There can be no doubt that the academic study of religion emerged out of European colonialism. There are various lines of descent for the discipline, and like much of the humanities and social sciences, they all lead back to colonialism, and in particular the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
And so, during a time when there is a widespread movement for the decolonisation of knowledge, is there a need for a decolonisation of the study of religion? And if so, then what does it involve?
These are some initial thoughts on this major issue.
Decolonisation is a term deriving from the end of European empires in the mid-twentieth centuries, but it is also applied to the processes (and potential processes) through which the ongoing impact of such colonisalism and neo-colonialism are understood and challenged.
In this sense, decolonisation refers both to the need for a political recognition of and refress for the theft and plunder of settler colonialism, and also the decolonisation of knowledge. My discussion in this episode focuses more particularly on the latter, asking how the study of religion has been formed through colonial power, including its terms of reference and the way it is taught.
The full text of this episode can be found on the Religion Bites blog.
Some useful academic papers related to decolonisation
Bhambra, Gurminder K. “Decoloniality.” Global Social Theory Blog. March. http://globalsocialtheory.org/topics/decoloniality/.
— — — . 2014. “Postcolonial and Decolonial Dialogues.” Postcolonial Studies 17 (2). Taylor & Francis: 115–21. doi:10.1080/13688790.2014.966414.
Rizvi, Uzma. 2017. “Decolonization Is Political Action, Not an Act of Historical Circumstance.” Savage Minds: Notes and Queries in Anthropology. https://savageminds.org/2017/06/30/decolonization-is-political-action-not-an-act-of-historical-circumstance/.
Tuck, Eve, and K. Wayne Yang. 2012. “Decolonization Is Not a Metaphor.” Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society 1 (1). University of Toronto. http://decolonization.org/index.php/des/article/view/18630.
Wolfe, Patrick. 2016. Traces of History: Elementary Structures of Race. London: Verso Books.
Radcliffe, Sarah A. 2017. “Decolonising Geographical Knowledges.” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 42 (3): 329–33. doi:10.1111/tran.12195.
Morny Joy, ‘Revisiting Postcolonialism and Religion’, Australian Religion Studies Review, Vol 25/2 (2012)
Legg, Stephen. 2017. “Decolonialism.” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers. 42(3): 345–48. doi:10.1111/tran.12203.
Meera Sabaratnam. 2017. “Decolonising the Curriculum: What’s All the Fuss about? | Study at SOAS Blog.” Accessed October 10. https://www.soas.ac.uk/blogs/study/decolonising-curriculum-whats-the-fuss/.
Mignolo, Walter. 2007a. “Delinking: The Rhetoric of Modernity, the Logic of Coloniality and the Grammar of de-Coloniality.” Cultural Studies 21 (2): 449–514. doi:10.1080/09502380601162647.
— — — . 2007b. “Introduction: Coloniality of Power and de-Colonial Thinking.” Cultural Studies 21 (2): 155–67. doi:10.1080/09502380601162498.
Noxolo, Patricia. 2017. “Decolonial Theory in a Time of the Re-Colonisation of UK Research.” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 42 (3): 342–44. doi:10.1111/tran.12202.
Quijano, Aníbal. 2007. “Coloniality and Modernity/Rationality.” Cultural Studies 21 (2): 168–78. doi:10.1080/09502380601164353.
Rabaka, Reiland. 2009. “Frantz Fanon: Revolutionizing the Wretched of the Earth, Radicalizing the Discourse on Decolonization,” in Africana Critical Theory. Lexington Books.
Smith, Linda Tuhiwai. 1999. Decolonizing Methodologies : Research and Indigenous Peoples. New York : Zed Books.
About the Religion Bites Podcast
Religion Bites is a podcast by Malory Nye, an academic and writer based in Perth, Scotland.
The Religion Bites podcast gives you quick and simple intros to the study of religion, to help you think a bit further about the issues of religion and culture in the contemporary world. If we want to understand today’s world, we need to ‘get’ why people are religious – why they ‘do religion’ in the many ways that religion is done. This is not a podcast about being religious, it is about understanding religion and the role that religion has in the contemporary world.