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Decolonising Economics?

Michelle Meixieira Groenewald
Summer Academy 2022 for Pluralist Economics, 2022
Level: beginner
Perspective: Other
Topic: North-South-Relations & Development
Format: Course description/syllabus

This workshop was originally taught at the Summer Academy for Pluralist Economics 2022
Instructor:  Michelle Meixieira Groenewald (North West University, South Africa)

1. Context of the workshop

At the end of this course, I anticipate that we will all be asking more questions, rather than having definitive answers on this topic. This course will fundamentally ask whether we can, or even should use the word ‘decolonising’ in our pursuit of a better economics? Both participants and lecturers, will also be encouraged to reflect on their own situatedness in how they have come to “know”. 

Any discussion on decolonising economics should not be seen as a prescriptive approach to many of the topics we will cover. Rather, this is an opportunity for broader points of discussion on decolonising; to reflect context specific realities (Chelwa, 2016) (Bassier, 2016), to de-centre Western ideas in economics (Alves & Kvangraven) to “[democratise] knowledge from its current rendition in the singular into its plural known as knowledges” (Ndlovu-Gatsheni, 2018a:4) – to name but a few. 

As we will analyse in this course, other disciplines have engaged far more deeply with the debates and contestation around what it means to decolonise. As the economics discipline has barely begun to grapple with this, this is a vital and important process Zein-Elabdin and Charusheela (2004), argue that postcolonial thought could provide a “cross cutting ‘frame’ in which we may rethink a variety of important heterodox traditions within Economics”. This idea will be explored further in this course, as an opportunity for deeper engagement. 


2. Some potential pieces to engage with

This is by no means an exhaustive list of all the work that might be useful to critically engage with on this topic. It is certainly open to critique (something I hope we can do in our live sessions). Each one of these suggestions (books, chapters, articles, blogs, videos, tweets, videos, art work), makes reference to a wealth of other suggestions which you may end up finding more useful to work through depending on your interest or context. (I have also just included a few initiatives/organizations at the end of the reference list, that you are welcome to add to!).

I have tried as far as possible, to offer options that can be relatively easily engaged with but you may find each of these suggestions more/less approachable/useful/accurate/Eurocentric/Americanised (which we can also discuss in class!). You might also want to take a look at these suggestions and delve a little deeper into the various intersecting identities of the authors. Hopefully, we will also discuss some of this in our live sessions, to think more explicitly through knowledge production and dissemination. I have also included some pieces of fiction as I have found them to be more useful for me, than many pieces of non-fiction.

They have also not been organized thematically, as I am hoping that once again you are not limited/influenced by my identification of themes. Rather, that you give this list a quick look, dive a little into what grabs your attention to narrow it down, and we have a fruitful discussion of what interests you in the live session – to choose specific content for each of the sessions.

Of course, you are encouraged to engage critically with any of these pieces and to decide where you do and don’t agree with this work, as well as being able to justify why you would argue this way.

These suggestions are also invariably influenced by my own positionality. Ideally, it would be wonderful if each of you had suggestions that we could add to this list, to more clearly reflect the contributions from everyone in this course. Please note that this does not have to be just academic journal articles. If we take seriously Ndlovu-Gatsheni’s call to democratise knowledge into knoweldges, then how can we begin to do so by recognizing knowledges in other forms? 


3. Suggestion list

  1. Adebisi, F.I. 2019. Why I Say ‘Decolonisation is Impossible’. Foluke’s African Skies. Date of access: 22 May 2022.
  2. Agunsoye, A., Groenewald, M.M. & Kvangraven, I.H. 2022a. Decolonising economics teaching, Part 1: Some thoughts on the curriculum. D-Econ: Diversifying and Decolonising Economics. Date of access: 30 Apr. 2022.
  3. Agunsoye, A., Groenewald, M.M. & Kvangraven, I.H. 2022b. Decolonising economics teaching, Part 2: Some thoughts on pedagogy. D-Econ: Diversifying and Decolonising Economics. Date of access: 30 Apr. 2022.
  4. Agunsoye, A., Groenewald, M.M., Guizzo, D. & Ramburuth-Hurt, K. 2022. Reforming academia. In: L. Ambler, J. Earle, & N. Scott, eds. Reclaiming Economics for Future Generations. Manchester: Manchester Unviersity Press. pp.  205–243.
  5. Alves, C. & Kvangraven, I.H. 2021. #economicsfest: Does economics need to be ‘decolonised’? Economics Observatory. Date of access: 05 Nov. 2021.
  6. Appadurai, A. 2021. Beyond Domination. The future and past of decolonization. (The Future of Postcolonial Thought). Date of access: 12 Jun. 2022.
  7. Appleton, N.S. 2019. Do Not ‘Decolonize’ . . . If You Are Not Decolonizing: Progressive Language and Planning Beyond a Hollow Academic Rebranding. Critical Ethnic Studies. Date of access: 15 Mar. 2022.
  8. Bacevic, J. 2021. Epistemic injustice and epistemic positioning: towards an intersectional political economy. Current Sociology. tps://
  9. Bassier, I. 2016. UCT’s economics curriculum is in crisis. GroundUp News. Date of access: 12 Jul. 2022.
  10. Bhambra, G.K. 2014. Postcolonial and decolonial dialogues. Postcolonial Studies. 17(2):115–121.
  11. Bhambra, G.K., Gebrial, D. & Nişancıoğlu, K. 2018. Decolonizing the University. London: Pluto Press.
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  13. Burkina Faso President Thomas Sankara’s “Against debt” speech 1987 Part 2. 1987. Date of access: 11 Jul. 2022.
  14. Charusheela, S. & Zein-Elabdin, E. 2004. Postcolonialism Meets Economics. 1st ed. Routledge.
  15. Chelwa, G. 2016. Decolonizing the teaching of economics. Date of access: 12 Jul. 2022.
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  31. Fúnez-Flores, J.I. 2022. Toward decolonial globalisation studies. Globalisation, Societies and Education. DOI 10.1080/14767724.2022.2048796:1–21.
  32. Garba, T. & Sorentino, S. 2020. Slavery is a Metaphor: A Critical Commentary on Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang’s “Decolonization is Not a Metaphor”. Antipode. 52(3):764–782.
  33. Grosfoguel, R. 2007. THE EPISTEMIC DECOLONIAL TURN: Beyond political-economy paradigms. Cultural Studies. 21(2–3):211–223.
  34. Hickel, J., Sullivan, D. & Zoomkawala, H. 2021. Plunder in the Post-Colonial Era: Quantifying Drain from the Global South Through Unequal Exchange, 1960–2018. New Political Economy. 26(6):1030–1047.
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  38. Icaza, R. & Vázquez, R. 2016. The Coloniality of Gender as a Radical Critique of Developmentalism. In: W. Harcourt, ed. The Palgrave Handbook of Gender and Development. London: Palgrave Macmillan UK. pp.  62–73.
  39. Koechlin, T. 2019. Whitewashing Capitalism: Mainstream Economics’ Resounding Silence on Race and Racism. Review of Radical Political Economics. 51(4):562–571.
  40. Kvangraven, I.H. 2022. Beyond Eurocentricism: If you want decolonisation go to the economics of Samir Amin. Aeon. Date of access: 06 Jul. 2022.
  41. Kvangraven, I.H. & Kesar, S. 2021. Standing in the Way of Rigor? Economics’ Meeting with the Decolonizing Agenda. (New School for Social Research: Department of Economics Working Papers 2110).
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Some initiatives to take a look at 


Download syllabus here


This project is brought to you by the Network for Pluralist Economics (Netzwerk Plurale Ökonomik e.V.).  It is committed to diversity and independence and is dependent on donations from people like you. Regular or one-off donations would be greatly appreciated.