1 Jul 2011

Memorandum to UNESCO

Author: hashcookies | Filed under: Multiversity


from the participants of the International Conference on “Decolonising Our Universities”, Paradise Sandy Beach Resort, Tanjung Bungah, Penang, Malaysia from June 27-29, 2011

The Director General of UNESCO may be pleased to consider this communication:

The conference participants who came from 20 countries of the world, and a range of academic disciplines and professional fields, held discussions on the state of social science including the history and philosophy of science in the world. They also reviewed the content of the World Social Science Report (WSSR) published by ISSC and UNESCO in 2010.

The participants urge UNESCO to recognise the diversity of definitions of social science, and the unique role given by the world community to UNESCO to promote diversity in understandings and methods of social science, across all countries of the world. They agree that social science is not a product of the European enlightenment, but something seen much earlier in traditions around the world. Although the WSSR is an important document, it is still largely written from a Eurocentric perspective and methodology, as the 2010 version shows.

The WSSR identified the following eight divides in global capacity in social sciences:

  • a geographical divide
  • a capacity divide
  • the unequal degree of internationalization of knowledge production
  • the divide between disciplines
  • the divide between mainstream research and alternative approaches
  • the competition resulting from new managerial practices
  • the sometimes tense relations between academics and society and between academics and policy-makers.

In addition to these, the participants would add several other divides that may also have contributed to the perceived knowledge gap. These include:

  • Lack of recognition for academic research not conducted in European languages;
  • A need for a more appropriate and diverse form of citation index;
  • Low recognition of non-European authors and institutions;
  • Differences in fundamental paradigms of thought and concepts of what is social science;
  • Need for greater South-South collaboration and exchange programs.

Social science should be a human-centered whereas at present it is state or capital-centered. Humankind is accepted only as a factor of production. This focus must change.

The participants call for UNESCO to work with willing partners to hold forums to explore what is knowledge, the diversity of methodological approaches that constitute social sciences. They endorse the regional action plans for teaching of philosophy, and suggest that it would be timely to hold a high level meeting on the teaching of social sciences. Such activities can enrich the new flagships of UNESCO programmes in social and human sciences (SHS) such as social inclusion, ethics and sustainable development, culture of peace, and social and ethical dimensions of climate change.

The participants will work together with UNESCO, including with the Regional Unit in Social and Human Sciences in Asia and the Pacific, on a variety of projects and activities that seek to further these goals.

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