Attention: You are using an outdated browser, device or you do not have the latest version of JavaScript downloaded and so this website may not work as expected. Please download the latest software or switch device to avoid further issues.

News & Blog > Blogs: "Perspectives, Provocations & Initiatives" > Decolonising Begins in an Unlikely Location, Within.

Decolonising Begins in an Unlikely Location, Within.

Sarah Stever (MAFood02) tells us about decoloniality, a leading initiative that IDS and many organisations have adopted, and how it must begin as an internal investigation and reflection of the self.
Image: "Perspectives #3 : Perspectives - Mel" by sakechaud is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Image: "Perspectives #3 : Perspectives - Mel" by sakechaud is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Calls of decoloniality are broadcast at an intensifying frequency. We see it in academic policies and initiatives, in the streets on protest placards, and through social media, calls demanding deconstruction of facets of neoliberal and capitalist structures. On a surface level, decolonising seems instinctively understood and agreed upon in a manner that suggests, 'of course, we want to de-link colonial aspects.' With these initiatives, we begin to examine our reading lists and scrutinise the photos that hang in our hallways for red flags that shout coloniality. We begin to alter the words we use, like shifting from 'underdeveloped countries' to the 'Global South' and while these are aspects to decouple from coloniality, they miss the nature of decoloniality and risk extending the colonial matrix of power.

Colonial matrix of power

To proceed with decoloniality, one must know the colonial matrix of power. Aníbal Quijano developed the concept of 'coloniality of power' which has been extended by Walter Mignolo and Catherine Walsh into the 'colonial matrix of power'[1]. The colonial matrix of power is detailed by four interrelated domains; control of the economy, of authority, of gender and sexuality, and knowledge and subjectivity.

The coloniality of power is a matrix that operates through control or hegemony over authority, labour & economy, sexuality & gender, and subjectivity & knowledge

These domains rest on the colonial foundation of racial and patriarchal knowledge[2]. The decolonial options start with the analysis of the construction, transformation, and sustenance of racism and patriarchy that created the conditions to build and control a structure of knowledge, supported by either the word of a colonial celebrated religious figure or reason and truth that have received the stamped approval of coloniality. This knowledge construction and control extends the power of who fits into the accepted principles and builds an aspirating option that everyone could be included, which is ultimately not a universal right or possibility. There is no element of who we are or the world we live in that is not shaped by the colonial matrix of power. It is through these often-unconscious elements that act to reinforce coloniality itself.

Where do we begin

The work to decolonise our world begins with ourselves. It begins with a deeply internal, life-long dedicated practice of identifying the coloniality of self, where one sits within the colonial matrix of power, and how our thoughts, actions, and interactions are actively shaped by and extend coloniality. As coloniality is in everything, we must understand there is nothing that escapes its matrix.

We must begin with understanding that coloniality is in everything, including ourselves

For example, our emotions are shaped by and for the external expression of knowledge and biases, which are cultivated and imposed by coloniality. Coloniality includes elements of; language, pronunciation and rhetoric[3], defined gender and sexuality, what one believes one's life pattern should consist of, categories of beauty and ugliness, topics of conversation, knowledge and skills, self-imposed limitations, and lines of acceptable and unacceptable behaviours. While it is not an exhaustive list, it is signposted to begin to know that everything we say and think is located beyond, next to, or diagonally from the western code that is the colonial matrix of power. It is a starting point of how our internal voice, the voice that tells us what we are and what we should or should not do, is deeply ingrained in the colonial matrix of power. It is a helpful tool in understanding where we must begin our efforts of decoloniality.

How do we begin

The beginning comes in a four-step process of recognition, acknowledgement, investigation, and then non-identification[4] of how and where the colonial matrix of power has overtaken our identity of self. It is a life-long dedicated process to disengage from the western code and to understand how we codify the power structures with our thoughts and thereby, our actions. At times it can be painful and embarrassing, but it is a radical and essential process.

Decoloniality begins in an unlikely location, within, and understanding how power structures affect our thoughts and actions may be painful and embarrassing, but it is an essential step towards decolonising our external worlds

Inevitably, as we work to identify and weed the coloniality from our words, thoughts, actions and reactions, both passive and active, there are and will continue to be elements that reinforce and extend the colonial matrix of power. This occurs simply because we are human, on this planet, at this time. These instances necessitate an extension of grace to one's self in acknowledging that the internal decolonisation is a continuous learning process and calls to grant one's self permission to continuously learn and work towards internal decoloniality. The expression, itself, of extending permission to be imperfect through decoloniality works to disrupt the colonial matrix that demands perfection in its image.

Decoloniality begins in an unlikely location, within. For it is only through self-identifying coloniality within and working to decolonise the self, that we can truly begin to identify coloniality and decolonise our external worlds.


[1] See: On Decoloniality: Concept, Analytics, Praxis (2018) by Walter Mignolo and Catherine Walsh

[2] See: Grand Narrative

[3] See: Code Switching

[4] Non-identification is a recognition that the various thoughts, emotions, and images that arise in the mind are not permanent

This is one a series of blogs supported by the IDS alumni office and written by current IDS students and PhD Researchers from academic year 2019-2020 Spring Term: Decolonizing Development begins in an unlikely location; What does our criticism of urban sustainability reveal about the hypocrisy of the West?; The Decade that Decides Our Future; Applying a feminist economics lens to analyse the implementation of Universal Credit on women in the UK; Covid-19 and Child Labour in Dhaka: Call for reviewed policy actions; and Impact of Covid-19 on inequalities in the world of work.

Similar stories

Image: CC0 Pixabay

IDS Alumni Ambassadors are volunteers who work closely with IDS to improve alumni services, organise events and reunions as well as providing important networking opportunities. More...

Image: 'Study' By Moyan Brenn CC-BY-2.0

Who are the IDS Alumni Advisory Committee? More...

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

to help support IDS alumni ambassadors and other volunteers we reserve a small amount of our alumni activities budget ea… More...

Image: i-stock 1216152261

IDS Yellow Monday (YM) is a weekly internal newsletter for current IDS Staff and Students. YM includes news, member trav… More...

Image: istock 1134320024

A how to guide for those looking for online mentoring and advice More...

Most read

Image: CC0 Pixabay

The set of Employability Skills presented in the chart below has been developed by IDS, the Department of International Development, University of Sus… More...

Socialist Appeal, CC BY 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

Environmental injustice within a racialised context is environmental racism – a branch of institutional racism in which the realities are evident in t… More...

Obakeng (first left) and friends at IDS in 2016 at the IDS 50th Anniversary Party in Stanmer House

Tragically, IDS/UoS alumni and Chevening Scholar Dr. Obakeng Sethamo passed away recently. He did fantastic work in climate change and was a role mode… More...

Submit your blog

This website is powered by