The book makes a strong call for a critical reading of the meaning of Eurocentrism and the values of knowledge, insisting on the need to interrogate and explain the “organization/order of knowledge” and its “descriptive/prescriptive statements”. It is a vigorous call for urgency in exposing the persistent coloniality present in academia.
Eurocentrism, Racism and Knowledge: Debates on History and Power in Europe and the Americas, edited by Marta Araújo and Silvia Rodriguez Maeso, both from the prestigious Centre for Social Studies, University of Coimbra, addresses key contemporary issues in the critique of Eurocentrism and racism, in relation to debates on the production and circulation of knowledge, as clearly stated in the introductory chapter.
The contributors to this edited volume are internationally renowned scholars who have published widely on sociology, race, education and epistemology and have made valuable contributions to the production of knowledge in areas related to the theme of the book.
A major strength of this volume is its interdisciplinary approach, bringing together scholars and political activists from diverse schools and regions, a timely reminder of the past legacies of historical events, such as colonialism, slavery, imperialism and racism. As such it remains critical in today’s epistemological, cultural and economic battles as well as in social and power relations in our contemporary societies.
But the book is not only a reminder. It also makes a strong call for a critical reading of the meaning of Eurocentrism and values of knowledge when insisting ‘on the need to interrogate and explain the “organization/order of knowledge” and its “descriptive/prescriptive statements”’ (p. 3). It is, therefore, a vigorous call for urgency in exposing the persistent coloniality present in academia (in Europe and outside) and among academics in order to decolonize westernized academia.
The book’s main argument is strongly weaved throughout the chapters of the book, illustrating that by negating the disastrous effects of those events on today’s human beings, especially the colonized, the subaltern and the marginalized, it allows the perpetuation of racism and other forms of oppression.
This book is published at a critical historical period, characterized by a monumental changing conjuncture, manifested in various ‘unusual’ events in Europe: threat of disunity; emergence of terrorism; deep economic crisis; austerities; refugees crisis and so on. The ‘great and powerful’ Europe today is experiencing a situation that exposes its limits, weakness and uncertainty in various aspects, which challenges us to question the very meaning and significance of what is Europe today.
The exposure of high levels of corruption, fraud and financial misconduct – as was the case of the recent Panama Papers Scandal, for instance – is also confronting the belief based on the supposedly scientific rationality and ethics of Europe.
Raising the debate on Eurocentrism, race and knowledge gives us the opportunity to remember the historical role played by Europe and the West as a whole. But it also allows us to understand and question new forms of conquest and domination, such as neocolonialism and neo-developmentalism that have reinvented new ways of operation and manifestation, but driven by the same Eurocentric approach, in Africa, Asia and the Americas.
This book makes an important contribution to knowledge, by adding valuable inputs on the still relatively small literature in the field of the Epistemeologies of the South, proposed by Boaventura de Sousa Santos and his research team, by bringing innovative and ‘alternative’ analysis. The set of chapters that comprise the book can be seen, I would argue, as contributing to the procedures of the sociology of absences and emergencies.
The robustness of the analytical framework of the book is a major boon; however, it shows very little of the initiatives that are happening in and outside Europe that bravely confront coloniality, Eurocentrism, race-based oppression and so on. For example, the emergence of new ‘counter-hegemonic’ initiatives challenging traditional epistemological approaches – based on Eurocentrism or West centrism – by creating new ways of producing and sharing of knowledge, such as the Popular University of Social Movements (UPMS), might be relevant to be considered in this kind of series in the future, which is missing in the book. In the course of several UPMS workshops it became very apparent that grassroots and social movements knowledge, seen over the centuries as irrelevant or backward, might today be, in some cases, the only hope of the future, in various aspects. The world of counter-hegemonic approaches is speaking. Can we listen?
* This review was first published by Sociology Journal, available at: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0038038516670110