In the midst of the Israel-Hamas conflict, calls for “decolonization” have increased significantly.
In summary, the philosophy and academic topic of “decolonization” is the rejection of nearly any and all holdovers from colonial powers, like the British Empire. Rejection of these “holdovers” can include everything from a rejection of European formal wear in favor of more culture-specific traditional attire to a rejection of the scientific method in favor of “indigenous ways of knowing.”
In the latter lies serious dangers, such as depriving non-European people of the miracles of Western medicine and the advantages of public infrastructure—all in the name of “decolonization.” This concern is not simply an example in the extreme. I personally witnessed such argumentation at Mount Sinai Medical School earlier this year, where a discussion host with Mount Sinai’s Center for Anti-Racism in Practice (CAP) advocated for people to stop traveling to places like Hawaii—despite knowing that a loss of tourism would undoubtedly devastate those economies.
Still, in the midst of mass anti-Semitism and the ongoing promotion of an ideology that hurts those it purports to help, we actually may have some good news: scholarly fascination with “decolonization” as a research topic appears to be on the decline—and a steep decline at that.
I spent the evening of Halloween scraping Google Scholar for “decolonization” related literature, using a dictionary that included terms such as “Christonormativity,” “Eurocentrism,” “Reindiginization,” and more common terms such as “settler-colonialism,” “post-colonialism,” and “whiteness.” This process netted 2,124 distinct academic articles or books within Google Scholar, and repeated samplings of the titles revealed no false positives—at least none immediately obvious.
The trend line of these articles’ publication years tells quite the story: the earliest files originated in the mid-1960s—no surprise there, considering that’s when the radicals began to enter into the universities—with notable rises throughout the 1980s and 1990s. From 2003 onward, there was a rapid rise of decolonization-related literature (possibly in response to America’s global war on terrorism, though this hypothesis remains untested) and that rise continued—albeit much slower, until 2020.
After 2020, however, it appears as though scholarly interest in publishing on “decolonization” began to decline steadily up to the present day.
The above image does not do this decline justice, however. If we zoom out to observe the past 20 years (2003-2023), the decline is clearly much steeper post-2020 than the image above would initially lead you to believe. It seems that we have almost returned to 2003 publication rates, as the next graph shows:
Still, I was concerned that my several small scans on particular keywords pulled too heavily from the post-2000 era, ultimately creating bias in the data set and making it appear as though “decolonization” related literature had increased more rapidly post-2003 than it actually had. To try and falsify my findings, I ran one large scan of Google Scholar with only a single keyword: “decolonization,” and set no time constraints. This process ultimately netted 974 distinct articles—a sample size that is 45% of the original, potentially biased dataset.
The results from that single large scan are quite clear and mostly matched the trend line derived from the several small scans. More importantly, it shows just how dramatic the decline of decolonization-related literature has been since 2020.
This is seemingly good news, but I am hesitant to say that the tide has truly turned. For example, it is entirely possible that those who were writing about “decolonization” moved on to write about more recent fads such as “racial justice” after the Black Lives Matter riots in 2020, or other topics such as transgenderism, and have simply not yet returned to their old field.
Then again, even if the decline has truly occurred for all the reasons that we hope, it does not mean that this genocidal philosophy of “decolonization” will not continue to be taught through previously published material, nor that it will not continue to infect the minds of students.
This steep decline is an encouraging sign, but know that there is still a war to be won.
Author’s Note: All data and R code used to make the images above are freely available to the public on the association’s GitHub account.
Photo by lobro — Adobe Stock — Asset ID#: 429233349