This is the first of a series of blog posts for thinking aloud about coloniality as it is being enacted through tech-based extractive business models and new forms of sovereignty. The title has triple resonances for me- calculating as in ‘working out or making sense of”, calculating as in cunning and calculating as in the numerical basis of new forms of digital society and digital education.
Digital colonialism and data colonialism are terms which have some currency at present. I have heard them used in the fields of education, sociology, computer science and elsewhere. They are sometimes used metaphorically and sometimes to refer to big US tech companies. I was intrigued when the prominent decolonial scholar Achille Mbembe commented that the world has become a data emporium, a vast field of data awaiting exploitation, of predatory extractive forces, which can be seen as part of ongoing histories of colonisation. This signals a confluence of thinking from different domains.
Strictly speaking colonialism refers to the sovereignty of one nation over another, literally of one territory over another. Yet the term is more than simply symbolic or metaphorical. The term coloniality strikes as more apt as Maldonado-Torres describes it: “long-standing patterns of power that emerged as a result of colonialism, but that define culture, labor, intersubjective relations, and knowledge production well beyond the strict limits of colonial administrations”.
It is the systems, practices and patterns of power that echo and repeat colonial forms of engagement. They have become the default terms of relationships and have become internalised, normal and indeed the default.
During the pandemic, which both critics and evangelists have described as a global educational experiment, I have been especially interested in how coloniality is playing in Higher Education. Thinking about this means considering how the characteristics of coloniality play out in society generally, given that, at present, Higher Education is a subset of these practices, rather than a challenge to them.
The key ongoing colonial characteristics which echo historically, and which are being re-enacted and reinscribed now are as follows.
That is the taster! I have loads of notes and examples (thank you Evernote), and writing the blog posts will make me concisely articulate what each of these characteristics or categories would look like, and how they should be refined.
The next post will be about profit making and market expansion.
I am a professor at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, interested in the digitally-mediated changes in society and specifically in higher education, largely through an inequality lens