Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Colonialism's other names

With colonialism and decolonization becoming more common in academic and general conversation, Steve Mintz offers a list of different types of colonialism (citing Nancy Shoemaker) and advice on how social justice critiques in the humanities can be preserved as an analytical tool rather than used to politicize discourse. To avoid charges of politicizing the classroom, Mintz advises scholars to:

  • Teach students how to analyze and critique ideas from multiple perspectives, rather than promoting a single political viewpoint.
  • Actively include a wide range of perspectives in the curriculum, not just various political viewpoints but also diverse cultural, historical, and philosophical perspectives, ensuring that the curriculum is not dominated by any single ideology.
  • Be transparent about the use of theory and methods, demonstrating that humanities research is grounded in rigorous scholarship rather than political bias.
  • Ensure that classrooms and academic forums are spaces for open dialogue and debate and encourage intellectual diversity and mutual understanding.
  • Reaffirm the fundamental objectives of the humanities: to foster empathy and cultural understanding and the complexity of human experience and to contextualize political issues within broader social, economic and cultural frameworks.

These commitments to teaching in the humanities are potentially buttressed by new global histories that are now available. It is critical to update previous characterizations that are the product of, and reinforce the goodness of, colonialist bias. The present age of economic globalism "needs a very different kind of history, a big-picture history that places the biggest issues of our time - colonialism and its legacies, the environment and climate, gender and sexuality, infectious diseases, migrations and diasporas, race and caste, revolutions and civil wars, and slavery and other forms of unfree labor."

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