Burn It Down: The Incommensurability of the University and Decolonization

Authors: , ,


As students and a professor in, but not of, an American liberal arts college, we ask whether our current institutions of higher education are compatible with a project of decolonization. Grounded in our own testimonios and drawing on a genealogy of Western knowledge, we argue that U.S. higher education authorizes and perpetrates settler colonial violence. Furthermore, based on our experiences surviving this violence, we conclude that the Universitas adapts to inhibit and neutralize institutional reform that might challenge its coloniality. As such, we find that higher education is not only incompatible, but irredeemably incommensurable with decolonization. In being incommensurable, we ask ourselves whether we should transform higher education or burn it down and start anew? We argue that we do need to burn it down, and we look to how individuals within the institution already work towards the development of a new social structure, one that will outlast and supplant higher education. We identify three constructive and transformative techniques currently used for this purpose: empowerment, survival, and conversion. These techniques are a combination of stances towards, relationships to, and practices within, the institution that build collective futurities no longer dependent upon higher education.

Keywords: Violence, Higher Education, University, sovereignty, Decolonization

How to Cite: Mayorga, E. , Leidecker, L. & Orr de Gutierrez, D. (2019) “Burn It Down: The Incommensurability of the University and Decolonization”, Journal of Critical Thought and Praxis. 8(1).