Doing Decolonizing 

red sign that erads 'decolonize this place'

Business schools and universities across the world are being swept up by a diversified array of decolonizing movements in response to the successful recolonization championed by the neoliberal university since the 1970s. In theory, these movements aim to undo colonial structural, racial and epistemic violences we continue to experience everywhere. There was a brief lull following the political independence of colonies in a post-WWII era of decolonization. But the five-century-long everyday struggle of the colonized has now connected with the freedom and rehumanizing movements of the mid-twentieth century. Decolonizing is resurging in the popular imagination, transforming not just society, business and politics, but also the neoliberal, capitalist academia. As Achille Mbembe, the noted de/anticolonial historian and thinker says, “decolonizing is back on the agenda worldwide.”  Whether you are a professional, school administrator, scholar or student—and whatever your gender, race, ethnicity or identity—you cannot afford to disengage from decolonizing. Such decolonizing is a multifaceted response to the every day, internalized colonizing of living. 

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Colonizing embodies a multidimensional matrix of power that underpins intellectual, military, political, economic and material practices that consolidate and synergistically oppress, racialize, and silence the native, the other, the black, the woman, the transgender, the indigenous—who nevertheless mobilize diverse ways of decolonizing. As these oppressed groups stand up to reclaim their humanness, a growing community of academics (chiefly from the Global South) are working to develop decolonial scholarship and initiatives that both decolonize and recolonize. 

In our special issue, “Decolonizing Management and Organizational Knowledge,” published in Organization we explore the practice of decolonizing in management and organization. The articles within the special issue provide a range of experiences that can inform managers and academics about how they might decolonize. Here, we fundamentally value ‘the doing of decolonizing,’ challenging the notion of decolonizing as a theoretical project. A notion that is at once subject to Eurocentric domination yet challenges it. Reducing decolonizing to a theoretical project embodies a growing diversity of critiques of Eurocentrism which remain Eurocentric even as they appropriate, contain and thereby recolonize, decolonial ways of knowing/living/being/managing from below. Instead, we propose reclaiming decolonizing as a radical praxis of ‘(un)doing academia’ that transforms us and the ways we understand and practice management, do research, and how we produce and spread management knowledge. 

The authors, clockwise from top left: Nimruji Jammulamadaka, Alex Faria, Shaun Ruggunan and Gavin Jack

In our editorial “Decolonizing management and organisational knowledge (MOK): Praxistical theorising for potential worlds” in the journal Organization, we provide some answers to practitioners as well as fellow academics who grapple with the question “what do I/we need to do to decolonize?” We challenge the theoretical attitude towards decolonizing to urge our colleagues everywhere to embark on decolonizing. We propose decolonizing movements that move beyond enhancing classroom diversity, tearing down statues, renaming schools and broadening/diversifying/coloring curricula, including: 

  • There is no magic bullet, or a decolonizing quick fix, packaged as a “best practice” from the South or from ‘the natives/blacks’ that works in all situations. 
  • Decolonizing is a process, a practice that is discovered and realized in its doing, and not necessarily commanded by capitalist universities and business schools. 
  • Diversifying editorial boards and reworking the editorial review process so that the full spectrum of appropriated ideas and voices may–at least partially–be voiced, heard and read. 
  • Critiquing theory, while necessary, is not sufficient for undoing colonizing eurocentrism in management.
  • We suggest that decolonizing-recolonizing requires us to transcend the hierarchical binary split between theory and praxis we internalize (as it privileges white theory and knowledge makers), to the very production of knowledge and its characterization as knowledge. 
  • Decolonizing is not the ‘after’ of colonizing. Instead, de- and re-colonizing happen concurrently through the active mediation of de/colonized scholars like ourselves. 
  • We advocate for non-color/racial-blinded relational reflexivity where an embodied person is not only aware of the immediate task to be performed in the instant situation, but also appreciative of the historical reasons and moment in which the particular task is being performed in the particular way and the violences it encapsulates and embodies, and therefore the liberatory potential incipient in the moment. 
  • Relational reflexivity driven by a commitment to life and caring will unveil to the doers the immediate praxis they need to engage in to foster decolonizing. 

This special issue of Organization brings forth an interesting collection of articles. The paper on Governance of Marwari capital, for example, offers the intermeshing of religious, economic and social aspects of living as a mode of governing indigenous capital through unlimited liability. “Fahlawa” as a research practice advocates for developing an embodied practice towards research as a way of decolonizing management research. Braiding together student and supervisor aspirations suggests developing a mindset of co-existence where unique and diverse attitudes and beliefs of research work side by side to create a beautiful braid. From ‘sick nation’ to ‘superpower’ and The enemy within emphasize the presence of the de- and recolonizing tendencies within the colonized societies itself in their form of nation-states, elites and their practices and aspirations. The issue also shines light on how everyday decolonizing occurs within the cracks of recolonizing management in the pretensions and facades cultivated and practiced in workplaces such as “For the English to See”. These articles provide a range of experiences that can inform managers and academics about how they might decolonize. 

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Nimruji Jammulamadaka, Alex Faria, Gavin Jack, Shaun   Ruggunan

Nimruji Jammulamadaka (pictured) is a professor of organization behavior at the Indian Institute of Management Calcutta. Alexandre Faria is a professor of business administration at FGV EBAPE. Gavin Jack is a professor in the Department of Management at Monash University. Shaun Ruggunan is an associate professor of human resource management at the University of Kwazulu-Natal.

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