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Beyond dependency & state: Case for knowledge decolonization Part II

In the previous article, we considered and affirmed the view that the modern nation-state has a serious fault line.

This fault line subsists in hierarchizing citizens of the state – between those who are the political majority whom the state takes for granted to own it on the one part; and, on the other part, political minorities who must always play second fiddle to the majority in order for them to properly belong to the state.

So, in a way, there are two classes of citizens: the national majority who belong to a higher class and minorities belonging to a lower class.

Relatedly, we also considered that there indeed exist systemic forces at the global political-economic level that have operated to keep Africa, indeed much of the Global South, in cycles of dependency on the empire of global capitalism, which has an evident Eurocentric character.

What we did not state, though, is that these dependency structures are affirmed by a category of people that Frantz
Fanon characterizes as comprador elites. The overarching vocation of these so-called comprador elites is to act as local headmen or managers of the businesses of global capitalism.

Look everywhere and you will see these despisable characters. They are to be seen hiding behind huge land grabs and orchestrating the dispossession of poor peasants without pity or shame. Look again and you will see them executing human rights violations.

Look further again and you will see them engaging in geopolitical conflicts that less concern their citizens but more their imperial masters, in the process sacrificing innocent local lives.

But more importantly, in our previous article, we alerted the reader of a far more dangerous and complex problem which should exercise our collective anxieties and minds. We said that this problem is epistemic. It subsists at the knowledge level.

It treats how colonial modernity rationalises the irrational and normalises the abnormal. We shall call this problem coloniality just as the decolonial theorists of Africa and Latin America have characterized it.

The major claim of the decolonial school is that colonialism ended without ending, to deploy Boaventura de Sousa Santo’s nomenclature. It follows, therefore, that the independence that most African countries, indeed much of the Global South, obtained with the retreat of physical colonialism was inadequate. It did not succeed in imagining or bringing about a fully postcolonial world.

Whereas flag independence destroyed the physical empire, it left intact two more dangerous empires which Sabelo Ndlovu-Gatsheni, Africa’s leading decolonial theorist, characterizes as the commercial non-territorial empire and, the knowledge empire which operates by invading the minds of its victims.

This commercial non-territorial empire is what Kwame Nkrumah characterized as neocolonialism. The knowledge empire is what preoccupied Uganda’s poet laureate Okot p’Bitek who in his book Song of Lawino/Song of Ocol berated Ocol for aping European ways while abandoning the ways of his ancestors.

This is the one that Steve Biko alluded to when he considered that the most dangerous weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed. Essentially, racism is at the heart of these afterlives of empire.

Attaining a truly postcolonial world calls upon us to rethink Eurocentric ways of knowing that package themselves as universal, whereas not. It calls upon us to go beyond the systems of rule and the dependencies created to altogether affirming our individual ways of knowing.

This is the real crisis haunting the modern political world. Rethinking the modern political world. Rethinking knowledge will also enable us to decrypt the racist premises of modern power. Why, for instance, should Eurocentric knowledges be daily taught in African classrooms to African children over local African knowledges?

Why should African universities continue to regurgitate the theories of European thinkers instead of privileging African knowledges passed down from generation to generation?

To grasp this dilemma is to understand why leading decolonial theorist Sabelo Ndlovu-Gatsheni considers that Africa has no universities; – there are universities in Africa.

There are three colonialities that should be attacked in the broader project of decolonization. The first coloniality is
the coloniality of power which speaks to how political modernity was constructed as a racially hierarchized, capitalist and discriminating Eurocentric structure.

This partly is what Mahmood Mamdani’s scholarship seeks to realize; to rethink the modern state. The second coloniality is the coloniality of being, which speaks to the restoration of self-esteem by those modern power has subjectivized through the device of racism.

The third and final coloniality is the coloniality of knowledge. This treats how the rich and diverse knowledges of people outside Europe – including indigenous people, were delegitimized, peripheralized and condemned to barbarian margins of society to the advantage of Eurocentric knowledges.

In our next article, we will examine how coloniality of knowledge got planted in our psyches.

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Written by Kyomuhendo A. Ateenyi (1)

Human Rights Lawyer, Advocate of the High Court of Judicature in Uganda and Political Activist.

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