Discover Society: Decolonising Politics – Diversity is Democracy
Published 4 December, 2018
By Manjeet Ramgotra
“Politics is about who we are. How we communicate, how we fit into our communities and negotiate our shared political life and how we reflect where we come from. Politics is inherently diverse. The beauty of liberal democracy is that it has been capable of expanding its boundaries to include individuals of diverse backgrounds, cultures, gender, race, social class and outlook into public life. Or has it?
“Liberal democracy was founded in the context of colonial empire. It was conceptualized and established by a fraternity of privileged white men who shared in equality and freedom but excluded women, people of colour and the working classes. Nevertheless, liberal democracy has had the capacity to reform. Even if with reluctance and resistance, it has opened institutional structures, produced laws that protect equality and create greater fairness and justice for all in society. At the same time, however, such reinvention spins itself back to beginnings and reasserts the power and privilege of those who embody its founding. Any headway made to broaden democracy and include those on the margins is frequently set back by a desire to maintain an original vision.
“Identity matters. Well-known political thinkers base their understandings of the political on identity and include only white men as participants in political institutions. In part, this is because these well-known theorists are men themselves. In the recent past, they have enjoyed often exclusive access to education and public positions of affluence. This is not to say that women and people of colour have not been present. From the margins of society, they talk back to power and contest exclusive social contract theories. However, their voices have been silenced and subjugated to that of the authoritative white man.”
Manjeet Ramgotra is a Senior Teaching Fellow in the Department of Politics and International Studies at SOAS University of London. Manjeet studied Politics and French at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada and after living in France for a number of years, she wrote a PhD in political theory at the LSE on the conservative roots of republicanism in the history of western political thought. More recently, her research has developed to examine republicanism in the twentieth-century post-colonial moment, notably in the founding of the Indian republic. Manjeet is a strong advocate of decolonising the curriculum and has reconceptualized her teaching to include more women, people of colour and to reconsider how we construct knowledge.