Anti-Colonial Theory and Decolonial Praxis

by George Jerry Sefa Dei (Volume editor) Meredith Lordan (Volume editor)
©2016 Textbook XXII, 218 Pages


Are we living in a post-colonial world? A colonial one? An anti-colonial one? Lifting the veil from language and politics, Anti-Colonial Theory and Decolonial Praxis uses case studies from around the world to explore and untangle these concepts as they relate to education. The anti-colonial prism is very much connected to the postcolonial lens but these frameworks are not the same. Building upon earlier works, this book takes up the subject of anti-colonial praxis and its specific implications—the larger questions of schooling and education in global and, particularly, Diasporic contexts. The goal is to re-theorize the anti-colonial for the decolonial projects of transforming schooling and education in a broadly defined way. Beyond explaining these ideas, this book demonstrates ways communities are engaging in praxis as a form of anti-colonial change in a wide range of locations. Incorporating case studies from various locations and Diasporic communities—including Somalia, Canada, Nigeria, Jamaica, and St. Vincent—and provocative theoretical analyses, the book brings varied experiences of anti-colonial praxis to the reader in timely, culturally diverse, and engaging ways. This book could be used in upper undergraduate and graduate level courses in anthropology, Diaspora studies, education, environmental studies, ethnic studies, gender studies, law, multiculturalism studies, politics, social work, and sociology.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Introduction: Envisioning New Meanings, Memories and Actions for Anti-Colonial Theory and Decolonial Praxis
  • Chapter One: Who Needs Hybridity? An Anti-Colonial, Feminist Theorization of Mixed Race
  • Chapter Two: Erasing Colonial Lines Between Humxn and Nature: Mobilizing Settlers
  • Chapter Three: Against All Authority: Critical Convergences in Anarchist and Anti-Colonial Theory
  • Chapter Four: Anti-Colonial and Decolonizing Meaning Making of Colonialism Through the 1991 Aboriginal Peoples Survey
  • Chapter Five: A Race to Whiteness: Revealing the Colonial Structure of English Language Education—What Kind of Education for All?
  • Chapter Six: Unsettling the “Failed State”: An Anti-Racist Approach to the State and State Formation—a Study of Somalia
  • Chapter Seven: Student Engagement Experiences in Nigerian Private Secondary Schools: An Anti-Colonial and Student-Centered Analysis
  • Chapter Eight: Indigeneity and Resistance in Hip Hop and Lived Experiences of Youth of African Descent in Canada
  • Chapter Nine: Black African-Aboriginal Coalitions for Decolonization Struggles: The Missing Links
  • Chapter Ten: Objects of Settlement: Excavating Colonial Narratives
  • Chapter Eleven: Understanding Ideological and Structural Forms of Colonial Dominance: Jamaican Migrant Farmworkers Within Global Capitalism
  • Chapter Twelve: Awanduni (Resistance): A Process of Indigeneity and Decolonization—(Re)identification and Cultural Revival of the Garifuna in St. Vincent and the Diaspora
  • Contributors

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Envisioning New Meanings, Memories and Actions for Anti-Colonial Theory and Decolonial Praxis


Anti-colonialism is often taken up in the same breath with post-colonialism. There has been an unfortunate tendency to conflate the two frameworks. However, these frameworks are not the same. This book begins with the understanding of anti-colonialism as a continuous process of challenging colonial and neo-colonial legacies, relations and power dynamics, taking up the subject of anti-colonial praxis and its specific implications—the larger questions of schooling and education in global and, particularly, diasporic contexts. Even though we live in an era characterized by the “independence” of Lands once held by the most influential (largely European) colonial powers, this book takes the position that this era is still perpetuating colonial vestiges. From the promotion of the continued occupation of Indigenous Lands, English as a second language to the marginalization of Indigenous knowledges, topics considered in this collection, colonization endures. The goal is to re-theorize the anti-colonial for the decolonial projects of transforming schooling and education, defined broadly. Anti-colonial praxis is deeply implanted in the ways we transform our political, economic, cultural and school systems. In rethinking these systems in an era remarkably different in its celebration of difference and diversity, it is important for critical scholarship to broach some key questions: How do we theorize education within the context of the colonial, colonized relations and the aftermath? How are the experiences of Indigeneity, migration, post-migration, agency, resistance and the reclamation of multiple identities and representations informing our understandings of ← vii | viii → the colonized subject? How do our differences, multiplicities, ambivalences and contingencies shape educational practice? Answers are not easily forthcoming. Resisting the monolithic construction of the (white) settler and settled Lands, anti-colonial theory invites us, as social agents, to inhabit these multiple ways of being and being seen. Contesting long-standing power hierarchies and definitions of identity, race and culture, this collection asks readers to enter a wide range of anti-colonial contexts, from Somalia to Canada, and, in so doing, to consider their own identities and complicities.

This edited collection re-theorizes and reframes both anti-colonial and decolonial theories from the multiple perspectives of contributors currently engaged in anti-colonial education. In pointing to the possibilities of critical education for contemporary learners, the book considers how these learners can simultaneously embrace and challenge their—and our, we are learners as well—colonial investments through anti-colonial educational praxis. The anti-colonial stance is about our praxis as learners seeking to transform our subjectivities, creating ourselves from history, culture and Indigeneity. While we must acknowledge the fluid nature of identity, we need anti-colonial perspectives that also complicate the shiftiness of the interstitial in-between spaces. Being a “universal learner” is not the same as being without roots or culture. Without a firm cultural rootedness, some type of epistemological anchorage, colonial modernity would only ensure that all learners simply embrace Western culture with an inferiority complex. The hegemonic production of Western epistemologies, evidenced by the dominance of Eurocentric curricula in colonies around the world, the ubiquitous use of the English language and the systematic silencing and erasure of many Indigenous cultures and knowledges perpetuate this sense of inferiority today.

The book highlights some key questions:

Beyond serving as broad meditations on power imbalances, these questions offer structural frames through which to consider the replication of Western colonization, the impact of this dominance and its implications for racialized communities.

Dei (2016, in press) notes that many have mimicked Western intellectual traditions when theorizing about our identities and subjectivities in the vein of social theory. Homi Bhabha’s (1994) conceptions of hybridity, particularly its exploration of in-between-ness and liminal spaces, are key aspects of textuality theory. The theory is relevant but only to a point when it comes to understanding colonized experience in white contexts. Bhabha’s post-colonial theorizing is useful, but limited, as it relates to the question of “elite culture and power” and, particularly, the dynamics of the oppressed social and political ecologies when read across time and history. Identity and subjectivity cannot be discursively engaged or seen simply as part of a “cultural discourse.” For example, there is a materiality to blackness, brownness, Indigeneity, mixed-race identities and racial ‘Otherness’ in the white-dominated global society, one with real social, economic, political and educational consequences. The anti-essentialist character of post-colonial theorizing ends up being equally essentialist, unable to escape from what one sets out to critique. The powerful “discourses of language” and “cultural identity” do not fully capture the relations between the experiences of colonized and Indigenous bodies in Euro-American contexts.

The self-other binary invites us as critical anti-colonial theorists to inhabit the hybrid spaces, the ones that defy the simple settler-colonizer analyses. These are the spaces of praxis wherein the “otherness of hybridity” is used as an instrument of identity and political mobilization. Marginalized and silenced knowledges and cultures may reclaim their agency, with otherness as a central catalyst for mobilization. Lordan (2013) observes that theory and politics, as sites of political engagement within a global change era characterized by multilateral agreements, ranging from climate change to sustainability measures, require praxis. All too often, however, there is a denial of the deep recognition of marginalized communities within these quantitative measurements and the accompanying international agreements. It is a false separation to claim an existential opposition between them. We must understand that there is a conjunction of theory and practice that manifests itself in the everyday material lives of colonized and oppressed peoples around the globe.

In complicating the long-standing perspectives of the imposed and dominating, this book attempts to move the narrative from one of control and power to a conversation about resistance and the rupturing of established colonial and colonizing practices. This book examines the nature of Indigeneity in its own terms ← ix | x → through discreet, yet thematically connected, chapters that speak to the uniqueness of resistance in various global contexts. There are many takes on anti-colonial, with the concept of anti-colonial itself being contested. In fact, some seek to conflate anti-colonial and decolonial theory and practice, while others make distinctions. ‘Anti-colonial’ brings an action-oriented stance, one that is beyond theorizing. Dei (2013) points to the understanding of the anti-colonial as being tied to questions of Land, Indigeneity, local cultures, knowledge and spiritual ontology. These important markers distinguish the ‘anti-colonial’ from the colonial. The anti-colonial manifests itself as staunchly opposed to ‘colonial’—which is anything that is “imposed and/or dominating” and not simply “foreign and alien” (Dei, 2000; Dei & Asgharzadeh, 2001). The processes and histories of Euro-coloniality raise some important questions for anti-colonial practice.

Colonialism has its roots in European expansionism and imperial conquest, and these are by no means concluded. Colonialism today manifests itself in variegated forms, from the dominance of the English language to the rise of the (often Western) transnational state and global capitalism. While we acknowledge the multiple forms and varied contexts of colonialism and colonial practices, we also maintain a historical genesis that roots colonialism in Euro-coloniality and racism. Notwithstanding our multiple implications in colonial projects and the fact that we all have colonial investments that we protect, the colonial dominant is intertwined with whiteness. Discourses of plurality, wherein we equally share in the blames and atrocities of colonial histories, ignore how all of us may be implicated to varying degrees in the genocides of Indigenous peoples globally, European imperial conquest and Land dispossession, cultural annihilation and enslavement.

Colonial practices and colonial relations have international reach. A genuine anti-colonial practice seeks to subvert the colonial and colonizing tendencies of the dominant and marginalized when they take on the tropes of colonizer. Emerging understandings and theorizing must reconfigure coloniality in order to bring international perspectives and dimensions to both decolonial and anti-colonial politics. Similarly, as Smith (2006, 2010) notes, the complex and varied aspects of colonialism mean that our understandings of coloniality must be reconfigured to ask, What are the practices of coloniality today that can be determined within our institutions? How do we account for the continued sway of such practices of coloniality? What is the logic of coloniality?

Central to the preceding questions and possible responses is the inherent dominance of particular bodies, histories and practices. This is the logic of coloniality. Moving beyond the dynamic of the colonizer and the colonized, the colonial project is ongoing and unending. Settler sovereignty, often without naming its inherent whiteness, has proceeded by incorporating Aboriginal and non-Indigenous bodies into Western models of citizenship. Matrilineal societies, the use of ritual as an extension of the body and the transmission of cultural knowledge through Elders ← x | xi → are often omitted from these citizenship models.1 We account for the failure of the logic of settler colonialism in the unfinished business of trying to subvert all colonized bodies and their histories into a dominant narrative or even colonized bodies partaking of a politics of difference that weakens their solidarities against the Euro-dominant (see Dei 2016, in press). Rather than building communities and solidarities, many colonized bodies often spend tremendous efforts either occupying the space of innocence or claiming how our own colonial oppressions are more foundational to understanding global anti-colonial struggles. The colonized cannot negate or deny their histories, the nature and extent of power relations and the power of cultural memories as we seek collective anti-colonial resistance. We must know what we are doing and at whose bidding our cause serves. Energies are used more effectively when colonized peoples devote their energies to examining alternative counter claims and assertions of Indigenous sovereignty, learning from the lessons of coalition politics and cross-community alliances. Of course, there are different, alternative and counter articulations of sovereignty, Land and culture that are anti-colonial, but even inhabiting these intellectual spaces of difference offers up the possibility for new forms of praxis.

The urgency of the anti-colonial practice can be traced to some disturbing trends in the contemporary era, particularly with respect to the emergence of homogenizing capitalism. The mobility of labour and capital factors in the colonized, oppressed and Indigenous experiences across transnational spaces. Drawing from Bhabha (1994), claims of hybridity must be critically examined in relation to the ‘third space,’ as racialized bodies are both seen and come to see themselves in the contexts of their blackness/Indigeneity/brownness/racial Otherness and the global political economy. Any intellectual placement in the so-called third space must allow for aligning the practice of global capitalism with neo-colonialism.


XXII, 218
ISBN (Hardcover)
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2016 (August)
anti-colonial education and identity political reform social change social narratives youth engagement community mobilization sustainability resistance
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2016. XXII, 217 pp.

Biographical notes

George Jerry Sefa Dei (Volume editor) Meredith Lordan (Volume editor)

George J. Sefa Dei (Ph.D., University of Toronto) is a tenured professor in the Department of Social Justice Education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto. He is also the Director for the Centre for Integrative Anti-Racism Studies at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto. Meredith Lordan (Ph.D., University of Toronto) is an instructor at the University of Toronto and Ryerson University. As a member of the United Nations Education Caucus, her research and advocacy efforts support increased access to education.


Title: Anti-Colonial Theory and Decolonial Praxis
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