SGO9210 – Emancipating knowledges and socionatures: anticolonialism and decolonisation debates

Course content

Calls for decolonising our practices and scholarship are growing from around the world. Sub Altern Studies, which emerged in South Asia over forty years ago, laid important foundations for rethinking the conceptual and methodological basis of historical and political analyses. Latin American activist groups and scholars are now at the forefront of articulating what taking an anticolonial approach to scholarship and socionatural change might look like. In other parts of the world, calls for decolonisation are strong, but with somewhat different emphases and vocabularies. In this course, we read across conversations from different parts of the world on resisting epistemological hegemonies. We emphasise situating conversations in their historical and geopolitical context and asking how these conversations demand that knowledges produced in Global North universities need to take seriously these critiques. These conversations lay a foundation for new imaginaries for an emancipated world.


Course leaders:

Andrea J. Nightingale is Professor of Human Geography, University of Oslo and Research Fellow, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. Her current research passions seek to account for power and politics within dynamic and unpredictable environmental change. Her interests cross between climate change adaptation and transformation debates; collective action and state formation; the nature-society nexus; political violence in natural resource governance; and feminist work on emotion and subjectivity in relation to development, transformation, collective action and cooperation. She has worked in Nepal for over thirty years on natural resource governance and maintains a vibrant research collaboration there. Her work has expanded in the last ten years to collaborate on projects in Kenya, Nicaragua, Ethiopia and Peru. While living in Scotland, she did research on in-shore fisheries management. Her recent book is Environment and Sustainability in a Globalizing World, Routledge, 2019.

Dr. Rahul Ranjan is a Political Anthropologist who currently holds an appointment as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow for the "Riverine Rights" project funded by the Research Council of Norway and based at the Oslo Metropolitan University. His book "The Political Life of Memory" will be published by the Cambridge University Press in the early Spring of next year. He recently edited "At the Crossroads of Rights" (Routledge 2022), which presents collective writing on the advocacy of human and forest rights in India. 

Broadly, his work is on the intersection of emotion, climate change, rivers and disasters. He has worked in Jharkhand for over half a decade and has been working in the western Himalayas for the past three years. Using narratives as a structuring tool, Rahul's work demands radical attention to care, kindness and the importance of stories in the changing world. 

Learning outcome

The course will provide students with a broad overview of emerging global debates around anti-colonialism and what it means to decolonise our research. Students apply critical theoretical approaches to think together about how to write and design research methodologies in anti-colonial ways. The lectures will combine the creative use of texts and visual materials (documentary) to understand the situated forms of knowledges upon which scholarship rests. It enables participants to engage with conceptual lenses useful to case studies in non-western worlds. They will acquire skills to engage with their peers through closed group reading and receive feedback by mentors/peers.   


The course is open to all PhD students who are doing research on questions that broadly pertain to the course themes. Although most suited to students working in the traditions of geography, anthropology, sociology, environmental humanities, political science, cultural theory and related disciplines, applicants from all disciplinary backgrounds will be considered. Likewise, applications are welcomed from across the globe, and from researchers looking at anti-colonialism in any form. Applicants can apply at any stage of the PhD process, but may find it most rewarding if they have already conducted some of their own empirical research.

Ph.D.-students at the Department of Sociology and Human Geography register for the course in StudentWeb.

Interested participants outside the Department of Sociology and Human Geography shall fill out this application form.


The deadline for registration is 1st March 2023. After the deadline shall all applicants receive a note about if the application is approved.


Combination of lectures and small group discussions combined with documentaries and draft paper discussions.

The course is run over 5 days May 8-12, 2023. It is expected that students will have read for the course BEFORE the in-person sessions begin. It is also required to turn in a paper draft before the course begins. 

Maximum enrolment: 20 students




9.00– 10.30 Introduction to global anticolonialism and decolonisation debates. Andrea Nightingale

10.45 – 13.00  Decolonising debates origins and activism: voices from Latin America. Andrea Nightingale

13.00 - 14.00  Lunch

14.00 – 16.00  Anti-colonialism in practice: writing new narratives. Andrea Nightingale and Rahul Rajan



9.00 - 11-00 Politics of Knowledge: Colonial Geographies and Environment. Rahul Rajan

11.15-13.00    Anticolonialism in action: emancipating knowledges. Andrea Nightingale and Rahul Rajan

13.00-14.00    Lunch

14.00-16.00    Thinking with Anticolonial tools: research design. Andrea Nightingale



9.00-11.00      Subaltern Studies and conversations on decolonialism in Asia. Andrea Nightingale and Rahul Rajan

11.15– 13. 00 Anthropocene in Himalayas: Dams, Disasters and Development. Rahul Rajan

13.00-14.00 Lunch

14.00- 16.00   Writing and Methodological challenges from an anticolonial perspective. Andrea Nightingale and Rahul Rajan



9.00 – 11.00    Imagining emancipatory futures. Andrea Nightingale and Rahul Rajan

11.15-13.00    Anticolonialism and Racism: conversations from Africa. Andrea Nightingale

13.00-14.00    Lunch

14.00- 16.00   Anti-colonial research praxis: methodology and engaged research. Andrea Nightingale



9.00-10.45      Indigenous ontologies and embodied knowledges

11.00 – 13.00 Writing and Methodological challenges from an anticolonial perspective

13.00-14.00 Lunch

14.00-16.00 Bringing it all together: final conversations on emancipating knowledges




Baldwin, Andrew, and Bruce Erickson. ‘Introduction: Whiteness, Coloniality, and the Anthropocene’. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 38, no. 1 (February 2020): 3–11.

Bauer, Andrew M., and Mona Bhan, eds. ‘Assembling the Anthropocene’. In Climate without Nature: A Critical Anthropology of the Anthropocene, 32–47. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018.

Bhambra, Gurminder K., and Peter Newell. ‘More than a Metaphor: “Climate Colonialism” in Perspective’. Global Social Challenges Journal 1, no. aop (13 October 2022): 1–9.

Blaser, Mario. ‘Ontology and Indigeneity: On the Political Ontology of Heterogeneous Assemblages’. Cultural Geographies 21, no. 1 (1 January 2014): 49–58.

Burman, Anders. ‘Are Anthropologists Monsters? An Andean Dystopian Critique of Extractivist Ethnography and Anglophone-Centric Anthropology’. HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 8, no. 1–2 (March 2018): 48–64.

Chakraborty, Ritodhi, Mabel D Gergan, Pasang Y Sherpa, and Costanza Rampini. ‘A Plural Climate Studies Framework for the Himalayas’. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 51 (1 August 2021): 42–54.

Chakraborty, Ritodhi, and Pasang Yangjee Sherpa. ‘From Climate Adaptation to Climate Justice: Critical Reflections on the IPCC and Himalayan Climate Knowledges’. Climatic Change 167, no. 3 (23 August 2021): 49.

Coombes, Brad, Jay T. Johnson, and Richard Howitt. ‘Indigenous Geographies II: The Aspirational Spaces in Postcolonial Politics – Reconciliation, Belonging and Social Provision’. Progress in Human Geography 37, no. 5 (1 October 2013): 691–700.

Coombes, Brad, Jay T. Johnson, and Richard Howitt. ‘Indigenous Geographies III: Methodological Innovation and the Unsettling of Participatory Research’. Progress in Human Geography 38, no. 6 (1 December 2014): 845–54.

Daley, Patricia O., and Amber Murrey. ‘Defiant Scholarship: Dismantling Coloniality in Contemporary African Geographies’. Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography 43, no. 2 (2022): 159–76.

Escobar, Arturo. ‘Worlds and Knowledges Otherwise: The Latin American Modernity/Coloniality Research Program’. Cultural Studies 21, no. 2–3 (March 2007): 179–210.

Gergan, Mabel Denzin. ‘Living with Earthquakes and Angry Deities at the Himalayan Borderlands’. Annals of the American Association of Geographers 107, no. 2 (4 March 2017): 490–98.

Gwaravanda, Ephraim. ‘Epistemic (In-)Justice and African (Under-) Development’, 185–204, 2017.

Hunt, Sarah. ‘Ontologies of Indigeneity: The Politics of Embodying a Concept’. Cultural Geographies 21, no. 1 (1 January 2014): 27–32.

Jesus Dionisio, Maria Rita de, Angus H. Macfarlane, Dean P. Walker, Sonja L. Macfarlane, Melissa Derby, Ruiha Caldwell, Jude Pani, and Rawiri Waru. ‘Ngā Mātāpono e Rua: Stories of Co-Creation for Bicultural Spatial Governance in Aotearoa New Zealand’. New Zealand Geographer 77, no. 2 (2021): 76–89.

Leeuw, Sarah de, Emilie S. Cameron, and Margo L. Greenwood. ‘Participatory and Community-Based Research, Indigenous Geographies, and the Spaces of Friendship: A Critical Engagement’. The Canadian Geographer / Le Géographe Canadien 56, no. 2 (2012): 180–94.

Mathur, Nayanika. ‘Beastly Identification in India’. American Ethnologist 48, no. 2 (2021): 167–79.

Mignolo, Walter D., and Catherine E. Walsh. On Decoloniality: Concepts, Analytics, Praxis, 2018.

Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. ‘Can the Subaltern Speak?’ In Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture, edited by Cary Nelson and Lawrence Grossberg, 271–313. Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1988.

Táíwò, Olúfemi. Against Decolonization: Taking African Agency Seriously. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2022. Introduction

Todd, Zoe. ‘An Indigenous Feminist’s Take On The Ontological Turn: “Ontology” Is Just Another Word For Colonialism’. Journal of Historical Sociology 29, no. 1 (2016): 4–22.

Tuhiwai Smith, Linda. ‘Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples’. Bloomsbury. Accessed 21 October 2022.

Whyte, Kyle. ‘Indigenous Climate Change Studies: Indigenizing Futures, Decolonizing the Anthropocene’. English Language Notes 55, no. 1–2 (2017): 153–62.

Whyte, Kyle. ‘On the Role of Traditional Ecological Knowledge as a Collaborative Concept: A Philosophical Study’. Ecological Processes 2, no. 1 (5 April 2013): 7.



Emancipating knowledges and socionatures: anticolonialism and decolonisation debates


Daigle, Michelle, and Juanita Sundberg. ‘From Where We Stand: Unsettling Geographical Knowledges in the Classroom’. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 42, no. 3 (2017): 338–41.

Dhillon, Carla M. ‘Indigenous Feminisms: Disturbing Colonialism in Environmental Science Partnerships’. Sociology of Race and Ethnicity 6, no. 4 (1 October 2020): 483–500.

Govindrajan, Radhika. ‘Introduction’. In Animal Intimacies: Interspecies Relatedness in India’s Central Himalayas, edited by Radhika Govindrajan, 0. University of Chicago Press, 2018.

Guha, Ranajit. ‘The Prose of Counter-Insurgency’. In Selected Subaltern Studies, edited by Ranajit Guha and Gayatri Spivak, 45–84. Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1988.

Kawharu, Merata. ‘Kaitiakitanga: A Maori Anthropological Perspective Of The Maori Socio-Environmental Ethic Of Resource Management’. Journal of the Polynesian Society 109 (1 January 2000): 349–70.

Lawrence, Rebecca. ‘Internal Colonisation and Indigenous Resource Sovereignty: Wind Power Developments on Traditional Saami Lands’. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 32, no. 6 (1 December 2014): 1036–53.

Mignolo, Walter D., and Madina V. Tlostanova. ‘Theorizing from the Borders: Shifting to Geo- and Body-Politics of Knowledge’. European Journal of Social Theory 9, no. 2 (1 May 2006): 205–21.

Nightingale, Andrea J., Noémi Gonda, and Siri H. Eriksen. ‘Affective Adaptation = Effective Transformation? Shifting the Politics of Climate Change Adaptation and Transformation from the Status Quo’. WIREs Climate Change 13, no. 1 (2022): e740.


The course earns 5 ECTS. Students are expected to read course material and write a 4000-word essay BEFORE the course begins. Students will receive feedback on the essay during the course. A final version of the essay is due June 1st, 2023. 


To pass students must: turn in a draft essay by April 24, 2023, participate in all lectures and group discussions, provide feedback on essays written by peers, turn in a final draft of the essay June 1st, 2023.


Essay topic: Drawing from your own PhD research, discuss how anti-colonial debates are relevant for your work. You can present an on-going article or chapter draft that engages decolonial thinking, discuss methodological challenges to implementing anti-colonial research, or reflect on how your work changes when taking an anti/de-colonial perspective.

Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a pass/fail scale. Read more about the grading system.

Facts about this course

Spring 2023
Spring 2023
Teaching language