Philosophy and Decolonization

The Dutch Research School of Philosophy (OZSW) and University of Amsterdam invite ReMa students and PhD candidates in philosophy to register for the course Philosophy and Decolonization to take place in Spring 2023.

Organizing university

University of Amsterdam


February-May 2023 (Eight sessions on Wednesdays from 12.00 - 15.00, in weeks 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 19, and 21 - see also Program below)


E2.01 in OMHP (Oudemanhuispoort) at the  University of Amsterdam

Type of activity

Research Master course

Primary target group

Research Master students and PhD candidates

Application/registration deadline

January 9th, 2023

About the topic

Over the last decades, it has been increasingly recognized that philosophy should engage more with decolonial perspectives, and it has also been argued that philosophy as a discipline should be decolonized. This course broadly addresses the intersections of philosophy and decolonization. We read and compare various decolonial approaches in philosophy ranging from works that concentrate on liberalism and decolonization in political philosophy (f.e. Charles Mills, James Tully, Domenico Losurdo), to works rethinking ‘the geography of Reason’ (Lewis Gordon, Caribbean philosophy), to methodologies for decolonization of (‘canonical’) philosophy such as Jane Anna Gordon’s ‘creolizing political theory’ and methodologies for ‘unlearning imperialism’ and coloniality (Ariella Aïsha Azoulay; Nelson Maldonado-Torres). We will also address works analysing the intrinsic relations between capitalism, coloniality and race (Anibal Quijano, Gurmandir Bhambra, Gargi Bhattacharya).

Aim / objective

  • Reading and understanding a range of decolonial approaches in and to philosophy
  • Insight into critiques of the liberal and human rights traditions from a decolonial perspective
  • Enhancing the students’ capacity to formulate philosophical and interdisciplinary perspectives that are selfreflexive about the legacies of eurocentrism and imperialism in disciplinary philosophy.


Course dates:
8 February (week 6)
22 February (week 8)
8 March (week 10)
22 March (week 12)
5 April (week 14)
19 April (week 16)
10 May (week 19)
24 May (week 21)

Time: 12.00 – 15.00

We will read articles tracing the intricacies of colonialism and liberalism, both from an intellectual historical perspective, and from a systematic political theoretical perspective.
We will discuss whether and in what ways they could be fruitfully combined within a decolonial humanities and/or human rights perspective.

See the required preparations for more detailed information on the program.


Required preparations

Intensive readings of the assigned texts.

Week 1: Liberalism and Imperialism I
Mandatory readings:

  • James Tully (2008) Public Philosophy in a New Key, Volume II; Imperialism and Civic Freedom, chapters 1 and 5.
  • Walter Mignolo (2011) ‘The darker side of the Enlightenment; a decolonial reading of Kant’s Geography’, in Reading Kant’s Geography, eds Stuart Elden and Eduardo Mendieta, NewYork: SUNY Press, p. 319-344.
  • Kant, Immanuel. ‘Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Aim.’ Allen W. Wood (vert.). In: Anthropology, History, and Education (2007), Robert B. Louden & Günter Ziller (eds), Cambridge University Press.


  • Losurdo, Domenico (2015) Liberalism, A counter-history. London and New York: Verso. Chapters 1-2, p. 1-66.

Week 2: Liberalism and Imperialism II; Decolonial approaches
Mandatory readings:

  • Charles Mills (2015) ‘Decolonizing Western Political Philosophy’, New Political Science, 37:1, 1-24
  • Seloua Luste Boulbina, (2018) ‘Decolonization.’ Political Concepts: a Critical Lexicon,
  • Nelson Maldonado-Torres (2015) ‘Outline of Ten Theses on Coloniality and Decoloniality’, available at
  • Ariella Aïsha Azoulay (2019) ‘Unlearing Imperialism’ (chapter one), in Potential history, unlearning Imperialism, New York: Penguin Random House.


  • Ypi, Lea (2013) ‘What’s Wrong with Colonialism’, Philosophy and Public Affairs, 41: 158–191.
  • Dhawan, Nikita (2014) ‘Affirmative Sabotage of the Master’s Tools: The Paradox of Postcolonial Enlightenment’ in Decolonizing Enlightenment: transnational justice, human rights and democracy in a postcolonial world, Nikita Dhawan, Leverkusen: Barbara Budrich Publishers, 19-79.

Week 3: Shifting the Geography of Reason; Freedom, Justice, and Decolonization
Mandatory Reading:

  • Gordon, Lewis (2021) Freedom, Justice and Decolonization. London: Routledge, chapter 1 and epilogue.
  • Gordon, Jane Anna (2014) Creolizing political theory; reading Rousseau through Fanon (2014), Introduction, chapters 2 and 5.

Week 4: Race
Mandatory readings:

  • Fanon, Frantz (1984) Black Skin White Masks, Chapters 5 and 8.
  • Tommie Shelby (2012) ‘Race’ in Oxford Handbook of Social and Political Philosophy.
  • Ahmed, Sara (2007). ‘A Phenomenology of Whiteness.’ Feminist Theory, vol. 8, no. 2.
  • Sylvia Wynter (2003) ‘Unsettling the Coloniality of Being/Power/Truth/Freedom: Towards the Human, After Man, Its Overrepresentation–An Argument’. CR: The New Centennial Review, Volume 3, Number 3

Facultative readings:

  • Alana Lentin (2017) ‘Race’ in W. Outhwaite and S. Turner (eds.), Sage Handbook of Political Sociology
  • Jackson, Zakiyya Iman (2020) Becoming Human; Meaning and Matter in an anti-black World.
  • Buck-Morss, Susan. (2000) ‘Hegel and Haiti’. Critical Inquiry, vol. 26, no. 4, 2000, pp. 821–865.

Week 5: Imperialism, Capital and Property
Mandatory Readings:

  • Bhambra, Gurminder K. (2021) ‘Colonial global economy: towards a theoretical reorientation of political economy’, Review of International Political Economy, 28:2, 307-322
  • Quijano, Anibal (2000): ‘Coloniality of Power, Eurocentrism and Latin America’, in Neplanta, Views from the South. 1.3, 533-580.
  • Shacherreiter, Judith (2012) ‘Propertization as a Civilizing and Modernizing Mission: Land and Human Rights in the Colonial and Postcolonial World’ in Decolonizing Enlightenment : transnational justice, human rights and democracy in a postcolonial world, ed. Nikita

Dhawan, Leverkusen: Barbara Budrich publishers, pp. 227-240.

  • John Locke, Two Treatises of Government, selection

Week 6: Black rights, white wrongs
Mandatory Readings:

  • Mills, Charles (2017) Black Rights / White Wrongs: The Critique of Racial Liberalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, chapters 2,4,6,7.

Week 7: Human Rights
Mandatory Readings:

  • Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (2005) ‘Use and abuse of human rights’, The South Atlantic Quarterly, Volume 103, Number 2/3, Spring/Summer. 2004, pp. 523-581, revised version in Boundary 2 (Based on: Amnesty International Lectures 2001, Human Rights and the Humanities).
  • Ariella Aïsha Azoulay (2019) ‘Human Rights’ in Potential History, chapter 6. New York: Penguin Random House.
  • Moyn, Samuel, (2018) (Listen also to the podcast on the website of Not enough, Human Rights in an unequal World:

Week 8: Agency, Alternatives, Repair
Mandatory Readings:

Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Gordon, Lewis (2021) Freedom, Justice and Decolonization, chapter 3. London: Routledge
  • Ariella Aïsha Azoulay (2019) ‘Repair, Reparations, Return: The Condition of Worldliness’ in Potential History, chapter 7. New York: Penguin Random House.

The reading list is quite long. Not everyone will always have to read everything, we just want to present you with a broad spectrum of relevant literature. We will discuss how to proceed during the first class. Most of the readings will be made available through a canvas page.

You can choose between different options for the final exam:
1. Write a final paper of around 3000 words.
2. You prepare and record a publishable podcast with 2 students.
3. You write a publishable book review in Dutch or English.
4. You take an oral exam in a group of two students. During the last week of class students will individually submit a one-page written preparation for this oral exam with critical points for discussion. The oral exams will take place early June.

Last updated May 17, 2022.

Certificate / credit points

For this course participants can earn a certificate after successful completion. Please note, however, that the OZSW is not accredited to reward students with credits/ECTS directly. The study load is mentioned on the certificate, which can usually be exchanged for ‘real’ credits (ECTS) at your home university. For more info please see The study load for this activity is: 6 ECTS. Students can also take this course as a 3 ECTS tutorial (requirements to be detailed in class) or a 10 ECTS course if they want to write a longer paper or an article.


Attendance is free for

Attendance is 300 euros for all others.

How to apply / register

Registration is closed.

Important:  Master students can register for the course as well, but PhD candidates and Research Master students are the primary target group. If you are interested in participating, please send an email to to be put on a waiting list. You will be notified after January 9th, 2023, if there are places available and if you can register and join the course.

If registration has been closed because the maximum amount of participants has been reached, you can submit your name to the waiting list by sending an email to Please also indicate whether you are a ReMa student or PhD candidate and whether you are a member of the OZSW or not.

Cancellation and registration policy


Prof. dr. Yolande Jansen