7 Feb 2020 5:30pm - 7:30pm Room SG1, Alison Richard Building, Cambridge, CB3 9DT


In April 2015, the Cecil Rhodes statue was removed from the campus of Cape Town University as a result of the #RhodesMustFall campaign. As we enter the 2020s, the question of whether – or how – to decolonise the Academy is as relevant as ever. Are the main narratives and frameworks of our disciplines as objectively constructed as they should be? If so, why aren’t the female writers Enheduanna (23rd century BCE, the world’s first named writer) or Murasaki Shikibu (11th century, the world’s first novelist) as much part of our common knowledge as Cervantes?

In this presentation, Herbjørnsrud will build upon Hajime Nakamura’s A Comparative History of Ideas, Ngũgĩ wa Thiongo’s Decolonising the Mind, Arthur O Lovejoy’s ‘ideas are the most migratory things in the world’, and Annette Weiner’s ‘commitment to a global comparative perspective’. The aim is to go beyond ethnocentric and national narratives – as well as the ideas of ‘cultures’ and ‘civilisation’ – and move towards global epistemics.

The lecture will attempt to follow up on John Dunne’s ‘Why We Need a Global History of Thought and its description of a ‘growing intellectual deficiency’, in addition to J G A Pocock’s recent statement that the ‘beginnings of the ‘global’ critique are well known and may as well be accepted as common ground’, since our scholarship is ‘Eurocentric’ and this ‘calls for reformation’.

The visual presentation includes examples from the natural sciences, social sciences, and the humanities: from Maitreyi in the Upanishads via Zhuangzi, Al-Biruni, The Battle of Vienna, and Zera-Yacob of Ethiopia to Ida B Wells, Einstein and Satyendra Nath Bose. Herbjørnsrud will try to describe some academic challenges that stem from the legacy of what he calls ‘the five 500-year fails’.

Dag Herbjørnsrud is a farmer from the north. He is also a global historian of ideas, an editor of the forthcoming issue on ‘Decolonisng the Academy’ in the journal Cosmopolis (Brussels), and a founder of the Center for Global and Comparative History of Ideas (SGOKI). His journal article ‘Beyond decolonizing: global intellectual history and reconstruction of a comparative method’ (Global Intellectual History, 2019) argues for a method based on the notions of complexity (context), connection, and comparison. Herbjørnsrud has written on women thinkers from the global south (Aeon), the ancient philosophy of Egypt (the American Philosophical Society), and the 4,000 years of African literature (Sciences Humaines). His books include Global Knowledge (2016, not translated).

Attendance is free but spaces are limited, so please email to reserve your seat. Please be aware that we will take a recording of this event, which may include any questions and responses delivered by the audience.

Want to share this event? Download a poster here.

gloknos is initially funded for 5 years by the European Research Council through a Consolidator Grant awarded to Dr Inanna Hamati-Ataya for her project ARTEFACT (2017-2022). ARTEFACT is funded by the European Research Council under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Framework Programme for Research and Innovation (ERC grant agreement no. 724451). For information about gloknos or ARTEFACT please contact the administrator in the first instance.


28 October 2019

Prof Luis Lobo-Guerrero (University of Groningen) – Novelty and the Emergence of the Western Global in the Early Sixteenth Century

10 December 2019

Dr Amanda Rees (University of York) – The Future of History: From Cliodynamics to Degenerative Dystopia, via Science Fiction

7 February 2020

Dr Dag Herbjørnsrud (SGOKI, Oslo) – From Epistemicide to Global Knowledge: Reconstructing a Decolonised Academy

15 April 2020

Dr Sonja Brentjes (Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin) – Heavens and Earth: An Empirical Approach to Knowledge Across Cultures

15 May 2020

Prof Sarah de Rijcke (Universiteit Leiden) – Title TBC

15 June 2020

Prof Stéphane Van Damme (European University Institute) – Towards a Global History of Knowledge? Premises, Promises, Concerns

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