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Department of History and Philosophy of Science


Decolonise HPS is a staff-student collaboration that considers issues surrounding decolonisation in the Department and the field(s) of HPS more broadly, as well as related issues. Discussion includes such topics as curriculum reform, inclusive pedagogy, and collaborations on similar projects with other such groups in the University.

In this context, we understand 'decolonise' to refer to a spectrum of attitudes and practices concerned with confronting and critiquing the colonial legacies that have shaped and continue to shape global academic cultures. In other words, so-called decolonise movements are those that criticise and provide solutions to the prevalence of colonial logics and worldviews that function to determine the scope and purpose of academic discourses. We recognise that the choice of terminology here is a complex and sensitive issue; we do not intend to make direct equivalencies between the violence of colonial expansion and contemporary academic practices. However, the use of 'decolonise' in this context has an immediate precedent in student movements in various parts of the Global South, especially in Southern Africa and Latin America, as well as amongst Indigenous scholars and activists. Furthermore, other working groups within the University, such as those in the Department of Sociology and the Faculty of English have chosen to use 'decolonise' to refer to their work. It is in following these movements that we take up this term.

The group was formed in 2018 by students and staff in the Department. In past years it has hosted seminars, reading discussions, and teaching-focused workshops. As mentioned above, it is one of a number of Decolonisation-aligned groups in the University; others exist in Sociology, English, the University Library, and other faculties. Several of the group's members also participate in a Consortium for the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine working group, History of Science in Asia: Decolonizing the History of Science, which meets monthly to discuss relevant issues.


Michaelmas Term 2022

The group meets every other Friday on Zoom. In weeks 2 & 4 (14 & 28 October) we meet at 1–2pm; in weeks 6 & 8 (11 & 25 November) at 2–3pm.

All students and interested members of the University are welcome to attend; contact Mary Brazelton or Timothy Sim (tsss2) with any questions.

14 October: Introduction to decolonization (part 1), 1–2pm


Discussion points:

  • What does decolonization entail for each source? Which is more compelling to you?
  • Both sources present decolonization as a movement that originates outside of HPS. Do decolonial concerns matter to HPS, and if so, how?

28 October: Introduction to decolonization (part 2), 1–2pm


Optional reading:

Discussion points:

  • What are the most and least convincing aspects of Tuck and Yang's article?
  • Do you agree that decolonization 'is a distinct project from other civil and human rights-based social justice projects' (p.2)?
  • Is the Decolonise HPS group an example of decolonization as metaphor? Is this a problem, and if so, what should be done?

11 November: Decolonization and historiography, 2–3pm


Optional readings:

Discussion points:

  • What, if anything, distinguishes postcolonial from decolonial history?
  • How does Anderson's understanding of decolonisation accord with or differ from Laveaga's?

25 November: Feedback session – planning for Lent and Easter Term, 2–3pm

The past three sessions have given a whirlwind tour of the diversity of decolonial perspectives. This session seeks to solicit feedback about what members might be interested in doing or focusing on in Lent and Easter Term. While there are provisional plans to continue the Decolonise HPS group as a reading group in Lent and Easter, members are invited to suggest topics/activities that they would like to organize or participate in for the rest of the year.

Some examples might include:

  • Recommendations for readings/discussion topics
  • Sessions to share or write work related to the group or to specific issues/projects in the University
  • Hosting a forum or event in Easter Term


Introductory readings (subject to change)

These are some readings that group members have found helpful in providing an orientation to concepts of decolonisation and their relevance to the history and philosophy of science.

Harding, Sandra. Sciences from Below: Feminisms, Postcolonialities, and Modernities. Durham: Duke University Press, 2008.

Seth, Suman. 'Putting Knowledge in its Place: Science, Colonialism, and the Postcolonial.' Postcolonial Studies 12, no. 4 (2009): 373–88.

Tuck, Eve and K. Wayne Yang. 'Decolonization is not a Metaphor.' Decolonization 1, no. 1.(2012).

Deb Roy, Rohan, 'Decolonise Science: Time to End Another Imperial Era', The Conversation (April 2018).

Linda Tuhiwai Smith, Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples (Zed Books, 2013), esp Ch 1.

Mignolo, Walter. 'The Darker Side of Enlightenment: A Decolonial Reading of Kant's Geography.' In The Darker Side of Western Modernity: Global Futures, Decolonial Options. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011.


Student voices

This is a space for students and other members of the working group to present short pieces discussing their own views on decolonisation in the history and philosophy of science. If you would like to discuss adding a contribution, please contact Mary Brazelton.

Why Decolonize HPS matters to me by an HPSM MPhil student

What should decolonization mean for history of science? by Timothy Sim