Decolonizing the curriculum is not only about adding marginalized voices to the content of our courses. It also about de-centering authority for knowledge and working carefully to dismantle the subtle everyday ways in which social hierarchy in reproduced. This is the driving force behind the Reading is Research project, which I began in 2012. Reading is Research is a collaborative effort designed to provide students with tools for critical and creative thinking, and to support their efforts at independent research.
This project is premised on pedagogical inclusion, inspired by Paulo Freire. It involves re-thinking the content of our courses to “provincialize Europe” as Dipesh Chakrabarty would have it. This requires more than including those voices that have historically been silenced or marginalized. It also means expanding the form of the content we include. In addition to content, pedagogical inclusion builds on active involvement of students in the learning process. Our theories of social change become our pedagogy.
The Reading is Research project is based on such theories of inclusion and empowerment and it starts with the very basics of knowledge production. “How do we know what we think we know?” is the title of the first section of my syllabus in introductory level classes. What are our sources of information? How can we evaluate those sources? What kinds of representations do we encounter and how can we think about those representations? What is there and what is missing? Whose perspectives are these? If we take these questions seriously they will continuously follow us in our endless endeavor to “understand,” in Hannah Arendt’s sense of that term:“Understanding,” she wrote, involves much more than “having correct information and scientific knowledge.” Understanding is a complicated process which never produces unequivocal results. It is an unending activity by which, in constant change and variation, we come to terms with and reconcile ourselves to reality, that is, try to be at home in the world.”