School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London: curriculum overload by western philosophers?

Bildungsmedienfroschung, Educational media research, SOAS
SOAS (© see sources)

The “School of Oriental and African Studies” (SOAS), associated with the University of London, was recommended to reconsider the choice of ancient to modern philosophers for its courses since the majority of them mainly comes from the European society. The advisers: the students of SOAS.
They criticize the lacking presence of eastern ideas and considerable personalities. “On my course in political theory, we discussed 26 thinkers. Just two were non-European – Frantz Fanon and Gandhi.”, Neelam Chhara, a student at SOAS, said.

This issue was picked up by the international media and commented as being a conflict about racism. In fact, the claim of the students is to “decolonize” the minds from western philosophers. Their intention is to contribute to a diverse curriculum and make room for an Enlightment, enriched by eastern lessons. Considering that philosophers as John Locke, Immanuel Kant and Martin Heidegger are also known for being either shareholder in a slaving company, believing that “Humanity is at its greatest perfection in the race of the whites”, or being a supporter of antisemitic views shows that they are not perfectly credible.

Kwame Anthony Appiah, professor for philosophy and law at the New York University, summarizes the controversy as follows: The key question for him is not “Is the curriculum sufficiently diverse?” but “Is any particular thinker worth studying?”.

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Photo credit: The School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London by Alun Salt / CC BY-SA 2.0
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