1st Edition

Decolonizing the Social Sciences and the Humanities An Anti-Elitism Manifesto

By Bernd Reiter Copyright 2022
    168 Pages 2 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    168 Pages 2 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    In Decolonizing the Social Sciences and the Humanities Bernd Reiter contributes to the ongoing efforts to decolonize the social sciences and humanities, by arguing that true decolonization implies a liberation from the elite culture that Western civilization has perpetually promoted.

    Reiter brings together lessons learned from field research on a Colombian indigenous society, a maroon society, also in Colombia, from Afro-Brazilian religion, from Spanish Anarchism, and from German Council democracy, and from analyzing non-Western ontologies and epistemologies in general. He claims that once these lessons are absorbed, it becomes clear that Western civilization has advanced individualization and elitism. The chapters present the case that human beings are able to rule themselves, and have done so for some 300,000 years, before the Neolithic Revolution. Self-rule and rule by councils is our default option once we rid ourselves of leaders and rulers. Reiter concludes by considering the massive manipulations and the heinous divisions that political elitism, dressed in the form of representative democracy, has brought us, and implores us to seek true freedom and democracy by liberating ourselves from political elites and taking on political responsibilities.

    Decolonizing the Social Sciences and the Humanities is written for students, scholars, and social justice activists across cultural anthropology, sociology, geography, Latin American Studies, Africana Studies, and political science.


    1. Decolonizing Epistemology: Fuzzy Logic

    2. Decolonizing Citizenship: Candomblé Nationhood

    3. Decolonizing Republicanism: Maroon Republics

    4. First People of the Americas: Lessons on Democracy, Citizenship, and Politics

    5. The African Origins of Democracy

    6. Decolonizing Representation: Possession

    7. Decolonizing Markets, Development, and Economics

    8. Anti-Elitism

    Final Thoughts


    Bernd Reiter is Professor of Classical and Modern Languages and Literature at Texas Tech University, and the editor of Routledge’s Decolonizing the Classics book series. Prior to joining academia, he worked as a social worker and NGO consultant in Brazil and in Colombia. He earned his Ph.D. in comparative politics from the City University of New York’s Graduate Center and has been a visiting scholar in Germany, Brazil, Colombia, and Spain. He is recipient of the Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Public Policy, Brazil 2021-2022 award. Reiter’s work focuses on race, democracy, citizenship, and decolonization. His publications include The Dialectics of Citizenship (2013), Bridging Scholarship and Activism (2014), The Crisis of Liberal Democracy and the Path Ahead (2017), and Constructing the Pluriverse (2018).

    "Bernd Reiter offers compelling and insightful justification for the demand for the decolonization of the human knowledge archive that has for decades been distorted by Eurocentric imagination. Beyond the issue of curriculum, Reiter offers compelling insights for how politics and economy can work differently from the current obsession with elitism."

    Jimi Adesina, University of South Africa

    "Brilliantly opening new paths, with immense erudition on western and non-western philosophies of life, this book calls upon us to decolonize ourselves, whether colonized or colonizer, and dismantle the patriarchal image in which we all have been shaped. It offers new sources of inspiration and hope, in the face of the radical uncertainty created by the current climatic and socio-political collapse."

    Gustavo Esteva, Writer

    This extraordinary book questions the representation or "white myth" of the West not only as the source of all relevant knowledge but of all forms of civility. This myth is the one that sustains Eurocentrism as one of the faces of racism, applied to the knowledge and patterns of organization of the non-White, the non-Westerner, as well as leads to moral superiority, which sustains the imperial offensive of the geopolitical North with its mission civilisatrice. It also reverses the direction of the ethnifying and otherness-producing gaze as partiality, as defect and exteriority in relation to the universal, white, European, literate, modern subject.  It is an admirable and unique book, rare, I would say, for its courage and its capacity to think beyond the known frontiers of political theory, questioning them through a flight of libertarian imagination. It is a model of form and content. A moving work for the display of an erudition that transcends the limits of the "library" to give a show of knowledge about forms of sociability that shatter the belief that sustains the order we inhabit.

    Rita Laura Segato, UNESCO Chair of Anthropology and Bioethics