Dismantling epistemic violence? exploring education academics conceptual understanding of decolonising the curriculum in higher education.
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The call to decolonise South African universities is not a new phenomenon. Calls to “decolonise” are not new nor have they gone uncontested whenever they have been made (Mbembe, 2016). The student protests, better known as #RhodesMustfall and #FeesMustfall movements, ignited the call for universities in South Africa to decolonise the curriculum. The call was to dismantle the dominant presence of Eurocentric thought in the curriculum. The implications of such a call to decolonise the curriculum in higher education, implicates the academics who teach the curriculum. The call is for them to reconsider what they teach and how they teach (Grant, Quinn & Vorster, 2018). The rationale for this study was to conceptualise academics understanding of decolonising higher education curriculum and the extent to which they embrace or reject the call to decolonise higher education curriculum in South Africa. Thematic analysis was used to analyse the data from the 8 academics interviewed.The views of Burr’s (2015) social constructionism framework provide this study with a rich contextual meaning to the perceptions and attitudes of education academics on decolonising the curriculum in higher education. A case study methodology was used in this study, in a South African higher education institution’s School of Education in the KwaZulu-Natal area, where academics from various clusters and disciplines were participants. The targeted higher education institution was selected using purposive sampling. The sample consisted of multiracial, multicultural and bilingual academics who were interviewed using semi structured interviews. The study found that academics’ concept of a decolonised curriculum was to dismantle epistemic violence by challenging Eurocentric thought and recentring African epistemologies. Also, the study found that the confusion in defining what decolonisation entails has demotivated academics from heeding the call in their own pedagogical practices because of the misconceptions of what a decolonised curriculum would entail. The study concludes with suggestions for further research and recommendations in order to successfully drive the call for a decolonised and transformed higher education.