Politicising Academia: The Bipolarity Between ‘Us’ and ‘Them’

Mohammed Khan


Politicising Academia: The Bipolarity Between ‘Us’ and ‘Them’

Why must we compare the Arabic term dawla (dynasty), which denotes a notion of temporality, to Machiavelli’s Fortuna? Does the West have a final say on knowledge produced by the ‘Other’? A major issue within the study of political philosophy—and the humanities and social sciences in general—is the existence of Orientalism. Western scholarship studies the ‘Other’ through the lens of Western epistemic frames. The ‘Other’—or the Orient—is deemed as being inferior, namely, the Orient does not produce knowledge, and the West is deemed as the producer of knowledge. The West perceives the ‘Other’ as the subject of study; the ideas and philosophies from other cultures and traditions are considered to not be worthy of being the subject-matter on their own. The ‘Other’ is merely presented as the object of study.

I posit that it is incumbent upon Universities to challenge the politicisation of academia by focussing on the inclusivity and diversity of thinkers and academics from other cultures. One must acknowledge that knowledge was not merely produced within the West. I utilise the epistemologies of Alatas and Said to comprehend the existence of Orientalism within the study of Islamic political thought. I appraise the existence of Orientalism in the study of various Muslim political theorists, for instance Al-Ghazālī and Ibn Khaldūn. Finally, I draw on Kuhn’s notion of paradigmatic shifts to argue that Universities should undergo a revolution to (i) decolonise the curriculum, as Orientalism today could be perceived as an attempt to prolong Western epistemic hegemony, and (ii) I will demonstrate the importance of depoliticising the curriculum by challenging the so-called ‘us’ and ‘them’ dichotomy, which could effectively counteract Orientalism within academia, leading to a healthy curriculum.

Key words
Colonialism; Orientalism; Subject/Object Dichotomy; Islamic Political Philosophy