Student activists at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies are demanding philosophy courses no longer focus on some of the most important thinkers in the field because they’re white.
According to the website for the SOAS student union, part of the 2017 agenda is “Decolonising SOAS: Confronting the White Institution.”
One of the group’s priorities is to “make sure that the majority of the philosophers on our courses are from the Global South or it’s diaspora. SOAS’s focus is on Asia and Africa and therefore the foundations of its theories should be presented by Asian or African philosophers (or the diaspora).”
If white philosophers are to be required at all, the SOAS plan notes their contributions need to be looked at from a “critical standpoint.”
“For example, acknowledging the colonial context in which so called ‘Enlightenment’ philosophers wrote within,” they explain.
The pro-director for the school, Deborah Johnston, defended the student union’s proposals by saying, “One of the great strengths of SOAS is that we have always looked at world issues from the perspective of the regions we study - Asia, Africa & Middle East.”
“Informed and critical debate and discussion about the curriculum we teach is a healthy and proper part of the academic enterprise,” she continued.
The head of the SOAS’s Religions and Philosophies department, Erica Hunter, however, disagrees with the students’ push towards excluding the greats like Plato.
She told the Telegraph the proposal is “rather ridiculous.”
“I would firmly resist dropping philosophers or historians just because it was fashionable,” she explained.