Inserts for the Decolonising the Curriculum article in June 2021
Spotlight Frantz Fanon
Frantz Fanon (1925-1961) a Black French psychiatrist, political philosopher who is considered as the person who start a decolonisation movement. His work inspired national-liberation movements in Palestine, Sri Lanka, South Africa, and the United States. Fanon analysis of colonialism and decolonisation, called for a different approach to understanding people that was more conducive to human liberation. In his view mainstream psychology focus on internal mechanism ignored the social-cultural nature of such activities. This makes psychology ill-suited to it pursuit to do proper scientific activity. In many respects what psychology end up with is a psychology of theories which are merely the theorist’s notion of reality which, for the most part, are accepted because they fit the ideology at the time, rather than a psychology that understands people’s lived reality. In the closing line of The Wretched of the Earth: “for ourselves and for humanity, comrades, we must turn over a new leaf, we must work out new concepts, and try to set afoot a new man.(sic)”. To this end, Fanon suggested a community psychology approach rather than a psychology imitation of a white, global North intellectual tradition.
Fanon, F. (1961/2001). The Wretched of the Earth. London: Penguin
Frantz Fanon - The Wretched of the Earth Video.
The Legacy of Frantz Fanon - A discussion of the anti-colonialism theorists [online] https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p03m10c7
Why is my curriculum White?
Why is my Curriculum White? (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dscx4h2l-Pk)
Kenan, M. (2017) Are Soas students right to ‘decolonise’ their minds from western philosophers? Guardian, 19 February 2017 [online] https://www.theguardian.com/education/2017/feb/19/soas-philosopy-decolonise-our-minds-enlightenment-white-european-kenan-malik
“Privilege is a hard concept for people to understand because normally when we talk of privilege, we think of immediate, unearned riches and tangible benefits for anyone who has it … But white privilege – and indeed, all privilege – is about the absence of inconvenience, the absence of an impediment or challenge. As such when you have it, you really don’t notice it. But when it’s absent, it affects everything you do … There’s a good chance, as a white person watching this, your life is already hard. Every day you have to overcome some difficulty or challenge just to get by. But you can still have white privilege. White privilege doesn’t mean you haven’t worked hard or don’t deserve the success you’ve had. It doesn’t mean your life is hard or that you’ve never suffered. It simply means that your skin colour has not been the cause of your hardship or suffering.”
Thursday 06 August 2020
Hanks (2008) cites Archbishop Desmond Tutu which states that Ubuntu “is the essence of being human. It speaks of the fact that my humanity is caught up and is inextricably bound up in yours. I am human because I belong” (p. 26). Hanks asks whether “the principle communalistic philosophies of Ubuntu could be incorporated into a positive new psychological paradigm for the 21st century?” (128), with the “ultimate goal of an Ubuntu program …. to attain the qualities and characteristics of personhood that define the African concept of being fully and completely human. Specifically, … [people] would be encouraged to embrace and embody 14 Ubuntu virtues, or qualities of humanness: Hospitality Compassion Empathy Tolerance Respect Interdependence Collective Solidarity Patience Kindness Reconciliation Cooperation Warmth Forgiveness Supportiveness” (p. 132)
What if these Ubuntu virtues were the guiding principles in how we do psychology? What would psychology look like? What would be its methods of investigating and evaluating? its primary data and its mission? How would its theories likely be different to those influencing education, organisation, or the criminal justice system?
Table 1: Morgenroth et al. (2015). Mechanism Underpinning Role Model
Illustrating the Contextualizing Controversial Figures, The Stats-Trinity
In psychology a ‘trinity’ of esteemed modern statisticians can be identified to be Francis Galton, Karl Pearson and Ronald Fisher (Michell, 2020). Galton constructed psychometrics’ quantitative paradigm, correlation, regression to the mean, and survey methods; Spearman invented, factor analysis, p-value, correlation coefficient, and the g-factor; Fisher contributed to the design of experiments, discriminant analysis and F-distribution. All these notions still have high currency in present day psychometric discourse.
What is easily noticeable is that these individuals are elite white men; less noticeable is that these men were deeply involved with eugenics (the science dedicated to improving the ‘‘inborn qualities of a race,’’ as Galton put it in 1883). The question for holistic academic understanding is whether this matter, and if so in what way?
The point here is not whether as academics we take Mackenzie’s (1981) stance that ‘‘eugenics did not merely motivate their [Galton, Pearson, Fisher] statistical work but affected its content. The shape of the science they developed was partially determined by eugenic objectives’ (p.12)”, but that in making our students academically informed citizens, there should be space to consider this issue. An informed citizen will wonder whether embraces this approach is not consenting to the notion “that some humans ...could properly occupy the position of subject and others whose ontological status seemed closer to nature were…at best, objects of investigation” (Maldonado-Torres, 2017 p. 433).
The history, context and ideology of knowledge has impacted on psychometric measurements. Here we can be asking whether by doing psychometric testing, placing numbers on psychological qualities, we are not implicitly buying into the nature of being and reality exposed by eugenics? How can we ensure that what we are doing by using these measures is not doing this? What attitude are we developing by embracing these without examining them?
Psychometric testing may have a pragmatic usefulness, but it has an origin in a particular time and space. Even the hallowed psychological experiments are a social institution for two versions of doing an experiment – the Paris vs Leipzig – existed and were amalgamated into an American model (Danziger, 1985). The “idea of method as a guarantor of truth and knowledge in the sciences emerged from a certain confidence about the capacities of the cognitive subject and the status of the object” (Maldonado-Torres, 2017 p. 432). Lack of awareness of the socio-cultural basis of these methods may result in epistemic violence (Spivak, 1988) whereby a given group's ability to speak and be heard is delegitimised, silenced, or repressed, rendering things irreducible to measurement unworthy of our attention. If William Stevenson (inventor of Q-methodology) had received the chair at University College London (UCL), rather than Spearman (whose approach can be seen in R-methodology) statistical measurement may certainly have looked different. So, it could be otherwise than it is.