Students at a leading London college say the majority of philosophers studied there should be from Africa and Asia, and white thinkers should only be examined “from a critical standpoint” or in a “colonial context”.
Student Union (SU) officials (pictured above) at the world-renowned School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) made the declaration as part of their “Educational Priorities proposed for 2016/17”.
The demand comes after the SU voted at the end of last year to make “decolonising the curriculum” their number one priority for the next three years and set up a “Decolonising the University” working group.
The SU’s “Decolonising Our Minds Society” released the following video after last year’s vote, promoting the view the university is colonised and certain aspects of Western history and thought are intrinsically racist and must be revised or ignored.
If implemented, the new proposals could see philosophers of the Western canon – from Plato to Kant and Lock – demoted to a side note of history.
“Decolonising SOAS is a campaign that aims to address the structural and epistemological legacy of colonialism within our university”, the declaration claims, proposing extra events about race and entire first-year courses are “revamp[ed]” and “reform[ed].”
It resolves to “make sure that the majority of the philosophers on our courses are from the Global South or its diaspora. SOAS’s focus is on Asia and Africa and therefore the foundations of its theories should be presented by Asian or African philosophers (or the diaspora).”
It adds: “If white philosophers are required, then to teach their work from a critical standpoint. For example, acknowledging the colonial context in which so-called ‘Enlightenment’ philosophers wrote within.”
Ali Habib (pictured second from right), Co-President of Democracy and Education at the SU and author of the post, is a supporter of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and recently told a student newspaper that he is an admirer of Frantz Fanon, the Martinique-born Marxist thinker.
The head of SOAS’s Religions and Philosophies department, Erica Hunter, told the Daily Mail the SU’s viewpoint was “rather ridiculous”, adding: “I would firmly resist dropping philosophers or historians just because it was fashionable.”
Philosopher and renowned conservative academic Sir Roger Scruton, added: “This suggests ignorance and a determination not to overcome that ignorance.
“You can’t rule out a whole area of intellectual endeavour without having investigated it and clearly they haven’t investigated what they mean by white philosophy. If they think there is a colonial context from which Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason arose, I would like to hear it.”