Decolonising the Mind

Following up on our mention of the excellent work by Natasha Aruliah (see The Power of the Circle in our August 2019 Newsletter) comes this reminder to check our fundamental assumptions from science and environment educators Carolina Castano Rodriguez and Laura Barraza (in *13 Questions: Reframing Education’s Conversation: Science Series. Edited By Lynn A. Bryan and Kenneth Tobin © 2018 Peter Lang Publishing,

How often do we – consciously or unconsciously operate from a place or Eurocentrism? Rodriguez and Barraza “reject the term ‘Latin America’ and ‘Latinas/os’ to represent our cultural backgrounds as we consider they ignore our Indigenous and African heritage and privilege of European heritage.” They write about being educated in nations where “students have to learn to survive in a society where basic services are lacking, and extreme poverty is a constant variable. Students are constantly confronted with situations in which they do not have any other option than to create, adapt, develop new ideas and commit to acting in order to transform their realities and progress the society towards a more just one.”

Building on Rodriguez and Barraza’s work, do we consider

  • What does it mean for someone from another culture to move to an English speaking or Eurocentric culture?
  • How can the international community incorporate the visions and practices that come from non-Eurocentric communities without falling into colonialist or paternalistic approaches?
  • How can the structures and vision of success better reflect the diversity of views that different cultures provide?

Rodriguez and Barraza give the example that they “consider that the low number of academic authors from South and Meso-America contributing in international peer-review journals and academic conferences in which English is the main spoken language is sometimes due to choice rather than lack of opportunities. We do not conceive of ourselves, or our cultural background, as ‘disadvantaged.’ Instead, we consider that our vision and purpose as academics go beyond conferences and publications in international journals.“

As with how we use language relating to other aspects of diversity, decolonising our mind is not about being politically correct, it’s about awareness of the impact of language and mindset — of accuracy, of respect, and inclusion. Latin America is exclusive and Eurocentric; South America is accurate, Meso America is more inclusive. “Disabled person” puts one aspect of a whole person first, limiting our view; “person with a disability “puts the person first and builds inclusion and connection. Referring to the “LQBTIQ+ Community” lumps sexual orientation and gender identity together; LQBTIQ+ Communities is more accurate, and acknowledges and supports the complexity of reality.

Language can help decolonise our minds – it can wake us up and keep us awake to inclusion, and to the richness of human experience.

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