Romanticizing decolonization and Asian epistemology: Reflections on identity and space

Jack T Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Recent calls for the decolonization of the academy demand recognition for diverse canons of knowledge . Asia’s economic ascent also imparts rising confidence among Asian scholars and institutions to promote indigenous knowledge. While these global calls for emancipation are invigorating, decolonial scholarship is prone to sterile theorization, historical fixity, and an overt romanticization of the Global South. Drawing on my lived experiences as an Asian academic, I reflect on decolonization and Asian epistemology from five different spaces in my life: (1) Northern Europe, (2) Toronto, (3) Southeast Asia, (4) Kazakhstan and (5) the United Kingdom. I analyze these spaces by using the concepts of intellectual captivity and decolonization from Syed Hussein Alatas and Kuan-Hsing Chen. Specifically, the tendency for decolonization movements to descend into nationalism, nativism, and civilizationalism provides provocative insights on epistemic justice (Chen, 2010). I demonstrate how epistemology as practice can reveal a colonial mindset even among academics who engage in social justice discourse and international work. I also highlight examples of indigenous knowledge that reinforce inequality based on race, gender, sexual orientation and religion. As more individuals with hybrid identities (race, culture, and nationality) enter academe and pursue careers that require international mobility, it is imperative that decolonization move beyond reductive categories of identity that reproduce stereotypes. I conclude with reflections on the role of comparative and international education research in decolonization movements.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages11
JournalAsia Pacific Journal of Education
Early online date6 Mar 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 6 Mar 2023

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • decolonisation
  • epistemology
  • Asia
  • mobility
  • social justice
  • knowledge
  • Global South


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