Monday, September 20, 2021
HomeOpinionEthiopia: The 'Colonization of Mind' (Taye Negussie -PhD)

Ethiopia: The ‘Colonization of Mind’ (Taye Negussie -PhD)

Power-knowledge interplay

As a matter of fact, the hegemonic status of the Western behavioral education system, more particularly Western science, has further been bolstered by a well-orchestrated ideology of scientific ‘objectivity’, ‘neutrality’ and ‘universalism’.

In this regard, a prominent French scholar Michael Foucault in a number of his writings asserts the strong interconnectedness between power and knowledge. He argues that the validity of knowledge does not utterly rest upon its truthfulness but is produced and maintained in circulation through the work of a number of different institutions and practices geared to protect and promote the interests of the power that be.

Foucault provides an analysis of how the European expansion and colonization of a huge part of the world aided to impose their system of knowledge on the colonized countries which they proposed as global ‘objective’ systems of knowledge, but which were, in fact, formulated from a Western perspective with Western interests at their core. This imposition of knowledge took place through excluding other, equally valid forms of knowledge which were perhaps more relevant to the context of the developing countries.

Thus, he disputes out right the widely held view that characterizes the paradigm of Western science as objective, dispassionate and reflective of universal truth. Moreover, history affirms the fact that the Western science itself, far from being simply a neutral, culturally-unbounded and universally valid system of knowledge, it is indeed a uniquely Western cultural construct and historical phenomenon that emerged within the context of the radical economic and socio-cultural transformation that overwhelmed Europe since the 16th century.

Pierre Bourdieu, one of the few most influential sociologist and educationalist of the 20th century, also suggests educational institutions disseminate certain forms of knowledge through which people can be controlled. They disseminate ‘legitimate knowledge’, the knowledge of the hegemonic power, under the illusion of universal knowledge belonging to everyone.

Michael Apple, in his book, Ideology and Curriculum, argues a hegemonic knowledge saturates our consciousness so that every reality we see and interact with seems to be the only one. He is referring here to those organized assemblage of meanings, doctrines and assumptions formally or informally transmitted in educational institutions. It is through hegemonic knowledge that the control over people and resources become smooth. Accordingly, educational institutions become agents of cultural and ideological hegemony that mainly promote the varied interests of the hegemonic power.

Thus, it must be clear that our conventional education system modeled after the West and which we often take-for-granted and leave unexamined could indeed well be a subtle tool that effectively puts us in a tricky state of intellectual subjugation and spiritual enslavement.

Admittedly, some die-hard advocates of Western system may argue that in this time of globalized world the sole route to compete and survive is by virtue of being ‘westernized’; but, the success story of East Asians well informs us that it is indeed quite possible to beat and win in the global arena without necessarily being ‘westernized’.

Taye Negussie (PhD) is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Addis Ababa University. He can be reached at: tayesosa@yahoo.com

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