On 23rd May 2022, an online symposium on Professor Robbie Shilliam’s book, ‘Decolonizing Politics,’ was organised by Identities, RACE.ED, and CRITIQUE. The panellists for the discussion were Professor Robbie Shilliam, Johns Hopkins University, Dr. Toni Haastrup, University of Stirling, Dr. Aparna Devare, University of Hyderabad, and Dr. Maria Bargh, Victoria University of Wellington. The discussion was chaired by Professor Nasar Meer, University of Edinburgh, and Dr. Aaron Winter, University of East London.

Professor Shilliam initiated the discussion with a reprisal of the key arguments presented in his book. In its origin and expansion, the discipline of political science was exclusively located in the colonial context, and hence continues to struggle with shaking off its colonial proclivities which had taken deep roots through ages of explicit prejudice and implicit exclusions.

Dr. Aparna Devare

 Dr. Aparna Devare highlighted the distinctive nature of European colonialism and the violence associated with it. While the colonial legacies embedded in the discipline are being increasingly questioned, Dr. Devare points to the tension within the academia on what to adopt and adapt as alternative ways of expression. What can be the more relatable structures that can be looked at as the discipline is trying to make itself more inclusive? The quest for the right departure points of decolonization among a myriad of alternatives continues to be a hot pursuit among academicians.

Dr. Maria Bargh laid bare the conundrum of negotiating with the space provided for margins when you are yourself located in the margin. The assumptive beliefs regarding margins prevent the true inclusion of the marginalized, and Dr. Bargh calls attention to the utility of indigenous research methodologies in serving as an alternative to the dominant Anglo-American methodologies, the adoption of which shall not only render voice to the silenced paradigms but also subvert the hierarchical binary between the researcher and the researched.

The open discussion that ensued among the panellists, the chair, and the participants provided a rich discourse on the prospect of decolonizing the discipline through reconceptualization and recontextualization of the key paradigms. The discussion reiterated the importance of not being content merely with the process of decolonization, but the need for analysis of who leads the decolonization process as well. The discussion was highly informative and demonstrated that while what constitutes a critical or decolonized canon of politics is highly contested, it is certain that a discipline that reflects nativism and colonialism is a long way from being inclusive.

Contributed by Ms. Majima A, MA Political Science