Decolonial Pedagogy in STS

“It is not possible for the ethical subject to live without being permanently exposed to the risk of even the ethics of transgression. One of the biggest difficulties about this ethical grounding is that we have to do everything in our power to sustain a universal human ethic without at the same time falling into a hypocritical moralism. Simultaneously, it is part of our struggle for such an ethic to refuse, with dignity, the defense of a human ethic that is quite obviously only a mask for pharisaical moralism.”


“History is time filled with possibility and not inexorably determined – and the future is problematic and not already decided, fatalistically”


“Critical reflection on practice is a requirement of the relationship between theory and practice. Otherwise theory becomes simply “blah, blah, blah,” and practice, pure activism”


Quotes by Paolo Freire from Pedagogy of Freedom


This session proposes the discussion of what it means to engage in decolonial pedagogy, and the resonance of such pedagogy with the teaching of STS topics. One of the aims of decolonial pedagogy is to increase student autonomy in the process of learning – a process that is not about conditioning the mind to think a particular way but to prepare the mind to reflect on the epistemic choices available and not merely become adept in reproducing institutionally-sanctioned status-quo. It also means freeing the imposition of inflexible categories and dominant forms of understanding (i.e. expediency and short-term bankability of that knowledge) while questioning technological determinism and the criteria by which epistemic standards are determined.


Decolonial pedagogy also questions the notion of educational bankability, a problem first raised by education-activist and philosopher Paolo Freire, that presumes the idea that education is merely a preparation for furthering the goals of capitalistic exploitation and the corporate order; an education that fragments knowledge and distances the learner from an ability to form intellectually reflexive judgments. Decolonial pedagogy sees learning coming from the self and from one’s community, using one’s natural tools of curiosity to research knowledge from the ground up, instead of mimicking the requirements of an alien system and one that emphasizes mere rule-following.


The question of decoloniality increases in relevance when considered from the viewpoint of teaching STS, with its own political, cultural, and ideological value-ladenness, in societies still attempting to make sense of its intellectual legacies, and in reconciling what appear to be disjunctive epistemic systems.


The questions proposed for this session, though they are not exhaustive by any means, are:

  1. How does one create a syllabus in STS that is sensitive to the diverse backgrounds of a class without exoticizing, marginalizing, discriminating or privileging a way of thinking about science and technology in the broadest possible term?
  2. How does one encourage learner-based intervention and break down the barriers of entry especially in dealing with seemingly “technical” topics in STS, itself a form of culturally-induced barrier that shuts down conversation?
  3. How does one reconcile the neoliberal university’s obsession with “SMART” learning through the rhetoric of student-centered learning but is potentially another form of blackboxing knowledge access while dictating the process of learning, and produce further inequalities among learners, especially in the associated costs (financial and otherwise) passed on to the learners?
  4. How do you bring in the question of STS in relation to decolonizing approach, and how can that approach look like?
  5. Is disruptive edtech compatible with a decolonial pedagogy? See (

One Response to Decolonial Pedagogy in STS

  1. Great topic. Decolonizing either metaphorically, as in the way large corporations continue to colonize our daily lives, or literally, as in the colonial legacies still impacting us, does indeed require the synthesis of theory and practice you quote from Freire. But the hot spots for that intersection are mostly limited to the relatively small “social construction of ignorance” literature: how the pseudoscience showing the safety of pesticides, the racist myth of white superiority, the security of nuclear technology, etc. was promoted. STS more generally offers too little for distinctions between science and pseudoscience; let alone a positive vision for counter-hegemonic science. A decolonizing approach needs to take that issue head-on; re-imagining what STS could be, and refusing to be ghettoized to a paltry corner of “relevant examples”.

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