What causes coloniality of knowledge? Theorizing academic dependency

Caroline Maria Schoepf

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference paperpeer-review


Calls to decolonize global knowledge production and eradicate the Eurocentric biases in it have been made in the Global South for many decades. In order to eradicate such biases, a thorough understanding of what creates coloniality of knowledge is necessary. However, while important theoretical work has been done (e.g. Alatas 2003), a comprehensive theory explaining the contexts and mechanisms that lead to coloniality of knowledge is still lacking. This article presents such a theory. I explain how historical processes, foremostly European colonialism, created a globally stratified academic landscape and established parts of the Global North as the academic core, and illustrate how contemporary global inequalities (‘coloniality of power’) contribute to maintaining this structure. This grants the academic core a standard-setting position and gives it power over the most important mechanisms of evaluating research (esteemed journals, publishing houses, conferences and research degree programs, etc.). This in turn pressures academics anywhere on the globe to orient their research towards the standards, expectations and preferences of the academic core. Further, both core and periphery academic elites being trained in the academic core strengthens core intellectual lineages and enhances core-to-periphery (North-to-South) flows of academic influence, while disrupting periphery (Southern) intellectual traditions and stifling periphery-to-core (South-to-North) flows of academic influence. This creates an inward-orientation of Northern knowledge production, producing over- theorized and Eurocentric knowledge lacking corrective feedback from the South, while creating an outward-orientation of Southern knowledge production (Hountondji 1997), yielding fragmented, undertheorized knowledge which answers Northern questions and is disconnected from local realities, issues and concerns. In combination, these processes lead to the distorted global knowledge structure which we call ‘coloniality of knowledge.’
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 12 Sept 2020
EventDecolonizing Global Studies: Charting Trends, Mapping Trajectorie International Conference - Online
Duration: 11 Sept 202012 Sept 2020


ConferenceDecolonizing Global Studies
Internet address


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