Decolonisation and Decoloniality

RELATED TERMS: Modernity and Coloniality

Decolonisation is the historical struggle for national sovereignty against colonialism. In recent history, the term is most often applied to the decolonisations that took place in the period after World War II, when European countries generally lacked the wealth and political support necessary to suppress faraway revolts in their colonies. Furthermore, they faced opposition from the newly emergent international powers, the USA and the USSR, both of whom were opposed to European colonialism.

Decoloniality, on the other hand, is an epistemological category that takes colonialism as constitutive of modernity. Decoloniality seeks to dismantle the colonialist ‘distribution of the sensible’ (Ranciere, 2004), the frameworks of thinking and sensing, while delinking from the habitus of colonialism, its forms of life and its characteristic forms of subjectification and objectification. Analytically, decoloniality seeks to reconstruct histories excluded from the universalist frameworks of modernity and restore them to those from whom they were taken. As a programme, decoloniality seeks to establish a pluriversal or polyversal epistemology.

Online resources

The Decolonising Design Group of Bloomsbury Publishing has produced a lesson plan that examines how design practitioners and theorists can make sense of the concepts of decolonisation and decoloniality in the context of our own situated practices. It is available here:


ISLAA (2021). Decoloniality and the Politics of History, Columbia University, April 29–May 28, 2021 [Online event]. Institute for Studies on Latin American Art (ISLAA). Available at [Accessed 22 April 2021]

Ranciere, J. (2004). The Politics of aesthetics: the distribution of the sensible. London, UK: Continuum.

Reiter, B. (ed.) (2018) Constructing the pluriverse: the geopolitics of knowledge. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.