Colonial Knowledge in a Decolonial Age

Colonial Knowledge in a Decolonial Age

Alexandra Przyrembel (FernUniversität in Hagen); Jakob Vogel (Centre Marc Bloch)
Centre Marc Bloch and Campus Berlin; FernUniversität Hagen
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19.04.2023 - 21.04.2023
Lisa Weber, Lehrgebiet Geschichte der Europäischen Moderne, FernUniversität in Hagen

Knowledge and power are inextricably linked. The production of knowledge was a central aspect of colonialism, as the construction of colonial power was closely accompanied by institutions, organizations, explorers and researchers that gathered, interpreted and subsequently spread knowledge that they accumulated in the colonies.

Colonial Knowledge in a Decolonial Age

Colonisers often used this knowledge to legitimize their actions, manifest their power, as well as to dominate, control and command colonised subjects.

Many aspects of the production of colonial knowledge have been widely researched and discussed within historical studies, but there are some research gaps that this conference wants to acknowledge and address. While many recent publications on the production of colonial knowledge focused on the early modern period and the height of imperialism in the 19th century, the 20th century, especially the time after 1918, has been less studied. Taking a closer look at the 20th century as an era of decolonization and as a time in which a new global world order was established, however, offers new insights for studying the production of colonial knowledge and raises questions that participants of the conference are invited to discuss. Some of these questions are: How did the colonial knowledge order of the early imperialist period evolve in the 20th century and in how far did the “scientisation of the social” (Verwissenschaftlichung des Sozialen, L. Raphael) also include the colonial sphere? In which ways did decolonization affect the global knowledge order, especially as colonies became testing grounds for experiments that scientists could not realize in the imperial motherlands (e.g. in the field of medicine, nuclear technology etc.)? And what role played certain “colonial knowledge objects” in the process of self-emancipation and decolonisation of the global knowledge order?

The conference aims to analyse and discuss the evolution of colonial knowledge in the 20th century within a global framework and wants to ask in how far an analysis of a (de)colonised knowledge order can be fruitful for understanding both colonial and postcolonial global histories. In this sense, hierarchical binaries in historiography still prevalent today (e.g. “western knowledge” vs. “indigenous knowledge”) must be questioned in order to do justice to the complex and multi-layered nature of colonial knowledge in the 20th century. In this respect, it is the aim of the conference to challenge established master narratives (such as the modernization theory) and to open up the discussion for a more complex understanding of colonial knowledge in a decolonized world.


Public lecture on 19 April 2023, 6:00 p.m. at the Campus Berlin of the FernUniversität as part of the workshop Colonial Knowledge in a Decolonial Age


Prof. Dr. Kapil Raj (EHESS Paris), Decolonizing Modern Science. The West and the Narrative of the "Scientific Revolution" (lecture in English)

Prof. Dr. Anne Kwaschik (University of Konstanz)

The lecture will be streamed via Zoom:

If you would like to attend the event in person, please register briefly at

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