Students at one of Europe’s top universities are calling for philosophers such as Plato, Descartes, Immanuel Kant and Bertrand Russell (pictured) to be dropped from the curriculum because they are white.
The student union at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London is demanding that when studying philosophy “the majority of philosophers on our courses” should be from Africa and Asia as opposed to being white, Western thinkers.
The students claim this is part of a strategy to “decolonise” the college, which they regard as a “white institution”.
SOAS, which is a constituent college of the University of London, was founded in 1916 and is regarded as the world’s leading institution for the study of Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
But in a list of educational priorities entitled “Decolonising SOAS: Confronting The White Institution”, the union’s statement of “educational priorities” states its aim to “Create an inclusive learning and teaching environment by defining what these terms mean and address the white curriculum by undertaking a full scale audit of every course reading list.”
It goes on to say that white philosophers should be studied only “if required”, – and even in those circumstances their work should be taught only from “a critical standpoint”.
It states: “If white philosophers are required, then [it should be a priority] to teach their work from a critical standpoint. For example, acknowledging the colonial context in which so called “Enlightenment” philosophers wrote within.”
The move is being pushed by democracy and education union officer Ali Habib, who is on SOAS’s governing board of trustees.
Mr Habib also listed widening the scope of scholarships for refugees as an educational priority.