While much of the explicit baggage of the racist underpinnings of the discipline of anthropology has been disavowed, the white western gaze continues to be positioned as the normative point of observation, what Walter Mignolo has called the zero-point perspective, from which all Othered worlds can and should be studied.
In the conversations we curate here, we seek to disassemble the anthropological canon, what constitutes the received and taken for granted body of work passed on as standard and essential knowledge of the discipline which we argue reinforces the zero-point perspective to present and future students of the discipline. On this page we foreground recorded talks, written work, and creative interventions that unsettle the disciplinary canon in order to teach against its grain. We also highlight projects that have sought to create an alternative canon for a truly decolonial anthropology to emerge and thrive.
Meera Sabaratnam (SOAS)
Andrew Sanchez (Cambridge)
In "The Sea Is History", Derek Walcott challenges the validity of the claim that history has to be canonically recorded to exist. He opens up a discourse about how historical events are passed down and framed over generations, and exposes the ways in which power plays a role in deeming what is worthy of being recorded.
A map of the British Empire in 1921 at the peak of its territorial control
"It's quite amazing the extent to which students in Britain are not taught about Empire. Slavery is taught much more: it's in a way a much easier subject to teach. It's further in the past and they have the "heroic" angle, the story of abolition. But the recent history of the 20th century is much rawer. There have been some brilliant initiatives to get it into the curriculum, but by and large there is a lack of confidence about how to teach Empire and what people should know about it. It's partly because Empire is one of the country's foundational myths." - Dr. Yasmin Khan