Decolonial Strategies and Pedagogical/Curricular Possibilities

  • Michalinos Zembylas
  • André Keet
Part of the Contemporary Philosophies and Theories in Education book series (COPT, volume 13)


This chapter argues that a decolonising approach in HRE needs to examine human rights issues through a critical lens that interrogates the Eurocentric grounding of human rights universals and advances the project of re-contextualising human rights in the historical horizon of modernity/coloniality. This alternative configuration of HRE as ‘critical’ and ‘transformative’ offers pedagogical and curricular possibilities that go beyond conventional forms of HRE and create openings for pedagogical praxis along social justice lines. The quest to create these openings and possibilities is a fundamental element for decolonising the theory and pedagogical practices of human rights. It is argued that the move to create spaces for decolonising pedagogy and curriculum in HRE can take HRE theory and practice to a less Eurocentric outlook and thus a more multiperspectival and pluriversal understanding of human rights—one that recognises the histories of coloniality, the entanglements with human rights and the consequences for social justice projects.


  1. Acuña, R. (2013). Critical human rights and liberal legality: Struggling for ‘the rights to have communal rights’. Philosophy Study, 3(2), 246–261.Google Scholar
  2. Albrecht-Crane, C. (2005). Pedagogy as friendship: Identity and affect in the conservative classroom. Cultural Studies, 19(4), 491–514.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Al-Daraweesh, F., & Snauwaert, D. (2013). Toward a hermeneutical theory of international human rights education. Educational Theory, 63(4), 389–411.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Amsler, S. (2011). From ‘therapeutic’ to political education: The centrality of affective sensibility in critical pedagogy. Critical Studies in Education, 52(1), 47–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Athanasiou, A., Hantzaroula, P., & Yannakopoulos, K. (2008). Towards a new epistemology: The ‘affective turn’. Historein, 8, 5–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bajaj, M., Cislaghi, B., & Mackie, G. (2016). Advancing transformative human rights education: Appendix D to the report of the global citizenship commission. Cambridge, UK: Open Book Publishers.Google Scholar
  7. Barreto, J.-M. (2012). Decolonial strategies and dialogue in the human rights field: A manifesto. Transnational Legal Theory, 3(1), 1–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Baxi, U. (2007). Human rights in a posthuman world. New Delhi, India: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Bhabha, H. (1999). The postcolonial and the postmodern: The question of agency. In S. During (Ed.), The cultural studies reader (pp. 189–208). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  10. Braidotti, R. (2013). The posthuman. Cambridge, UK: Polity.Google Scholar
  11. Brayboy, B. M. J. (2006). Toward a tribal critical race theory in education. The Urban Review, 37(5), 425–446.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Broeck, S. (2013). The legacy of slavery: White humanities and its subject. In J. M. Barreto (Ed.), Human rights from a third world perspective: Critique, history and international law (pp. 102–116). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.Google Scholar
  13. Brown, W. (2004). “The most we can hope for”: Human rights and the politics of fatalism. The South Atlantic Quarterly, 103(2/3), 451–463.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Chakrabarty, D. (2000). Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial thought and historical difference. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Coysh, J. (2014). The dominant discourse of human rights education: A critique. Journal of Human Rights Practice, 6(1), 89–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Donnelly, J. (2003). Universal human rights in theory and practice (2nd ed.). Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Douzinas, C. (2000). The end of human rights: Critical legal thought at the turn of the century. Oxford, UK: Hart Publishing.Google Scholar
  18. Gilroy, P. (2010). Darker than blue: On the moral economies of black Atlantic culture. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Gonçalves, G. L., & Costa, S. (2016). The global constitutionalization of human rights: Overcoming contemporary injustices of justifying old asymmetries? Current Sociology Monograph, 64(2), 311–331.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gorski, P. (2008). Good intentions are not enough: A decolonising intercultural education. Intercultural Education, 19(6), 515–525.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Grande, S. (2004). Red pedagogy: Native American social and political thought. Boulder, CO: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar
  22. Jansen, J. (2009). Knowledge in the blood: Confronting race and the apartheid past. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Keet, A. (2010). Human rights education: A conceptual analysis. Saarbrücken, Germany: Lambert Academic Publishing.Google Scholar
  24. Khoja-Moolji, S. (2017). The making of humans and their others in and through transnational human rights advocacy: Exploring the cases of Mukhtar Mai and Malala Yousafzai. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 42(2), 377–402.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Mignolo, W. (2000). The many faces of cosmo-polis: Border thinking and critical cosmopolitanism. Public Culture, 12(3), 721–748.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Mignolo, W. (2003). Philosophy and the colonial difference. In E. Mendieta (Ed.), Latin American philosophy (pp. 80–88). Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Mignolo, W. (2006). Citizenship, knowledges, and the limits of humanity. American Literary History, 18(2), 312–331.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Mignolo, W. (2009). Who speaks for the ‘human’ in human rights? Human rights in Latin American and Iberian cultures. Hispanic Issues, 5(1), 7–24.Google Scholar
  29. Mignolo, W. (2011). The darker side of Western modernity: Global futures, decolonial options. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Mignolo, W. (2015). Sylvia Wynter: What does it mean to be human? In K. McKittrick (Ed.), Sylvia Wynter: On being human as praxis (pp. 106–123). Durham, NC: Duke University Press Books.Google Scholar
  31. Mutua, M. (2002). Human rights: A political and cultural critique. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.Google Scholar
  32. Osler, A. (2015). Human rights education, postcolonial scholarship, and action for social justice. Theory & Research in Social Education, 43, 244–274.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Santos, B. (2013). Human rights: A fragile hegemony. In F. Crèpeau & C. Sheppard (Eds.), Human rights in diverse societies: Challenges and possibilities (pp. 17–25). Newcastle, UK: Cambridge Scholars.Google Scholar
  34. Sen, A. (2009). The idea of justice. London: Penguin Books.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Smith, L. (1999). Decolonising methodologies: Research and indigenous peoples. London: Zed Books.Google Scholar
  36. Spivak, G. (2004). Righting wrongs. The South Atlantic Quarterly, 103(2/3), 523–581.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Subedi, B. (2013). Decolonising the curriculum from global perspectives. Educational Theory, 63(6), 621–638.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Tejeda, C., Espinoza, M., & Gutierrez, K. (2003). Toward a decolonising pedagogy: Social justice reconsidered. In P. Trifonas (Ed.), Pedagogies of difference: Rethinking education for social justice (pp. 10–40). New York: RoutledgeFalmer.Google Scholar
  39. Tejeda, C., & Gutierrez, K. (2005). Fighting the backlash: Decolonising perspectives and pedagogies in neo-colonial times. In P. Pedraza & M. Rivera (Eds.), Latino education: An agenda for community action (pp. 261–294). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  40. Tuck, E., & Yang, K. W. (2012). Decolonisation is not a metaphor. Decolonisation: Indigeneity, Education & Society, 1(1), 1–40.Google Scholar
  41. Worsham, L. (2001). Going postal: Pedagogic violence and the schooling of emotion. In H. Giroux & K. Myrisides (Eds.), Beyond the corporate university (pp. 229–265). New York: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar
  42. Wynter, S. (2003). Unsettling the coloniality of being/power/truth/freedom: Towards the human, after man, its overrepresentation—An argument. CR: The New Centennial Review, 3(3), 257–337.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Yang, K. W. (2015). Afterword: Will human rights education be decolonising? In S. R. Katz & A. McEvoy Spero (Eds.), Bringing human rights education to US classrooms: Exemplary models from elementary grades to university (pp. 225–235). New York: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  44. Yeğenoğlu, M. (1998). Colonial fantasies: Towards a feminist reading of orientalism. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Yoon, K. H. (2005). Affecting the transformative intellectual: Questioning “noble” sentiments in critical pedagogy and composition. JAC: A Journal of Rhetoric, Culture & Politics, 25(4), 717–759.Google Scholar
  46. Zembylas, M. (2013a). Critical pedagogy and emotion: Working through troubled knowledge in posttraumatic societies. Critical Studies in Education, 54(2), 176–189.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Zembylas, M. (2013b). The ‘crisis of pity’ and the radicalization of solidarity: Towards critical pedagogies of compassion. Educational Studies: A Journal of the American Educational Studies Association, 49, 504–521.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Zembylas, M. (2014). Theorizing ‘difficult knowledge’ in the aftermath of the ‘affective turn’: Implications for curriculum and pedagogy in handling traumatic representations. Curriculum Inquiry, 44(3), 390–412.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Zembylas, M. (2016). Toward a critical-sentimental orientation in human rights education. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 48(11), 1151–1167.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Zembylas, M., & Bozalek, V. (2014). A critical engagement with the social and political consequences of human rights: The contribution of the affective turn and posthumanism. Acta Academica, 46(4), 30–48.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michalinos Zembylas
    • 1
  • André Keet
    • 2
  1. 1.Open University of CyprusLatsiaCyprus
  2. 2.Nelson Mandela UniversityPort ElizabethSouth Africa

Personalised recommendations