upon.

A favorable result of theorizing from difference (and investigating modernity as juxtaposed with coloniality) would be the emergence of a conceptual architecture that deems specific landmark historical experiences worthy of investigation (Walsh, 2012); instead of looking up to “the French and American revolutions,” theorizing about modernity/coloniality requires a restoring our attention to “the Tupac Amaru rebellion and the 1804 Haitian revolution to the 1960s anticolonial movements” (Escobar, 2007, pp. 184–185), because of the transformational “epistemic forces” behind them.

Furthermore, this changes the nature of questions on modernity. If Giddens probes into modernity’s global high-consequence risks of “collapse of economic growth mechanisms,” “ecological decay or disaster,” “nuclear conflict or large-scale warfare” or “industrialization of war,” and “globalization” (1990, p. 175), the modernity/coloniality project investigates otherwise. Whether, for example, “the power of Euro-centered modernity as a particular local history lies in the fact that is has produced particular global designs in such a way that it has ‘sub-alternized’ other local histories and their corresponding designs.” Or, how “one may envision alternatives to the totality imputed to modernity, and adumbrate not a different totality leading to different global designs, but a network of local/global histories constructed from the perspective of a politically enriched alterity” (Escobar, p. 183). Along these lines, a critical engagement with restructuring the spatiotemporal critique of modernity from exteriority “unfreezes the radical potential for thinking from difference and toward the constitution of alternative local and regional worlds” (Escobar, pp. 83–84).

Modernity and “Coloniality of Imagination”

Residential school children should not be educated to

learn their bread by brain-work rather than by manual labour.

Reed, Deputy minister of Indian Affairs, 1889

(They Came for the Children, 2012, p. 25)

The Queen wishes her red children to learn the cunning of the white man

and when they are ready for it she will send schoolmasters on every Reserve

and pay them.

Alexander Morris, Government Negotiator, 1870s

(They Came for the Children, 2012, p. 9)

Practicing philosophy and critiquing modernity from exteriority requires philosophical projects to look at colonization not merely as a political-economical practice of domination but an epistemological one—that is, simplistically put, what is proposed and propagated as true and real knowledge, and what is as a result relegated to non-knowledge—to folklore, tradition, etc. In this architecture, investigating the nuances of epistemological colonization “as a substantial method of domination that have withstood political colonialism” (Quijano, 2007) becomes a fundamental concern. Consequentially, in such a setting, collocating coloniality and imagination is not assumed as a practice of creating “oxymoronic” compositions, but a consequence of practicing philosophy from exteriority.

Quijano traces the roots of coloniality of imagination in the American continent by looking at the dynamic between the conqueror’s knowledge and that of the conquered. Quijano argues that by assuming their ways of knowing—their “intersubjective constructions”—as rational, objective and scientific, the conquerors did not solely commit a systemic oppression of beliefs, ideas, images, symbols or knowledge of the colonized or the conquered. Beyond that, they impeded the cultural production of the dominated through propagating their own “patterns of expression, their beliefs and images” (2007, p. 169). This, he observes, acted as very efficient means of social and cultural control. Quijano underscores how, through colonization, the dominant also mystified the image of their own patterns of knowledge productions, not only placing them out of reach, but also teaching it in a partial and selective way, while at the same time expropriating knowledge of mining and agriculture from the dominated. Reed’s quote on the partial transfer of knowledge to Indigenous children further corroborates Quijano’s apprehension about coloniality of knowledge.

Moreover, through this mystification, European culture was made to be seductive and having access to it was interpreted as the means to power. Quijano writes, “After all, beyond repression, the main instrument of all power is its seduction” (2007, p. 169). Access could imply that if one participates, one can reach same material benefits and conquer nature, be in control, develop and be, or become powerful beings. This is where coloniality of imagination tragically culminates. As a result of colonial epistemological interferences, cultures and ways of knowing were positioned in lower degrees in the hierarchies of knowledge, not only in a European view, but “in the eyes of their own bearers” (Quijano, 2007, p. 169). This result was especially facilitated when “European repression of paradigms of knowing and culture” coalesced with massive genocides and turned high cultures into illiterate, peasant subcultures “condemned to orality” (p. 170).

Coloniality of imagination is furthered not only when there is lack of legitimate recognition of other forms of knowledge, but when there persists a pernicious recognition: when knowledges of the other, other-than-the-European-self, the alter-ego, are defined as exotic—“exotic” being cultural products/imaginaries created by alter-egos, who are, at best, “humanoids not humans” (Mills, 2007, p. 27). Indeed, that the government of Canada acknowledged in 1965 that “any reference to Indians in its curriculum had been either romantic or misleading” throws Quijano’s argument into stark relief (They Came for the Children, p. 25).

The consequences of coloniality of imagination through the mystification and partial access of European knowledge and exoticism were not feeble attempts: “. . . the imaginary in the non-European cultures could hardly exist today and, above all, reproduce itself outside of these relations” (Quijano, 2007, p. 169). Coloniality of imagination therefore made it possible for the European cultural model to become universalized and Europeanized (Quijano, 2007, p. 169). Dussel examines the consequence of such reproduction of universal European knowledge and subalternization of other knowledges under the term “developmentalist fallacies”: the assumption that other cultures or peoples are “to follow the European path of development” (Dussel, 1996, p. 239), almost unilaterally or by force if necessary (Escobar, 2007), on the grounds that European knowledge is superior to other knowledges. This does not solely happen because of universalist tendencies (like Descartes’ unshakable foundation for knowledge), nor solely because of the conquerors’ oppression of beliefs, but because of the complexities of coloniality of imagination: when the conquered concedes a superiority to the knowledge of the conqueror.

Critiquing modernity from exteriority thus becomes the terrain for investigations that aim for distinct genealogies of thought (Escobar, 2007), ones that could not have been deemed as plausible, nor possible to be materialized in the architectural scenery of European critiques of modernity.

Economy and Colonization

Marxist Critique of Economy of Modernity

Our epoch . . . possesses, however, this distinct feature:

it has simplified class antagonisms. Society as a whole is

more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps,

into two great classes directly facing each other—

Bourgeoisie and Proletariat.

(Marx & Engels, 2004, p. 15)

The critiques of global and local patterns of modernity’s economic exploitation have created prolific and ingenious analyses in the West. European critiques of the economy of modernity chiefly engage with ideas of Marx, who sees the major transformative force shaping the modern world as capitalism. Marx’s focus on how, aided by their access to “the capital,” the dominant or “the bourgeoisie” oppresses the dominated (Lamb, 2015), impels him to conclude that “the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles” (Marx & Engels, 2004, p. 14).

A Marxist critique of economy of modernity then, involves conceptual interactions that have as their defining problematic “the capital,” commodification of goods and labor, class struggle, and as such a materialist interpretation of the world history. Critical dialogues of economy of modernity are maintained within a conceptual structure of capital that wrestles with the idea of capital as being “the single overriding dynamic of transformation in interpreting the nature of modernity” (Giddens, 1990), whether it is Weber investigating ideas of rationalization of action, modern economic ethic and bureaucratic authority8 (Kalberg, 2005) or Durkheim extending the conversation of the nature of modern institutions to industrialism as opposed to capitalism (Giddens, 1990, p. 7).

Decolonial Critique of Economy of Modernity

We thought it was the same to talk with the proletariat,

with a peasant, with a worker, or with a student . . .

And instead we found ourselves in a new world with regard to which

we had no answer . . . It is very difficult when you have a theoretical

framework that seems to explain all of society and you get to a place

and find out that your frame doesn’t explain anything . . . We

really suffered a process of reeducation, of remodeling . . . It was as if

all the elements we had— Marxism, Leninism, socialism, urban culture—became dismantled. They disarmed us and then armed us again, but this time in a much different form.

Rafael Sebastián Guillén, Zapatista’s future Subcomandante Marcos. (Walsh, 2012, p. 15)

In the preface to their Russian edition of the Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels observed the colonization of the Americas by Europeans from the angle of class struggle, access to capital and land ownership:

Precisely European immigration fitted North American for a gigantic agricultural production, whose competition is shaking the very foundations of European landed property—large and small. At the same time, it enabled the United States to exploit its tremendous industrial resources with an energy and on a scale that must shortly break the industrial monopoly of Western Europe, and especially of England, existing up to now. Both circumstances react in a revolutionary manner upon America itself. Step by step, the small and middle land ownership of the farmers, the basis of the whole political constitution, is succumbing to the competition of giant farms; at the same time, a mass industrial proletariat and a fabulous concentration of capital funds is developing for the first time in the industrial regions.

(Marx & Engels, 2004)

Marx’s capitalocentric (Escobar, 2007) interpretation of colonization of the Americas exemplified through the quote above is the point of divergence between Marxist and decolonial critiques of modernity. Some decolonial thinkers, suspicious of a solely Marxist interpretation of colonization, call for economic imaginaries beyond it. That decolonial inquiries call for such interpretations is not merely a hollow hostility toward Marxism or European critical theory per se.9 The transformative and revolutionary turns and analyses that Marx calls for philosophy to be committed to10 are perhaps at the crossroads where decolonial and Marxist critiques of modernity meet. To say the least, the idea that Marxism and a decolonial economy of colonization have a lot to give to each other seems to be plausible: that philosophy needs to be a weapon of change, of struggling to overcome injustices, and of providing liberation. In fact, in speaking of “philosophy as the weapon of revolution,” Guillén, who later became Zapatista’s subcomandante, is drawing directly from Marx, who argued that revolution is the realization of philosophy (Walsh, pp. 11 & 26).

In a way, Jacques Derrida’s caution that “it will always be a fault not to read and reread and discuss Marx” rings true, and especially now when the dogma machines and Marxists’ “ideological apparatuses (states, parties, cells, unions, and other places of doctrinal production) are in the process of disappearing,” it becomes a question of responsibility, and “will be a failing of theoretical, philosophical, political responsibility; we no longer have any excuses, ‘only alibis’ for turning away from this responsibility” (1994, p. 14).

Attempts to create economic imaginaries beyond Marxism are nonetheless premised on the belief that a Marxist conceptual framework would be ill-equipped to address the nuances and intricacies of colonization and, following that, decolonial inquiries. Perhaps Derrida’s idea that “there will be no future without the memory and the inheritance of Marx,” is a starting point for both critiques of modernity in that the capital plays a central role in having shaped the current world, but that he says “there will be no future without Marx” (p. 13) and his genius, is subject to further inquiry by decolonial philosophers.

One such case of inquiry can be seen in Walsh’s concerns about the instrumentalization and interpretation of experience of the colonized people by the Left: Having experienced colonial injustices is favorable for the critical left wing insofar as it reveals the lived realities of oppression. In other words, what is important is the utility and interpretation to fit the grand Marxist narrative of current injustices of capitalism, not the knowledge/theories that ensue from it. The instrumentalization that takes place is in place of an engagement with such voices as authentic intellectual and critical knowledge production by people of color; voices that can, at the cost of disorienting Marxist narratives, provide philosophies that counter universalist and progressivist claims, Marxism being one of them. Walsh considers this lack of attention to the knowledge production thoroughly problematic, seeing this as leading to—and as a means of—further subalternization of the non-Euro-American critiques of modernity, as well as a prime example of speaking for the oppressed (Alcoff, quoted in Walsh, 2012). Fausto Reinga’s remarks about what is and is not considered as authentic thinking and revolution substantiates Walsh’s argument: the revolution showcases “real thought” when it pertains to the West or to the “Metropolis.” “Thought is Metropolis as is the revolution. In the Periphery, neither thought nor revolution exists. The Periphery is reflection, echo and shadow of the Metropolis” (Walsh, p. 23). Walsh draws from an event in the World Social Forum to further demonstrate her point. In 2005, even though the Afro-descendants and Indigenous movements were given their space, there occurred a programmatic marginalization, “the voices of Afro-descendant and Indigenous movements remained absent in the major spaces of debate of the Left (spaces overwhelming represented by white men of Euro-American origin)” (p. 14).

Walsh thus accentuates that maintaining a Marxist lens in interpreting colonization, or analyzing colonization as a tangential offshoot of class struggles, peripheralizes other-than-Marxist critiques of modernity. It thereby sustains the silencing, disparaging, and negating or relegating of the importance of non-Euro-American interpretations of modernity over what is considered as the exhaustive and total narrative of the world.

Such an aim for total explanations in Marxist interpretation (“the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles”) could then pose as disconcerting, as it might leave little room for the infinity of other critiques of modernity. It perpetuates a problem that might not be of significant concern in capitalocentric conceptual constructions in critiquing modernity, but nonetheless is an important one in decolonial structures of thought. Walsh therefore urges us to look at Marxism itself as “nothing more than a limited ethno-philosophy with its own local history marked by gender, race, class, region, and so on” (Chela Sandoval, quoted in Walsh, p. 13).

Another point that necessitates the search for new and decolonial political-economy paradigms (and ones that go beyond Marxist paradigms) is outlined by Grosfoguel under “the Gods-eye-view” and “the point-zero perspective” that manifest themselves in Marxist critiques. He traces this to Descartes’ project of replacing God as the foundation of knowledge with Western European man as such a resource. Descartes thereby attributed to man the powers of God, namely the laws of the universe, and the capacity to produce scientific knowledge. Furthermore, through his mind-body or mind-nature dualisms, Descartes managed to claim non-situated, universal, God’s-eye view knowledge. Grosfoguel would agree that, in the case of white Euro-Americans in the world social forum, a non-situated, capitalocentric critique of the world can be discerned; the trace of a conceptual architecture “beyond a particular point of view” that sees those resistances that do not conform to Marxism is “beside the point.” Such traces are a Eurocentric historical legacy that “has allowed Western man . . . to represent his knowledge as the only one capable of achieving a universal consciousness, and to dismiss non-Western knowledge as particularistic and, thus, unable to achieve universality” (Grosfoguel, pp. 213–214).

In tandem with the Afro-descendant case, we are reminded of Grosfoguel’s concern that, in one way or another, “all knowledges are epistemically located in the dominant or the subaltern side of the power relations” and that “the disembodied and unallocated neutrality and objectivity of the ego-politics of knowledge is a Western myth” (pp. 213–214). If this is true, then there is no point in pretending that there is a non-situated “ego,” and, subsequently, within a universally exhaustive narrative of modern times. Marxism as a Western philosophical critique of modernity, however, in its ignoring the geopolitics and body-politics of knowledge is sustaining an ego-political Eurocentric critique of modernity (Grosfoguel, 2007).

This decolonial architecture for looking at economy then looks at how the negative parts of Marxist critiques can outweigh the positive by constraining and limiting the radicality of critiques. Grosfoguel discusses this impeding of radicality to Eurocentrism: Anticapitalist decolonization poses itself as a reductionist and therefore problematic liberatory project. If struggle against colonization is defined through a Marxist perspective (in other words if we opt for an anticapitalist decolonization, which implies regarding colonization as solely a capitalist offshoot of modernity, and hence deeming that decolonization will become true through the collapse of capitalism) we are committing to a Eurocentric interpretation of modernity.

It is true that, Grosfoguel notes, what arrived in Latin America was a profit-making capital-accumulating economic world-system. What arrived in the Americas, however, was not solely and primarily a capitalistic modernity, meaning an economic system aspiring for capital and commodification of labor and goods: it was a “European/capitalist/military/Christian/patriarchal/white/heterosexual/male [that] arrived in the Americas and established simultaneously in time and space several entangled global hierarchies” (2007, p. 216). The interconnected systems of classification were not just about class struggles. It was a sexual, spiritual, racial and ethnic, epistemic, linguistic hierarchy: one that privileged heterosexuals over homosexuals, Christians over non-Christians, Christianity over non-Western spiritualities, Europeans over non-Europeans, Western institutionalized knowledge and cosmology over non-Western ones, European languages and knowledge production over non-European ones (labeling the latter as folklore or culture but not of knowledge/theory) (2007, p. 216).

This is a decisive point of divergence from Marxist critiques of modernity, which echo Marx’s interpretation of colonization in their preface to the Manifesto. Despite the complexity of colonialism, Escobar argues that “most political economy analyses have made invisible practices of economic difference, given the totalizing and capitalocentric tendencies of their discourses; these analyses have, in short, tended to reduce all economic forms to the terms of the Same, namely, the capital itself” (Gibson-Graham, quoted in Escobar, 2007, p. 198). Grosfoguel urges us to think of a political-economy paradigm that takes into consideration this complex colonial matrix of power effecting all spheres of existence, including labor and class (one that nonetheless “does not obscure the complexity of the capitalist world-system”) (Grosfoguel, 2007, p. 221). An otherwise authentic rereading of Marx then would entail imagining a conceptual architecture of critique that would take us not only through “confronting vestiges of colonialism,” but one that would have us drop the conceptual assemblage of Marxism like Subcomandante Marcos did in order to engage in “a radical reconstruction of knowledge, power, being, and life itself” (Walsh, p. 12).

Conclusion: Education and Modernity

The government’s policy was one of assimilation under

which it sought to remove any First Nations legal interest

in the land, while reducing and ignoring its own treaty

obligations. Schooling was expected to play a central role

in achieving that policy goal.

(They Came for the Children, 2002, p. 7)

By downplaying Indian wars, textbooks help us forget

that we wrested the continent from Native Americans.

(Loewen, in Mills, 2007, p. 30)


In a way, as modern subjects we breath coloniality all the time and everyday.

(Maldonado-Torres, 2007, p. 249)

Charles Mills’s point about education being an accomplice to sustaining the “larger doxastic architecture” of the modern period is an indispensable starting point for inquiring about education and decolonization (Mills, 2007). Decolonial philosophies can provide the conceptual terrain for conjecturing how we, as educators, are heirs, predecessors, or agents of modern legacies in—at the very least—two ways: (a) by ignoring we are practicing and making knowledge in a geopolitical world, and (b) through our desires to change the current state of affairs in education: our critical educational philosophies.

When we select and design lessons, we are not solely transferring abstract knowledge, but dwell—as well as make our students dwell—on conceptual constructions that have been built in a geopolitical space, and through a complicated matrix of power. Mills’s discussion on the Mercator projection map helps clarify this point. The Mercator map, as a common educational tool, is not an objective view of the world, but a “fatally skewed optic” (p. 26). It shows Europe larger than Africa, and it therefore becomes a geographical misrepresentation and distortion, more a Jim Crow projection of the world rather than an objective one (Mills, 2007).

Added to that, the Mercator map assigns India the status of a subcontinent and labels Europe as a continent. If continents are defined according to their natural sizes, why is Europe a continent and India not one? Mills, through Hodgson answers that through this disproportionate ranking in a map “modern Westerners have managed some of the most characteristic features of their ethnocentric medieval image of the world.” Europe is a continent because it wants to be “a subordinate part of no larger unit, but in itself one of the major component parts of the world” (Mills, pp. 25–26).

A map that we take as objectively scientific, one that shows Africa smaller than Europe and fosters a sense of “innate European superiority to the rest of the world,” echoes the idea of practicing knowledge in a geo-bio-political space. By the same token, India being a subcontinent recreates the subontological essences of colonization that were delineated under “coloniality of being”: the nonbeing, or sub-being that Fanon probed into (the others’ continent is not a continent but a subcontinent). Being a subcontinent despite being bigger than Europe further confirms Maldonado-Torres’s idea of misanthropic doubtful stance towards the non-European; when “the nonwhite Other is grasped through a historic array of concepts whose common denominator is their subjects’ location on a lower ontological and moral rung” (Mills, 2007, p. 26). Decolonial inquiries in turn investigate our assumption of concepts as being innocent or abstract, and through the likes of Mercator maps, deliberate on a present modernity that has coloniality as its companion. The idea that the modern present time is a simple and temporally objective “present” it turned down, and the role of us educators in sustaining these “modified presences” are investigated (Noroozi, 2017).

The other factor through which we as educators might contribute to modified present times and to advancing dark sides of modernity, and one in which decolonial thought in education is especially interested, is our critical educational philosophies. We chronicled in the section “Economy and Colonization” how we might be building progressive and critical conceptual frameworks that could nonetheless be implicated in practices of ousting, e.g., occupying a non-situated zero-point-of-view, speaking for the oppressed, or further silencing voices that are counter to the European critiques of modernity. In education, advancing of such ousting aspects through our critiques can be markedly proliferated: through our teaching in general and our critical stances in particular, we tend to interact with and implement a specific “politics of memory” (Mills, 2007).

An uncomplicated example might be the following: in order to foster imagination without the use of technology, and trying to resist the overuse of media, a teacher might assign the following project to their students: read a classical novel like Robinson Crusoe, and then do post-reading activities such as imagining themselves arriving on an island, writing up a play inspired by the novel without using the Internet, and imagining the details of the island that Crusoe set foot on. The students then read the classical European novel, which narrates the story of an ambitious British man who turns down the opportunity to become a lawyer and takes off to sea instead, experiencing both successful and failed voyages, including ending up shipwrecked on an island.

The concept that we are implicated in politics of memory is supported by the premise that by selecting the narrative of this European adventure, we are selecting another narrative—about the very same adventure—out. Especially with a narrative like Robinson Crusoe, which is filled with concepts like adventures of a European individual in a foreign—what he assumes is empty—land, hiring a servant for himself, doubting the humanity of the inhabitants by calling them savages, and his ideas about being the ruler of the island (Noroozi, 2017). Mills would agree that through this textbook, we are extracting memories we see as worthy and crucial and selecting others out by eliminating them as unworthy choices. We base our selection of narratives on “testimonies,” themselves anchored in selective events that we cherish as a group in the society: that expeditions to seas and eventually to faraway lands are signs of courage, adventurousness, and curiosity. We also base our lack of recognition for the counternarratives of this story through social testimony: stories about the people in the receiving end of Crusoe’s adventures will be nonexistent in the classroom—nor in the world of literature in the first place—because they lack the European/white “epistemic authority” (Mills, 2007). By such in and out selections, Mills would concur, we are bolstering the identity and memory of the dominant group, and sustaining the historically positive and negative weight of concepts in favor of the dominant (adventurist lawyers versus savages), as well as pandering to the collective amnesia “which supports hostility toward the testimony and credibility of non-white people” (Sullivan & Tuana, 2007, p. 3).

Added to this, as the concepts of ‘savage’—as opposed to the British Crusoe being the human—are engendered or accentuated in the classroom, so is modernity’s hierarchy of humanity (beings, sub-beings and nonbeings). Mills cautions us against this: “[C]oncepts orient us to the world, and it is a rare individual who can resist this inherited orientation. Once established in the mindset, its influence is difficult to escape, since it is not a matter of seeing the phenomenon with the concept discretely but rather of seeing things through the concept itself” (Mills, 2007, p. 27). Even if the students or teachers have no familiarity nor any “antipathy” (Mills, 2007) in their minds about the inhabitants of the island, chances are they postulate the ones countering the adventuresome Europeans as savages.

Being engaged in politics of memory through our confrontation with technology is perhaps now easier to acknowledge: socially constructed memories of adventurism and conquering islands, embedded in a “complex class, gender, and power relations determine what is remembered (or forgotten), by whom, and for what end” (2007, p. 29). A concept like fostering imagination then can prolong the reign of erroneous and violent concepts: empty lands, or exploration and discovery of the Americas. Fostering imagination can end up concealing the ego conquiro that is behind the adventures of a European individualist man who tries to take control of the island/nature. It can endorse and preserve the misanthropic doubt about the humanity of Amerindians that was posed in theoretical/theological discussions, (e.g., in Oviedo’s argument about the bestiality of Amerindians), and corporealized in actual life through genocide and invasion: moments representative of both scenes from both Valladolids.

It is not a surprise then, when Quijano proposes that coloniality survived colonialism by being “maintained alive in books, in the criteria for academic performance, in cultural patterns, in common sense, in the self-image of peoples, in aspirations of self, and so many other aspects of our modern experience” (see Maldonado-Torres, p. 243).

Decolonial philosophies of education are therefore attempts to take the conversation beyond the Euro-American practice of philosophy being “a series of footnotes to Plato” (Whitehead, 2010). A decolonial conceptual architecture could in turn materialize inquiries that examine concepts that were rarely picked up for analysis in mainstream educational philosophy. Decolonial thinkers thereby encounter the concern that what we assume to be exercises of critical inquiry might promote subtle Valladolidian11 practices of ousting and ignorance. They aim to envisage otherwise conceptual assemblages so as to bolster feelings of casa dentro (inside-home-ness, a feeling of belonging)12 in favor of those who were forced out of physical, existential, and epistemological spaces, concepts, and definitions.


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(1.) See Hanke (1994, p. 50).

(2.) See for example, Levinas (1969), Totality and Infinity, whose theories on exteriority and alterity become foundational in decolonial thought. Emmanuel Levinas translated by Alphonso Lingis, Duquesne University Press.

(3.) See R. Descartes (1985), The philosophical writings of Descartes (J. Cottingham, R. Stoothoff, & D. Murdoch, Trans.). Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.

(4.) For the difference between coloniality and colonialism see the conclusion section of this entry.

(5.) Heidegger writes: “We must characterize being-toward-death as a being toward a possibility, toward an eminent possibility of Da-sein itself . . . Brooding over death does not completely take away from it its character of possibility. It is always brooded over as something coming, but we weaken it by calculating how to have it at our disposal. As something possible, death is supposed to show as little as possible of its possibility” (2010, p. 241).

(6.) For a detailed look at Levinas’s work see Totality and Infinity. For a look at the discussion here see: Levinas’s Existential Analytic (Mensch [2015]), and The Ethics of Emmanuel Levinas (D. Perpich [2008]) (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press).

(7.) See H. Arendt (1973), The Origins of Totalitarianism (New York: Harcourt Brace).

(8.) See, for example, M. Weber (1992), The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (New York: Routledge).

(9.) In fact, just as Levinas and Foucault have pivotal presence in the conceptual assemblages on further critiques of colonialism, Marxism does too. See for example, G. C. Spivak (1988), Can the subaltern speak? (pp. 271–313) (Basingstoke, U.K.: Macmillan), and E. Said (1994), Orientalism (New York: Vintage).

(10.) See Lamb (2015)—“Engels and he were concerned with, first, the role of this bourgeois class in the political, social and economic structure of their times; second, the way in which this class had achieved such a prominent role; and third, the means by which that role would end—and Marx’s The German Ideology (Vol. 1, p. 16) for Marx’s seminal thought on the role of philosophers to change the world instead of merely interpreting it.

(11.) For example, look at the Frank Margonis chapter, John Dewey, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Alain Locke: A case study in white ignorance and intellectual segregation, in Sullivan and Tuana (2007).

(12.) See Walsh (2012) for a detailed discussion of CasaDentro.