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Bhambra, Gurminder K. "Postcolonial and Decolonial Reconstructions." Connected Sociologies.
London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2014. 117–140. Bloomsbury Collections. Web. 10 Dec. 2021.
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Copyright © Gurminder K. Bhambra 2014. Released under a CC BY-NC-ND licence (https://
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6
Postcolonial and Decolonial 
Reconstructions
Postcolonial and decolonial arguments have been explicit in their 
challenge to the insularity of historical narratives and historiographical 
traditions emanating from Europe. This has been particularly so in 
the context of demonstrating the parochial character of arguments 
about the endogenous European origins of modernity in favour of 
arguments that suggest the necessity of considering the emergence of 
the modern world in the broader histories of colonialism, empire and 
enslavement. As postcolonial and decolonial criticisms have become 
increasingly common, however, proponents of more orthodox views 
often make minor adjustments and suggest that this is all now very 
familiar and that, while the critique may once have had cogency, 
its force now is only in relation to positions that have already been 
superseded. In this way, the approaches discussed in the earlier 
chapters, such as multiple modernities, often seek to supplement, 
or marginally modify, existing approaches in terms of their future 
application, rather than to transform them. In contrast, my argument 
is that the postcolonial and decolonial critique has not properly been 
acknowledged, let alone superseded. Importantly, as I have argued 
in previous chapters, any transformation of understandings would 
require a reconstruction ‘backwards’ of our historical accounts of 
modernity, as well as ‘forwards’ in terms of constructing a sociology 
adequate for our global (postcolonial) age. In this chapter, I examine 
the traditions of postcolonialism and decolonial thinking and discuss 
how their radical potential in unsettling and reconstituting standard 
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118 
Connected Sociologies
processes of knowledge production might be drawn upon as part of a 
larger project for ‘connected sociologies’.
The traditions of thought associated with postcolonialism and 
decoloniality are long-standing and diverse. Postcolonialism emerged 
as a movement consolidating and developing around the ideas of 
Edward W. Said, Homi K. Bhabha and Gayatri C. Spivak and drawing 
inspiration from the political movements for decolonization and the 
related scholar-activists associated with and central to such struggles. 
While much work in the area of Postcolonial Studies has directly 
addressed issues of the material, of the socioeconomic, there has also 
been a tendency for it to remain firmly in the realm of the cultural. 
This is no accident, given its intellectual provenance in the humanities 
more generally and English Literature more specifically. In contrast, 
the coloniality/modernity school emerged from the work of, among 
others, the sociologists Aníbal Quijano and María Lugones, and the 
philosopher and semiotician, Walter D. Mignolo. It was strongly linked 
to world systems theory from the outset as well as to scholarly work in 
development and underdevelopment theory and the Frankfurt School 
critical social theory tradition. More recently, it has sought to draw 
upon a broader range of theorists and activists from more diverse 
locations and across a longer time period.
As well as a disciplinary difference, there is also a difference in 
geographical ‘origin’ and remit; that is, the geographical locations 
from where the scholars within the particular fields hail and the 
geographical focus of their studies. Postcolonialism emerged both 
as a consequence of the work of diasporic scholars from the Middle 
East and South Asia and, for the most part, refers back to those 
locations and their imperial interlocutors (Europe and the West/
North America). Decoloniality similarly emerged from the work of 
diasporic scholars from South America and, for the most part, refers 
back to those locations and their imperial interlocutors – again, 
primarily to Europe although addressing a much longer time frame. 
Whereas postcolonialism refers primarily to the nineteenth and 
twentieth centuries, decoloniality starts with the earlier European 
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