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11.05.2019 11:10 Alter: 99 days

Decolonising Political Concepts

Call for Papers

Theme: Decolonising Political Concepts
Type: International Conference
Institution: Centre for Citizenship, Civil Society and Rule of Law
(CISRUL), University of Aberdeen
Location: Aberdeen, Scotland (United Kingdom)
Date: 19.–20.9.2019
Deadline: 6.6.2019


Postcolonial and decolonial thinkers and activists have spent the
last decades unravelling the intellectual, political and structural
legacies of colonialism and ongoing coloniality in our contemporary
world. Political concepts are part of these legacies. The way
academics define and use them is generally mediated by traditions of
political thought marked by and even framed by coloniality. However,
and despite the increasing and far-reaching work of postcolonial and
decolonial research, this aspect of political concepts is still too
often silenced or ignored in some academic settings. As a Centre for
Citizenship, Civil Society and Rule of Law and a PhD programme
focused on political concepts, we feel the need to bring these
debates to our research and thinking. We aim to engage not only with
the Centre’s core concepts but also with projects dealing with, but
not exclusively, sovereignty, secularism or democracy. We
particularly invite intersectional critiques and perspectives on
political concepts and decolonial theories related to these.

Coloniality endures, we propose, in the privileging of certain forms
of knowledge and the dismissing, ignoring, or silencing of others.
Decolonising political concepts is precisely about recognising and
embracing the plurality of forms and notions of knowledges and
epistemic methods, which entails in the process deconstructing the
illusion of objectivity and universality in Western conceptions.
Without wanting to perpetuate boundaries, hierarchies, and
generalisations, we use the term “Western” to foreground the history
of coloniality in political concepts and practices.

The coloniality of knowledge present in Western political concepts
goes hand in hand with a coloniality of power, according to which
political actors and practices are classified based on Western
universalised norms. To acknowledge the entanglement of power and
knowledge allows us to see in how far epistemic practices reflect and
inform power relations and techniques and vice versa. Furthermore,
achieving power within colonial contexts seems to go necessarily
through the imitation of Western models in all spheres of life; thus,
it is important to ask not only which perspectives became excluded
through Western hegemony, but also how these were shaped and
appropriated by Western thought. What is at stake here is the
dismantlement of systems of oppression and marginalisation embedded
in political concepts and deployed both in academia and in political

To decolonise political concepts means to disrupt Western
understandings, knowledge and socio-political practices by unsettling
embedded colonial relations. It also means that we cannot presuppose
what is understood either by “political” or “political concepts”.
Decolonial thinking and struggles have been recognised to expand and
transform what is political. Throughout this conference and the
participation of the speakers, we intend to reveal, question and
reflect on colonial assumptions and implications that may be embedded
in the categories surrounding us.

We call for papers on the coloniality of political concepts, and on
how ontological, epistemological and political closures and
exclusions are reproduced through their use. Papers engaging more
explicitly with assumed and reproduced political and epistemological
hierarchies resulting from an uncritical engagement with Western
political concepts are also welcome. Lastly, we seek to open up
collective and collaborative reflections on how to expose, challenge
and overcome the colonialities still permeating ideas and research by
questioning the tools that political concepts are. We aim to engage
with non-Western and indigenous political thought and experiences,
inviting prospective speakers to reflect on alternative uses and on
what decolonised political concepts might look like. We see such
dialogues as necessary in order to find ways of living together that
acknowledge and respect plurality and allow for genuinely
“postcolonial” academic and political contexts.

Instructions for prospective conference speakers

Prospective conference speakers are invited to email abstracts of
around 300-500 words, together with a CV, to both and by 6th
June 2019. Applicants will be notified by 19th June 2019.

Speakers will have up to 20 minutes followed by discussion. We are
not necessarily looking for polished research papers but for
contributions and engaging responses to our questions that will help
to open up new debates, or for work in progress addressing topics
aligned with the conference theme.


The conference will be held at the Old Aberdeen campus of the
University of Aberdeen on Thursday 19th and Friday 20th September.
Confirmed speakers include:

- Julie Cupples is Professor of Human Geography and Cultural Studies
at the University of Edinburgh, and specializes in cultural
geography, development studies and media and cultural studies. Her
recent publications include Unsettling Eurocentrism in the
Westernized University (2018), co-edited with Ramón Grosfoguel.

- Oscar Guardiola-Rivera is Professor in Law at Birkbeck University
of London. His work spans theory and history of human rights,
constitutionalism, international law and globalisation. Among many
other publications, he is the writer of the award-winning What If
Latin America Ruled the World? (2010).

- Salman Sayyid is Professor of Social Theory & Decolonial Thought at
the University of Leeds. His extensive and interdisciplinary work
might be placed under the umbrella of Critical Muslim Studies. His
books includeIslamism as Philosophy: Decolonial Horizons (2017).

Questions should be directed to: and

Conference website: