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Students at SOAS call for white philosophers to be removed from the curriculum

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Students at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) have asked that the philosophers studied be non-white, so as to give the curriculum a more meaningful and “decolonised” theme.

SOAS students are looking to alter the curriculum and move away from a focus on white European philosophers who offer Eurocentric and decentralised insights.

Dr. Deborah Johnston, spokesperson for SOAS, states that one of the institutions greatest strengths is “that we have always looked at world issues from the perspective of regions we study – Asia, Africa & Middle East.”

However it has been pointed out that while white philosophers could be stopped from being used for instructional means, they have been included for contrast and comparative purposes.

Dr Deborah Gabriel, the founder of Black British Academics, states: “I do not believe [decolonising] necessitates removing white scholars because not all white scholars espouse ideas that are narrow in context, a lot of them do engage in anti-racist teaching.”

The influences of European philosophers such as Aristotle, Plato and Socrates are difficult to avoid, as they are arguably crucially important to philosophical thought as it exists today.

The vice-chancellor of Buckingham University also spoke on the issue:

“There is a real danger political correctness is getting out of control. We need to understand the world as it was and not rewrite history as some might like it to have been,” he said.

The idea behind the movement is to study specific regions using the work of philosophers’ specific to the area, however the argument remains that disregarding white philosophers altogether may leave the students with incomplete histories.

SOAS is now faced with a decision as to whether to do away with white philosophers on the curriculum as a whole, or to reduce their inclusion.

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