Decolonising higher education: creating space for Southern knowledge systems

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Catherine Manathunga


The complexity and scale of the globe’s current environmental and social problems requires genuine dialogue between all the world’s diverse knowledge systems. At present, despite decades of postcolonial, Indigenous and feminist research, higher education remains dominated by Northern, scientific knowledge. Northern knowledge continues to claim universality across time and space in many academic disciplines and continues to ignore calls for what de Sousa Santos calls ‘epistemic justice’. If we are to generate genuinely democratic approaches to knowledge production in higher education, a great deal of work needs to be done to decolonise teaching, learning and research in higher education. Decolonising higher education involves creating space for Southern knowledge systems. In this paper, I draw upon postcolonial/decolonial theories and historical transcultural understandings of deep, slow, ancient time to make a case for the importance of creating space for Southern, transcultural and Indigenous knowledge systems. I illustrate that decolonisation requires both quiet and gentle reflection as well as deep listening and courageous radical action. Finally, I highlight instances of what de Sousa Santos terms the sociology of emergences, within doctoral education from the global South.

Key words:
decoloniing higher educaiton, sociologies of emergence, global South, epistomologies of the South, Southern theory

How to cite this article:
Manathunga, C. 2020. Decolonising higher education: creating space for Southern knowledge systems. Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in the South. v. 4, n. 1, p. 4-25. April 2020. Available at:

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